As colleges and universities start back up, whether it’s on campus or off, there are many ways to incorporate sustainability into the school year. As a student, making these sustainable changes work on a budget and without impacting an already busy schedule is essential to turning them into regular habits.
Invest in a reusable shopping bag, and then make sure to bring it! I found that the small reusable bags I could fold up and add to my key chain came in handy if I ever forgot my backpack. Plus, I never had to remember to bring it with me since it was always right next to my dorm key.
Avoid Food Waste & Compost
Although mini-fridges don’t hold much, it’s hard to eat all the food you buy even as a hungry college student with a tendency to stress eat (that freshman fifteen isn’t a joke…). If you tend to grocery shop, coordinate with your roommates. While it may be hard for you to eat that whole bag of grapes, loaf of bread, and gallon of milk before they go bad, buying better portions (a half gallon instead of a full gallon, to start) and sharing amongst people can help cut down on the amount of food that gets wasted in your household. For those of you relying on dining halls, getting smaller portions on your first trip helps a lot. For the most part, you can always go back for seconds but coming into the dining hall after a full day of labs and classes feeling starved can lead to a lot left on the plate.
Repair & Rewear
Whether it’s a computer crisis, cracked phone screen, or ripped sweater, try to repair before you replace! Not only is it much cheaper to repair than to replace, it reduces the amount of waste you create and resources you consume.
Another way to cut down on waste and live more sustainably is to reuse and rewear whenever possible. Although showing up to formals or big events in the same dress you’ve worn before is taboo, outfit repeating on a regular basis is fine! For those occasions when you get all dressed up, check with friends to swap outfits. Not only is it cheaper to share outfits with friends, it helps try out new clothes you wouldn’t normally wear – which means, you aren’t buying that shirt you’ll only wear once and then never donate just in case you want it for a costume years from now.
Buying secondhand is a great way to find really great clothes for much cheaper than you’d get otherwise. Not only are you finding outfits that you’re not likely to catch anyone else in, these clothes tend to last much longer than the more flimsy items you could buy for the same cost or more from a fast fashion brand.
Whether it’s shortening your showers, turning the water off when you brush your teeth, or eating a more plant-based diet, it’s possible to reduce your water consumption with quick changes to your daily routine that you might not even notice!
Stick to taking notes on your computer or tablet if possible! Not only are these notes much easier to sort through (CTRL+F is a lifesaver!) and file, it cuts down on all the paper that notebooks and practice exams take up. This way, you’re not left with worn out & messy notebooks at the end of the semester that you aren’t sure where you’re going to store (if you do decide to keep them). Professors often put up the lecture slides and notes online that can be easily edited without having to print anything else out!
Eat Less Meat
Maybe it starts with Meatless Mondays (which some schools even incorporate into the dining halls), but reducing the amount of meat that you consume can significantly lower your carbon footprint and reduce water consumption.
Beware energy vampires! No, not the people you meet who might try to bring you down. Energy vampire are electronic devices that continue to use energy and drain power even when they’re turned off. Unplugging your electronics when not in use cuts down on wasted energy. Another way to reduce your energy usage is to use tap cold when washing your clothes. 75% of the energy used for a typical load of laundry comes from heating up the water. By sticking to tap cold, you’re also helping your clothes to last much longer!
What are some ways you’ve incorporated sustainability into your routine?