Being eco-friendly means engaging in activities or routines that contribute to saving the planet. The simplest way to be eco-friendly is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Some more intense ways of being eco-friendly include living waste-free and composting, using sustainable energy, and being minimalist. These are difficult to achieve as college students as we’re subject to the school’s environmental impact and usually don’t have the time or money to make such drastic lifestyle changes. But beginning the journey to becoming green in college is not impossible or too expensive. Here are a few ways for you to reduce your impact on the environment.

1. Don’t buy plastic bottled water

Buying a bottle of water always seems like a good decision when you do it as you're drinking water instead of a less healthy beverage and you're probably (hopefully) planning on recycling it. And while buying one when it's necessary isn't a bad thing, consistently buying them should not be a habit. It's better to not have the need to recycle than to do it all the time (which does not mean you should stop recycling...KEEP RECYCLING). Try investing in a good water bottle that will last a long time, hopefully four or more years of college. Stainless steel ones are my personal favorite because they are very durable and keep water cold but there are other options to choose from. Even if some of them seem expensive in the moment, some stainless steel ones pricing up to $50, buying your own water bottle will save you money in the long run, through college and beyond. And if there aren't water fountains readily accessible to you, especially in a dorm, investing in a filtered water bottle or a filtered water pitcher would also be worth it.

2. Use a reusable bag

All day long, I see so many college students using plastic bags, usually to carry food. At the beginning of the year, I used to use them all the time too before realizing that this was a real habit and problem. I had to have something to carry my food in because walking around or riding the bus with a container a food was just a disaster waiting to happen. Usually, I would throw my plastic bag in the trash because I would get food on it and think it ineligible to be recycled (a thought process my peers probably share even though it's not true and throwing it in the trash creates a major hazard to fish and birds). Switching to a reusable bag was easy, convenient, and inexpensive. They're much easier to grip than plastic bags and are easy to stuff in a backpack, purse, or even a big pocket, and having them on hand at any time becomes very helpful. And because they were so cheap, I'm not concerned about whether food gets in them or whether they get ruined, especially knowing I may be able to recycle them after.

3. Turn off your water

Reducing your water consumption is a great way to be eco-friendly, and the simplest way to do so is free: turning off your water. The biggest change I've made to when I turn off my water is turning it off while in the shower. I take a lot of time to comb through my hair which I do after conditioning, and I've gotten into the habit of combing my hair without unnecessary water continuing to run. If you do anything time-consuming in the shower, try doing it without the water running. If you shave, bring a cup of water in with you to rinse off your razor. Turn off your water while brushing or combing your hair. If you usually wash your face in the shower, try switching to washing it at the sink, where you won't have an excessive amount of water running to wash a small portion of your body. If you can, turn off your sink water while brushing your teeth or washing your face. Also, remember to turn the water all the way off; a dripping shower or a dripping faucet could waste a lot of water in the long run.

4. Dry your hands with anything other than a paper towel

This is a habit that I think many of us have and find hard to break. Reaching for a paper towel after washing my hands has become an instinct since hand dryers were not as universal when I was a kid as they are now. While hand dryers reduce paper towel waste and should be your main alternative to using paper towels, my dorm does not have hand dryers installed in any bathrooms, and I'm guessing that might be a trend through other dorms. If this is the case for you, using your own towel or air drying is also a better alternative. And if you absolutely have to use a paper towel, you only need one. Another instinct I used to have as a child was thinking I needed about a dozen paper towels to dry my hands; while I definitely outgrew that notion, I still will occasionally grab two on impulsively. One is definitely enough.