HOW TO REDUCE YOUR WASTE IN COLLEGE
I started down the zero waste path in February 2017, long after I completed my studies in undergrad and graduate school. Throughout this journey, I have been contacted by lots of college students with questions about low waste or zero waste living while being a student. I understand the challenge of being a monetarily-challenged college student with limited resources, but also wanting to live as eco-friendly as possible. Where is the balance?
I am lucky enough to have a community on Instagram that ranges in age, education, geography, etc. I asked this community about their best zero waste tips and tricks for college-age kids. Here are the best answers (and there are many!)
- Pack your own lunch and snacks. This will save you money while also helping you avoid packaged food in the cafeteria or vending machines.
- Reuse boxes for move-in day and swap the bubble wrap for paper.
- Pack your own coffee mug. Lots of student cafes and coffee shops offer a discount for people who bring their own reusable mug – a definite win for your wallet.
- Don’t have a large bag to pack numerous reusables? Bring a glass jar to serve as a coffee mug, water glass, or to-go container.
- Go paperless and use a laptop to take notes. If you prefer paper, chose recycled paper and use both sides.
- Download your books as E-texts instead of purchasing a printed book. These are often cheaper as well.
- Choose zero waste snack options in the school cafeteria, like carrots, apples, bananas, cucumbers, etc.
- Shop for school supplies at thrift stores. Binders, pens, notepads, etc. can often be found heavily discounted secondhand.
- Pack your own reusables, such as a water bottle, cloth napkin, silverware, plate, and to-go container. That way if you need to grab anything on the go, you can use your zero waste tools to stay waste-free. Check out your local thrift store for secondhand reusables to keep you on budget.
- If your school doesn’t compost on-site, store your organic waste in a freezer and bring it to a local compost drop-off spot, such as a local co-ops or coffee shop.
- Encourage your school dinning hall to offer reusable plates/cups/mugs and cutlery.
- Ask your school facilities to develop a long term sustainability plan that includes a commitment to being a zero waste school.
- Furnish your room/apartment/house with minimal decor and secondhand items. Most college students move frequently and don’t have a great outlet to swap perfectly good items, so be choosy in the first place to avoid waste.
- Use a DIY cleaner that is good for you and the environment to clean your space.
Looking for more resources? I highly recommend checking out the Post Landfill Action Network, a fantastic resource just for students. And one of my favorite YouTubers, the Girl Gone Green, has a video about going zero waste in your dorm.
I hope these tips help you live more sustainably. Please share with others to spread the word about zero waste living.