9 Easy Ways to Live Sustainably in College (and Beyond)

9 Easy Ways To Live Sustainably In College (And Beyond)

Saving the earth doesn't stop at simply ditching straws or bringing your own cup on your daily Starbucks run, but rather happens when many people continually make many small efforts in their everyday lives.

Photo by rawpixel.com

Changing your Earth's future doesn't have to be expensive, time-consuming, or inconvenient. Simply modifying how you live now will not only help your world for years to come but is also as easy as 1-2-GREEN!

1. Let's Start With The Basics: Take Charge Of Your Own Wasteful Lifestyle And Recycle!

Photo by Hamza Javaid

Sounding like a broken record? Well here's what you don't know about recycling...

Most things can be recycled, but that doesn't mean that they always are—even if you've placed your waste in that blue or yellow bin! Although the majority of metal and paper products are easily recyclable, when it comes to plastic, however, this isn't always the case. There are various types of plastics created for differing purposes, strengths, and durabilities. Some of these plastics require special equipment that many recycling plants (and even most countries!) don't have access to, leaving many countries to ship their waste overseas, creating even more carbon emissions and waste than there was, to begin with. Other countries, like China, for example, not to recycle materials considered "foreign waste" for various, unknown (infuriating) reasons, too.

Fear not though! Thanks to programs like TerraCycle, a company that partners with hundreds of individual investors, organizations, and large corporations alike to provide free recycling programs for those pesky, tough-to-recycle materials, you can have special envelopes and boxes mailed to you for FREE if you and a group of your friends, classmates, club members, or even school wish to contribute to filling them!

For when you're not on campus, in your dorm, or at your apartment, however, still contribute to reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills by nixing plastic water bottles, and by bringing home any plastic utensils, straws, or styrofoam containers you may have used when out, and either recycle them once you get back, or look around for any nearby public recycling bins.

Want to learn more about what happens to your recyclables once they leave the curb, click here to read more.

2. Don't Want To Have To Worry About Carting Used Plastics Around Until You Find A Bin? Invest In Portable Utensil Sets, Takeaway Kits, Glass Tupperware, And Stainless Steel Or Glass Travel Bottles!

Photo by Good Soul Shop

If you're like me, you probably have forty different things in your bag, purse, or backpack at all times. Adding one or two more items that you know will not only help the planet but can actually end up saving you money and frustration in the end.

For great, inexpensive, and easily portable dining utensil sets, check local retailers like Target and Walmart, but I have found that Amazon has the best selection for the best prices. You can choose from basic bamboo fork, spoon, and knife sets (like the one pictured above), to stainless steel ones including straws and straw cleaners, chopsticks, and fruit forks.

Just as the world works to eliminate plastics like cups, straws, and utensils, the next (and often overlooked) hot spot for waste to occur is in the kitchen. Plastic food storage bags, cling wrap, garbage bags, and plastic take-out containers may work great in a pinch but are actually huge contributors to the strangulation of our oceans and the littering of landfills. Instead of buying a box of Ziplocs every few weeks (totaling a few hundred or thousand used by you alone in just one year), invest in buying reusable, silicone bags like the original Stasher Bags or more inexpensive versions also found on Amazon. Similarly, look for compostable or biodegradable cling wrap (like Bee's Wrap) and garbage bags (like these from Hippo Sak), as well as durable glass or stainless steel Tupperware. Who knows, maybe having all these fancy schmancy kitchen products might encourage you to pack your own lunch more, too!

The best part? Most of these items are under $20 (plus, you know, there's that bonus of never having to leave your house to get these items, too), so what's your excuse?

3. Transform Your Bathroom Routine.

Photo by Laura Mitulla

I know it's easy to forget, and it's always more convenient to swing by the store and pick up a new toothbrush, some plastic-wrapped toilet paper, and some cotton makeup-removal pads, but think about instead making some easy swaps. By switching out your old plastic toothbrush for an eco-friendly alternative like these inexpensive bamboo options and accompanying travel cases, you can make a small, but important, change. Not only does bamboo grow quickly, but it is considered one of the most sustainable materials on the planet...and it's biodegradable! Bonus: If you're feeling extra ~*eco-friendly*~ waste-free mouthwash exists in the form of a tablet that just dissolves in a glass of water, like these from Georganics, for example. May your teeth be whiter, and this planet, greener.

Toilet paper, although we might not think about it, is exactly that--paper! In order to make this product that billions of people use every day, multiple times per day, millions of acres of forest is required to be cut down. Instead of contributing to this, opt for a brand like Seventh Generation that uses 100% recycled paper, or Silk 'n' Soft, made entirely of bamboo.

Finally, for anyone who loves to wear makeup, but finds having to constantly purchase makeup remover wipes or cotton pads to be expensive and obnoxious, invest in buying a pack of reusable makeup pads that you can dip in your makeup remover (or coconut oil) of choice, and then throw in the wash to reuse endlessly, as well as save big.

Over 8 million TONS of plastic enters the ocean every year. If not for you, change up your lifestyle for every cute dolphin, brightly colored fish, and graceful sea turtle you've ever seen.

4. Score Your Clothes, Furniture, And Decor Secondhand!

Photo by Artificial Photography

Some of you may read that headline and think, "Hell yeah! Vintage!" while others' first reactions may be "Gross!" Regardless of what your thoughts on secondhand may be, reducing your carbon footprint by purchasing, using, and loving something that was produced and utilized already in the past helps lessen the destructive effects of manufacturing and unsustainable production on the planet, as well as save you some serious cash.

For deals on furniture, decor, clothes, jewelry, music, and more check out your local thrift, antiques, and secondhand shops, garage sales, as well as national chains like Goodwill. You never know what treasures you may find.

5. Move Without Leaving A (Carbon) Footprint At All—Ride Your Bike Or Walk!

Photo by Noelle Otto

In some places, and on some campuses, you need to cover a large space in a small amount of time or with minimal effort. If your destination isn't too far, walk for some added exercise, or if you don't feel like walking, bring your own bicycle to campus. Don't have a bike? Check out if your campus has a bicycle or battery-operated scooter rental program! Although constantly renting may not be cost-effective in the long run, check if long-term rentals or purchasing options are available if you find that it'll be put to good use. Either way, it will beat the bus, shuttle, or having to wait for an Uber any day.

6. Look For Clothing And Textile Recycling Programs That Benefit The Planet And YOU!

Photo by Volha Flaxeco

As social conversations tune more and more into sustainability and the importance of sustainable production, many fashion brands are becoming more and more aware and conscientious of their production practices, leading them to offer consumers the ability to recycle their clothing in their stores or through affiliated recycling programs. For example, H&M offers a 15% off your entire purchase voucher for bringing in any old clothes or other materials that you no longer want to be recycled. In 2018 alone, the company collected over 20,000 tonnes of textiles to reuse! That's a lot of t-shirts (over 103 million, to be exact).

For a list of more brands who offer similar recycling programs, click here.

7. BYOB—Bring Your Own Bags OR Ask For Paper!

Photo by Sylvie Tittel

As you've probably heard, single-use plastic bags are bad for the planet *gasp* and are honestly just annoying when they pile up. Instead of being given a million plastic bags that you may or may not use one or two more times, purchase inexpensive, reusable canvas, or recyclable plastic tote bags that can be used for everything from laundry to groceries to acting as an extra bag in case of emergencies. Leave a few in the trunk of your car to be one step ahead of your "it's the end of the day and I'm exhausted, but really need to grab a few things from the store" forgetfulness; or, if you even forget those, simply ask your cashier for paper! Sure, it still required a tree to be cut down to make it, but at least it won't be on the earth in the same form 1,000 years from now like a plastic bag will.

8. Make your own cleaning products!

Photo by Daiga Ellaby

When you're living on a college budget, it's sometimes hard to constantly keep buying things like cleaning products or other things for dorm or apartment maintenance, but instead of spending insane amounts of money on cleaning products that are not only harmful, but also expensive, buy a reusable squirt bottle and make your own cleaning products out of simple ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, vodka, hot water and a few drops of essential oils.

For more info on how to make your own cleaning products, and which ones work for what, click here.

9. Support Better Brands, And Be More Conscious.

Photo by Noah Buscher

As aforementioned, as the world's awareness of the planet's health increases, more and more brands, organizations, and companies are starting to pay attention to not only what they create, but how they create it. Before you participate in or purchase something for the sake of time, convenience, or cost, think about how that item will serve you while you use it, and where it goes after you're done. For clothing and accessories, research brands that are working toward sustainable production practices or implementing textile recycling programs like those mentioned above. For beauty, look for companies that use fair-trade, non-toxic, and cruelty-free products that not only protect and enhance your natural beauty, but don't harm the environment's as well. For information on where to learn more about cruelty-free beauty, click here.

The earth's all we have. Think of every end-of-the-world, dystopian movie you've ever seen and imagine what it would be like to live in a wasteland such as that. Let's work together to make sure we never have to wake up and see that every day. There is too much beauty in the world for it to go to waste. Don't place your own need for speed or convenience over something that is irreplaceable.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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