UT Austin

6 Ways To Reduce Waste that are Actually Useful


As Climate Change takes to the political stage in the upcoming 2020 elections, it becomes clear that the issue is something everyone should be paying attention to. Whether they’re sold on the science or not, everyone can — hopefully — agree that it’s better to do things that will help our planet than hurt it.

And while big corporations are certainly the main contributors, the everyday consumer in the United States accounts for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. So even individually, we would be significantly helping the planet by changing some parts of our daily habits to better it.

As a busy student on a budget, though, it can often be harder to stay green than it is for most people. Here are some tips that are useful, fashionable and frugal.

1. Refill Those Water Bottles

Photo by Tara Phipps

While carrying around the standard VSCO girl Hydro Flask seems to be the norm for college students, watching them carry 12-packs of plastic water bottles into their dorms is also common. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable — sometimes it’s just more convenient. Either way, for every student swinging around their metal water bottle there’s another crunching a plastic one as they drink their last sip and toss it in the trash. Instead of tossing away those plastic water bottles: refill them. It offers the same convenience of having 12 water bottles at a time to share and cuts out the physical trauma of continuously lugging a huge pack of them from the store to the dorm. The plastic bottles are easy to wash out and your fridge will always be stocked, making it convenient for when you wake up five minutes before class.

2. Save The Plastic Store Bags

Photo by Tara Phipps

If you’re an avid H.E.B-goer, then you probably already have your reusable bags on hand and ready to go, and you should be using them at every store you go to. But, if you don’t have them and inevitably get those plastic Walmart or Target bags, you can save them instead of throwing them away. From using them as bathroom trash can liners to a cutting board — or the occasional barf bag at a frat party you’ll forget by the morning — they have a lot more uses in them than carrying snacks around. The more uses you can come up with for them, the less they will get thrown away, and the happier the planet will be.

3. Enjoy Some Meatless Meals

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Photo by Ben Leal

One of the best ways to help reduce waste in the world is to go vegan, which means you stop eating animal by-products entirely — but we live in Texas and there’s a steakhouse on every corner (don’t look, Bevo). So the next best thing is to limit your meat and animal by-product intake. Some great ways to do this are to have three or four designated vegan or vegetarian days throughout the week and to start looking into milk alternatives, like soy or coconut milk. People often report better health when they reduce the amount of animal products they’re consuming. So your skin will be looking clear and so will the planet’s.

4. Turn Old Clothes Into Something New

Photo by Tara Phipps

Paper towels and napkins are an infamous single-use product, and while they’re more degradable, it’s always better to reuse old things than keep going out and buying something new – especially when it’s wrapped in plastic. Taking old clothes you’re not wearing anymore and cutting them into rags not only cleans out your wardrobe but also gives you something nice and absorbent next time there’s a spill at your house party. Then wash, rinse, and repeat. 

5. Get on The Metal Staw Trend

Photo by Tara Phipps

Come on, you know you want to save the turtles. Restaurants and coffee shops notoriously fling plastic straws around like nobody’s business, and plenty of people often buy plastic straws for their homes. Instead of opening up a plastic bag to use a plastic straw, buy some metal ones. They usually come in a four-pack with their own cleaner and in an array of fun designs and colors. So not only are you looking a little more stylish while you’re sipping on your latte but also the e-boy you’ve been eying is bound to take notice.

6. Thrift it Up

Photo Courtesy of “thrift store sidewalk” by vistavision is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

If you’re in Austin then you have to go thrift shopping. There are thrift shops all over the place, and a gold mine of clothes just waiting to be tried on. This helps reduce waste because the more thrifting you do, the less corporations need to manufacture new clothes through industrial processes. It’s a fun way to save some bank and save the planet. And if you have any leftover fits from the rag metamorphosis you could take them and sell them to Buffalo Exchange, or trade them for a different outfit entirely to be a money-saving icon.

So, as the new year starts to settle in, resolve to adopt these tips to help our planet (and this time, actually go through with it). If we all worked to follow these tips then we could have a massive impact. Or we could move to Mars — that’s cool, too.

TX VOTES: KEEPING UT VOTERS REGISTERED AND EDUCATED

You’ve probably seen them in your classrooms and if you haven’t, then you’ve definitely seen them tabling on Speedway. TX Votes is a non-partisan student organization that not only hopes to get students educated and registered to vote but works hard to do so.

By visiting over 100 classrooms this spring semester alone, there’s no question that they’ve made a recognizable name for themselves.  

Photo Courtesy of Kassie Phebillo

“I think as an organization, we have grown, which means that our outreach has grown ” Kassie Phebillo, Program Coordinator said.

Phebillo, who’s been with TX votes since that last general election, attributes the increased number of students they’ve registered to their in-class initiative that they started in 2018.

 “We’ve registered probably 5,000 students this school year since the beginning of fall,” Phebillo said.

Their efforts to register students before the deadline at the beginning of February contribute to the steady increase of student voter registration on campus. The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement saw a 3,948 increase in voter registrations on campus between 2016 and 2018, so it’s no doubt that TX Votes’ work contributes to the positive growth of engaged and registered voters at UT.

And while TX Votes may be one of the most notable student organizations in the political-sphere – they attribute their recent successes and increases in student activity to the rest of the Civic Engagement Alliance. Without whom they couldn’t have hosted their Last Day to Register to Vote Celebration.

Now that the registration deadline has passed, the next goal for TX Votes includes getting students ready for the polls. With Early Voting and Super Tuesday dates coming up quickly, one-way TX Votes prepares for the hopeful flood of student voters is by ordering and distributing voting guides provided by the League of Women Voters.

“It’s basically a little newsletter with all these races. So, it’s like here’s a statement from this candidate and then their picture, and another one and their background for like all the races,” TX Votes President Anthony Zhang explained.

Photo by Evelyn Garcia

These portable voting guides work to ease first-time voters or any voter who may be put off by the process. TX Votes hopes to distribute these guides to students to ensure no one is misinformed or uneducated before stepping into the polls for what may be the first time.

“I feel like one of the main reasons that people will say that they aren’t engaged with politics, or nervous, or vibe, or like don’t want to is because they don’t know about a lot of stuff. So, there’s like a huge learning curve too,” Zhang said.

Along with helping educate voters, the guides distributed by TX Votes will prevent students from using their phones to remember or look up who to vote for, an action that may seem benign but in reality, comes with legal consequences. “We also provide them with what they need when they go in to vote. So, they’re not accidentally breaking the law.” Phebillo said.

With the national attention to the primary drama in Iowa, TX Votes combats any nerves voters may feel ahead of the Texas primary with accurate information, student-to-student engagement, and space where students can ask any questions regarding the civic engagement process.

See below for important info:

Early Voting in Texas:  Check out the FAC & PCL from 7 am-7 pm to vote! 

–    February 18th-28th, 2020

Primary Election Day (Super Tuesday): Check out the FAC & PCL from 7 am-7 pm to vote! 

–    March 3rd, 2020

Featured image by Evelyn Garcia

The Obstacles to Gaming and How to Overcome Them

By Mikayla Mondragon

In a world where gaming has become one of the biggest forms of entertainment, it’s also quite common to meet people who have never had an “in” to gaming. 

The Financial Problem

Whether watching a friend play or seeing an advertisement for it on TV, most kids wanted to play video games at one point or another. However, video games have not always been accessible to everyone. After the classic quarter arcades started to close, gaming companies turned their attention to home consoles like the Playstation and Wii or portable consoles like the Playstation Portable and the Nintendo DS. Computers, gaming consoles, the games themselves and even the internet (which is required to play many of these games) have all been relatively expensive and continue to maintain high prices. 

Courtesy of Unsplash

The original Playstation debuted in 1994 and cost $299 (around $500 in today’s dollars) before buying a game to go with it. The most recent version, the Playstation 4, costs $399 before buying a game. A typical new game today can cost between $40-$60. The cost of a gaming system continues to increase with new accessories such as extra controllers or even extra downloadable content for a game. As gaming is a luxury and not a need, many families forgo buying their children many games. 

The Gender Issue

Courtesy of Unsplash

Many video games, like many other popular forms of entertainment, have focused on catering to the cis-male masculinity. This takes place in many forms such as creating the male avatars to be strong and central to the game whereas the female characters are supporting characters and have skimpier outfits. 

According to a Wired article, female protagonists in games have decreased since 2015 even though there was an increase up until that year. As people have come to know, media consumers like to see themselves in the content they see. 

Females also face backlash when trying their hand in the gaming world. Female “Let’s Play” YouTubers, otherwise known as content creators who film themselves commenting on and playing a video game, are often sexualized or found as an anomaly in society. They hardly receive the attention that male “Let’s Play” YouTubers do. The top female gamer, iHasCupquake, has 6.62 million subscribers whereas the top male gamer, PewDePie, has 103 million subscribers. 

Although facing backlash, the amount of female gamers has risen in the past few years within the United States. A statistics website shows that 46% of U.S. gamers are female. 

Overcoming the Problem

As media coverage on gaming increases, such as the “Let’s Play” videos on YouTube and the coverage on ESports, or competitive gaming, expands, more and more people are inclined to try these games.

So, how does one get into gaming when it’s a little out of reach for low-income people? 

First: Let’s start with the free games. Try your hand at some free online games to find out what you like. Fortnite is free online and is a competitive shooter game. The goal is to kill all of the opponents around you and be the last person standing. If you end up liking this type of game, you might be inclined to try other first-person-shooter games like Overwatch and Black Ops. Here’s an article of the best free games of 2020 on Steam, a website where you can download PC games.

Next: You might want to try your hand at some popular games of the era like Life is Strange, Portal, or even Undertale. These games, because of their age, have decreased in price. They are more affordable (ranging from free to $10) and are easy games to pick up for beginners.

Then: If you’re not sure what to play next, try watching some Let’s Play YouTubers! Watch a 20-30 minute video of a game you might be interested in. Try not to watch any more than that because you don’t want to spoil the whole game for yourself. (If you really don’t want to buy it, then you can watch the entirety of the Let’s Play video.) See if the game interests you. It’s like a free mini-trial of the game.

Finally: Get out there and play! Gaming can be fun and even relaxing in the long run. It’s okay that you don’t know much about gaming. You learn by doing. Trying something new can be scary at first, but eventually, learning to play a new game will come easy to you. You’ll never know if you’ll like something unless you try. So, go out there and feed your curiosity. Go game!

Don’s Restaurant Closing Has Shaken UT Spirit

Don’s Japanese Kitchen, a restaurant formerly on the famous Guadalupe street, has closed down its restaurant, announcing its closing through social media earlier this January. Now, the restaurant is only available by food truck behind the University Co-op. The restaurant had quickly caught popularity with its convenient price range and as well as its location – nabbing an easy spot on “The Drag”, a hangout area well known to UT Students. 

Don’s had first opened on The Drag in 2017 and later opened another location in San Marcos shortly thereafter. The restaurant hailed an almost five-star rating on Yelp, and reviewers raved about its great prices, big portions, and their famously known ‘Don’s styled-fries’ where you can dress waffle fries in any Asian condiment you’d like. One yelper, reminisced about the memories she shared with the restaurant throughout her college career. Posted on September 15th, 2019, user ‘Tiana T’ wrote: 

As seen from the review, the yelper reminisced Don’s because of their fruitful relationship, which lasted “from freshmen year” to now her “super senior year.” She then concluded the review with a tearful note, stating, “I really wish you the best of luck and hope you stick around Guad for years to come — unlike most of the unlucky businesses here.” 

This thought that the Yelper had expressed, hoping that Don’s would live forever on Guad despite its fast short lives the street tends to give its businesses, is a popular rumor that many UT students have dispelled. Because of its high traffic, constantly growing and seasonal cycle, The Drag and Guadalupe street remains a high prospect spot for businesses to land and capitalize from. However, because of it’s high demand and well-known success, rumor says that rent for businesses has become increasingly high, and no longer sustainable for owners to upkeep. 

The news about Don’s closing broke two days after the also famous, “Thai, How Are You?” restaurant had announced their closing as well. In turn, these announcements set off a conversation about businesses coming and going on Guadalupe street. 

In an interview with KVUE, owner of the “Thai, How Are You?” restaurant Noi Sukkji stated that, “I put all the energy I have – 80 hours per week, 100 hours per week, but now it’s time for me to check back on my health.” 

As we mourn the death of Don’s restaurant and celebrate its spirit in food truck form, we can remember it’s memories by sharing and creating memes that honor its legacy. Here are some created by UT students that commemorate the loss. 

The Grimm Truth

Oz Perkins’s latest horror project reignites a Grimm look on life

Oz Perkins, director/writer of horror films “I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” and “The Blackcoat’s Daughter,” released his latest project in the genre on January 31st with “Gretel and Hansel.” It’s an even darker spin on the original Brothers Grimm tale that follows brother and sister, Hansel and Gretel respectively, as they get lost in the woods and stumble upon a house made of candy. Perkins’s film focuses more on Gretel’s story (hint the name) and her strange attachment to the eerie woman that has taken them under her wing.

“Hansel and Gretel” is a household name but how many people actually know how the story goes? Are people aware that the witch that lured the children into her home to fatten them up intentionally so that she can feast on their flesh? Do they know that Gretel turns the tables on the witch and pushes her into the fiery oven that was originally meant to cook the children?

Hopefully this makes you curious as to what other grisly facts lie in the stories told by the famous German brothers. I can tell you know that they don’t all end in “happily ever after…”

The Pied Piper

If you’re familiar with “Shrek: The Musical,” then your interpretation of the Pied Piper is a grumpy man that just wants his rats to dance. Unfortunately, the truth is not nearly as endearing.

“The Pied Piper of Hamelin” is supposedly based on true events. In 1284, a mysterious man dressed in colorful clothes promised the town of Hamelin, Germany that he could rid them of their rodent problem. Hoping the man was telling the truth, the town struck a deal with him. Later that night, the man played beautiful music from a fife, luring all the mice and rats to follow him. He led the rodents into the River Weser and the animals drowned in the water. Now free of their problem and regretting the promise of a large sum, the townspeople refused to pay the piper.

The piper grew angry and returned with a vengeance. When he came back to the town, he played his fife once more. Only this time, it wasn’t animals that were drawn to his sounds; it was the town’s children. Their mothers screamed and cried bitterly but the children only had ears for the music. 130 children are said to have followed the pied piper through the streets and into the faraway mountains. They were never seen again. To this day, the street that led the children through the town gate is called bunge-lose (drumless, soundless, quiet) because no dancing or music is allowed to honor the missing.

Read it here!

Rapunzel

Fans of Disney’s “Tangled” will be delighted to know that the legendary Mother Gothel was originally in this old tale.

In the story, a couple is expecting a baby when the wife gets a desperate craving for a neighbor’s crop. The husband sneaks into the neighbor’s yard to steal some of the plants for his wife. He eventually gets caught by the owner of the house, Dame Gothel. In order to appease her, the husband must promise his newborn to the woman. Once the baby is in her possession, the enchantress locks the child in a tower.

Baby Rapunzel grows into a beautiful young woman, one that the king’s son falls in love with. He makes frequent visits to her tower, climbing her long hair to reach her window. Dame Gothel eventually finds out and enacts her revenge on the lovers. Gothel cuts Rapunzel’s hair, throws the prince from the tower, blinds him with the thorns in the rose bushes and banishes Rapunzel to the desert. Even though all hope seems lost, the prince eventually finds his way to Rapunzel and her tears magically heal his eyes. A charming happily ever after, if your idea of “happy” is marriage.

Read it here!

Rumpelstiltskin

Rumpelstiltskin has made his way into pop culture on more than one occasion. In “Shrek 3,” he was an angry man who enjoyed wearing wigs and in the television show “Once Upon a Time,” he was a strangely sexy Robert Carlyle in crusty gold makeup. As you could’ve guessed, both adaptations are not true to the Grimm facts.

There once was a miller who swore to his king that his daughter could spin straw into gold, for reasons unknown; he was probably just a bad dad. The king was intrigued and decided to test the girl to see if it was true. Locked in a room full of straw and her life on the line, the girl cries bitter tears because she knows she cannot do what has been asked of her. A creature-like man makes his way into the room and claims that he can help the girl. He will spin the gold for a price: once for a necklace, twice for a ring and thrice for her first-born. She agrees and relishes in her “success.”

Over time, the girl marries the king and they have a baby. Upon the baby’s arrival, the girl, now queen, obviously doesn’t want to give up her baby. The man promises she can keep her baby if she can guess his name within three days. After the first two days, things didn’t look too good. However, a townsperson overhears the man speaking his name and tells the queen. The queen tells the man that his name is Rumpelstiltskin. He grows so enraged that he tears himself in two. Happy ending for the queen, not so much for the trickster.

Read it here!

Cinderella

Ah, our beloved blonde princess. Lots of renditions have been told of this poor servant girl, including the fantastic live-action with Lily James, but none are as bloody as the German version.

Much of the premise is the same as the Disney retelling. Cinderella is a sweet young woman that is stuck living with her evil stepmother and snotty stepsisters. They make her do horrid chores around the house and torment her with emotional abuse. One day, the family is invited to a festival. Excited to go, Cinderella begins to get ready but is stopped by her stepmother, who claims Cinderella would be an embarrassment if she shows up. Upset, Cinderella runs to the tree that stands guard over her mother’s grave. She begs the tree to help her look presentable for the festival. The birds in the tree give her beautiful clothes, she dances with the prince, loses her shoe, blah blah blah.

When the royal party arrives to try the shoe on the women of the house, the stepsisters rush to put it on. After it doesn’t fit either of the sisters, the stepmother slices off one of their toes and hacks off the back of the other one’s heel in an attempt to make the shoe fit. Cinderella is proven to be the true owner of the shoe and is finally free of her wicked family. As punishment, the birds that aided Cinderella peck out the eyes of the sinister stepsisters. Gotta watch out for karma, right?

Read it here!

The Three Snake-Leaves

This odd, basically unheard-of tale makes the love and betrayal in “Game of Thrones” look like a preschool game.

It begins with a young man that wins the hand of a princess through his success in battle. The princess has one rather unusual demand; when one of them dies, the other must be buried alive with their body. The man reluctantly agrees, sure that it would be quite a long time before they’d have to worry about that. Soon after, the princess falls sick and dies. As promised, the prince is buried alive with his deceased wife. While waiting for death in the crypt, the prince is attacked by a snake. He chops the serpent up but another snake revives his dead comrade with magical leaves. The prince suddenly gets the idea to use the leaves on his beloved princess. It works and the princess comes back to life; a happy ending, right? In the words of Cher Horowitz: as if.

After the couple is reunited in the land of the living, they take a sea voyage to visit the prince’s father. Unfortunately for him, the princess falls in love with the sea captain and they plot the prince’s murder. The diabolical new lovers throw the prince off of the boat, drowning him in the sea. One loyal servant rows after his prince’s body and saves him by using the leaves. Alive once more, the prince teams up with his savior and they report the attempted murder. The treacherous princess and problematic new boyfriend are captured. They are executed for their crime against the prince. Happily ever after?

Read it here!

Although these legends don’t always leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling, they certainly make you thankful for the mundane problems of our own grim world.