How can I be more sustainable as a college student?

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

College is already a time of major life adjustments and it’s easy to slip into habits that may not be the most sustainable, such as grabbing a to-go coffee on your way to class or using plastic utensils so you don’t have to wash your dishes in the communal sink. Sustainability can be intimidating, but as busy college students we have picked up some easy tricks.

Here are some EASY sustainability tips that help create good habits and don’t compromise convenience.

1. BYOS (Bring your own shit!). Carrying around a reusable coffee cup not only saves that trash but many schools offer a discount for bringing your own cup. Most hot coffee cups are not actually recyclable as they are lined with wax. The lids, however, are usually recyclable, but people will often just chuck the whole thing in the trash. Also bring your own water bottle everywhere! Invest in a good water bottle that will keep your water cool and you can refill throughout the day.

2. Walk or ride your bike. Get your steps in for the day while reducing your carbon emissions.

3. Reuse school supplies. Textbooks are already expensive AF and when you have to buy notebooks, calculators, and lab gear on top of that, it can really add up. Many schools have used book trades where you can sell and buy your books. Instead of buying individual notebooks for every class (that won’t get completely filled anyways), opt for a refillable flexible binder or take notes digitally.

4. Bring what you already have from home. (If possible in the grueling moving process) Old towels, mismatched cutlery from your family’s kitchen drawer, the old coffee maker that still works but dad wanted a new fancier one, etc.

5. Thrift your decor. Setting up your dorm room is exciting – go buy some unique, one-of-a-kind decorations from local thrift stores like an antique desk lamp or a landscape painting that you got for under $10. Your bank account will thank you later.

6. Invest in high quality items. Money is tight when you’re a student, but choosing high quality items to invest in pays off in the long run. For example, opting for nice tupperware that you can store extra food in and take lunches/snacks to class with you, or one good pencil instead of getting a 20 pack of shitty mechanical ones.

7. Share clothing with your roommates and friends! Do you really need to go buy a new dress for the frat formal? Brad won’t know the difference between your $500 Sherri Hill dress and the one you borrowed from your friend. If you can’t find anything between you and your friends, you can always check out your local thrift store for some funky pre-loved items.

8. Use chemical-free products: Laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, etc.

9. Conserve energy. Use a power strip & unplug things when you aren’t using them.

10. Use Ecosia as your search engine. Ecosia donates 80%+ of its profit to reforestation and conservation efforts. Simply searching plants trees; ~45 searches plants 1 tree.

11. Educate yourself & be deliberate with your actions.

12. Be proud of what you’re doing. Share your sustainability tips with your friends and family and don’t be shy to answer any questions that people may have! Bringing your own utensils or asking to get your to-go food without plastic wrap can be intimidating at first, but the more times you do it, the less intimidating it becomes. And truthfully, most people won’t mind and will actually really appreciate your sustainable efforts!

The bottom line: Making a few small changes in your daily routine can have a huge long-term positive influence on your community and on the planet.

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