Ah, college: an incredible time marked by all-nighters, lifelong friendships and learning new things. But in the pursuit of knowledge and new experiences, college students often leave a trail of waste in their wake. Campus move-out day is particularly bad for the environment because many students — in a frantic rush to check out of residential halls — throw away perfectly good items instead of selling, donating or recycling them.
Move-out day is far from the only place where college students can stand to be more environmentally-friendly. The small choices we make on a daily basis can also have a big impact on the planet. Below, here are a few easy (and inexpensive!) ways to go green in college.
Rethink Your Shower Caddy Essentials
A not so fun fact about plastic is that it takes approximately 500 years to decompose in a landfill. One way you can take plastic out of your daily routine is by building a plastic-free shower caddy with non-plastic essentials. Here are a few simple swaps to get you started:
- Ditch your bottled shampoo and conditioner for a plastic-free shampoo and conditioner.
- Swap your disposable razors for a stainless steel safety razor.
- Skip the synthetic loofah and choose a natural bath sponge instead.
- If you moisturize after you shower, swap your bottled lotion with a hydrating lotion bar.
Note: Stainless steel safety razors have a higher upfront cost compared to disposable razors, but this eco-friendly option will save you money in the long run!
Get Savvy with Recycling
Source: Supavadee butradee/Shutterstock.com
If you want to be nicer to the planet, then take the time to learn how to recycle properly. Tossing non-recyclable items into recycling bins can lead to contamination, thus making the entire batch unusable.
To learn more about recycling on campus, check out your school’s sustainability center website. They should have up-to-date information on campus recycling. Once you know how to recycle, start showing your friends how to do it correctly.
Cut Back on Paper
Although paper is useful, it has a devastating impact on the environment. Fortunately, reducing your paper waste is fairly easy to do. As an added bonus, it can also save you money! Here are a few tips for reducing your paper usage in college:
- Buy used textbooks instead of buying new.
- Wipe up spills in your apartment or dorm room with a reusable rag instead of a paper towel.
- Use the back of unwanted print-outs and unused paper for notes and practice work.
- Maximize paper by experimenting with font sizing and use double-sided printing.
- Take notes digitally.
- Go Thrift Shopping
Can’t afford to shop sustainable brands? No biggie — just head to a thrift store instead. Second-hand stores are great places to find affordable and fashionable outfits, as well as dishware, cups, chairs and other useful essentials that every college student needs for their first apartment. Shopping at second-hand stores is also better for the environment because you’re buying products that already exist. So, go ahead and get your thrift on!
Don’t have time to browse through the racks? Check out online thrift stores such as ThredUP, eBay and Depop.
Make Your Grocery Run More Sustainable
Source: Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock.com
Do you use a lot of plastic bags at the grocery store? Take plastic out of the equation by using reusable tote bags instead. (Tip: Keep them in your car and by the front door so you always remember to use them.) You can also eliminate the need for single-use produce bags by using mesh produce bags to store your fruits and veggies.
To make your grocery run even more sustainable, shop the bulk section at your grocery store. Shopping in bulk not only reduces plastic waste, but it can also save you money.
Choose School Supplies Wisely
Before you shop for school supplies, take stock of what you already have so that you aren’t purchasing duplicates. Then, sort through your supplies and figure out what you can reuse for the upcoming year. If you must buy new school supplies, look for ones that are made from recyclable materials. Also, keep durability in mind and pick supplies that will last a long time.
BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup)
Going to a party? Say “no” to the infamous red Solo cup and bring your own reusable cup instead. Although you might have been doing this anyway as a COVID-19 precaution, you should definitely make it a permanent thing. Bringing your own reusable cup not only reduces plastic waste, but it also reduces the likelihood of mixing up your drink with a total stranger’s drink.
Decline Wasteful Freebies
Brands enjoy handing out freebies to college students, and for good reason: It’s a tried-and-true way for brands to get their name out there. After all, what college student doesn’t love getting free stuff? The problem is that most promotional products — from pens to sunglasses — are made from plastic that are destined for a landfill. So, before you accept a freebie, ask yourself whether you really need it or if you just want it because “free” is the magic word. If you don’t absolutely need the item, take a hard pass.
Let’s All Do Our Part
It’s easy to overlook the environmental impacts of the small choices we make every day. But your everyday decisions matter more than you might think. Collectively, we have the power to make a real difference in the world. So let’s all do our part to protect the planet.