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Shopping at farmer's markets is one way to help the local economy and be more eco-friendly.

The Harrisonburg community is full of friendly people — there’s no doubt about that. Most of the time, its residents don’t mind students pouring into the community for nine months out of the year, but other times, they don’t always think fondly of students. 

Most locals view JMU as a business within the community, and although students contribute to the local economy for a large portion of the year, they’re still an inconvenience in terms of population density and environmental impact. 

Students should actively work to decrease their carbon footprint and waste during their time in Harrisonburg in order to maintain a positive relationship with locals and lessen their net waste. Students come into the community and establish a temporary home here, so they should be respectful to the surrounding Harrisonburg community in an environmental sense. 

Luckily, Harrisonburg offers a wide variety of eco-friendly options that students can access. They’re all located within Harrisonburg, and although some require a bit more effort, it truly makes a difference within the community, and students should seek to take advantage of them.

One practice that students can implement is composting. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, composting is important because it “keeps [food waste] materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.” People usually have the idea that in order to compost, you have to have a yard or a garden to dispose of the waste in. Thanks to the compost drop-off center located in downtown Harrisonburg, one doesn’t need those requirements to participate in composting. 

People can collect their food waste throughout the week in a container and drop it off at the bins downtown. Students would need to obtain some sort of bin to store their food waste in as well as compostable bags to transport it to the drop-off location. There are compostable bags at the site if needed.

Students can also take advantage of Harrisonburg’s recycling convenience center. Located near Stone Spring Road, it’s about a six-minute drive from campus, so it’s a bit out of the way for those without transportation. Still, it makes a difference, and any student with the ability to drive to this center should try to start recycling.

It’s important to know that the recycling center is limited in that only certain plastic items are accepted. You can check out the website for a comprehensive list as well as business hours, but in terms of plastic, they only accept No. 1 (transparent) and No. 2 plastics. It’s helpful to separate it beforehand by dedicating certain bins to plastic, glass, cardboard and paper so it won’t have to be done upon arrival to the center.

The Friendly City Food Co-op located in downtown Harrisonburg offers a wide variety of fresh, local food as well as bulk food options. If cutting down on waste is a priority, this grocery store is perfect, as they allow customers to bring personal containers to refill foods in bulk, such as oats, olive oil, popcorn, beans and more. 

Promoting local agriculture is also an accessible option for students. Not only is the produce fresher than chain grocery stores, but students will be contributing to the local economy directly. The farmer’s market in downtown Harrisonburg takes place every Saturday and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Many local farmers and businesses attend, and there’s a wide variety of produce to choose from. Some of the produce is also sold to the food co-op mentioned above, so that’s another option if those hours aren’t viable.

Students should continuously work to uphold sustainable and eco-friendly practices to decrease their environmental impact in Harrisonburg. There’s a wide variety of ecologically-sound practices that students can participate in during their time here. Students should recognize that their presence in Harrisonburg does have a major impact on the local environment. The main way to address that issue is to reduce the impact on the environment, and that starts with individual transitions to a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

The last, and perhaps most important lifestyle change, is to reduce, reuse and recycle. When one reduces their consumption, reuses what they have and recycles what they don’t need, it’s the ultimate waste-reduction combo and diminishes their footprint on the environment.  

Jenna Horrall is a senior computer science major and sociology minor. Contact Jenna at horraljk@dukes.jmu.edu.