If you’re someone who’s familiar with the rapidly growing zero waste movement, then you’re aware that it goes far beyond simply recycling. If you’re not familiar with the movement, Going Zero Waste gives a simple definition and breakdown of why it’s so important. The whole point of zero waste is to reduce the amount of junk we humans produce and clutter the Earth with. When you think about how much trash each human creates on a daily basis, it can seem almost impossible to reduce that amount in a significant way. However, there are many things you can do in your everyday routine to help contribute to producing less waste and helping the environment. There are products you can buy that are environmentally friendly or daily habits that you can change. As a college student, it might seem even more impossible to join the zero waste movement when you factor in school, work, and whatever other activities you have to contribute your time to. However, that isn’t the case. Even college students can do their part in helping to reduce the amount of waste being created. Here are a few tips on how to incorporate zero waste living into your busy college life.
Shop secondhand when you can – As college students, money can sometimes be an issue. So, when shopping for clothes we often tend to go for the cheapest thing possible. Unfortunately, the cheapest things are almost always fast fashion. Fast fashion can be defined as trendy items, copied from the runway that are sold for cheap prices at retail stores. Not only is fast fashion terrible for the environment because of how much waste the industry creates, it’s also created unethically in most places. You can read here for more information on the negative impacts of fast fashion. Not only is shopping second hand great for the environment, it’s great for your wallet since you can usually find great vintage items for half the price or lower. Another way to shop secondhand is when it comes to furniture. If you’re a college student buying used furniture can be more affordable than buying it new. Thrift stores are a great option for secondhand shopping. Most of the stuff at thrift stores is cheaper than buying new items and you’re contributing to less waste by buying something used
Carry your own utensils – This tip might seem like a hassle, but when you think about the amount of people that carry around their own water bottles, it’s actually doable. Although plastic forks, straws, and Styrofoam to-go boxes are a great convenience to everyone, they are a huge contributor to the massive amounts of waste. An easy way to help reduce this waste is to carry your own supplies. Stores now sell utensil sets specifically for people to carry with them so that they don’t have to use plastic ones. You could also purchase metal straws to use instead of plastic ones that end up in the ocean (the turtles without straws in their noses will thank you). Some colleges, like Washington University have completely stopped selling bottled water. However, if you’re school isn’t that advanced yet, most college bookstores sell water bottles and coffee cups, consider purchasing one of those to carry your beverages.
Buy in bulk – Most college students love food, especially snacks. However, most snack packages contribute to our massive waste pile and end up in landfills. A great way to stop that is to buy food in bulk when you can. Most stores that offer bulk shopping sell the items unpacked. They can be found in large bins with spoons to help you scoop the food out. Most places provide bags for you to use, while others allow you to bring your own bags. Buying in bulk reduces the amount of extra packaging you put in the trash.
Rethink the way you pack for move-in day – Recycling is always a great way to help the environment and contribute to the zero-waste movement. As a college student a great way to recycle is to reuse old boxes during move-in. This is an alternative to buying those large plastic bins that aren’t easily recycled like cardboard. Another zero waste way to pack is to skip the bubble wrap or packing paper. Instead, wrap your fragile items in the towels, bedding, and clothes that you plan to bring with you.
Skip the freebies – Freebies like cups or shirts can seem like a great idea when you’re a broke college student. Companies often will create free things like hats to pass out at events on even on some campuses to advertise, knowing that college students will take it simply because it’s free. But how often are you going to rock a shirt promoting car insurance? Next time you’re approached by someone with a free item, consider first if you actually need it.
Practicing zero waste may seem like something that isn’t possible during your time in college, but as you can see there are many ways to contribute to zero waste movement while pursuing a degree. They can be small things like refusing items you don’t need; items that will just end up being thrown out. Or they can be tasks that require more consideration like being mindful of the things you purchase and the amount of waste those items will produce. However, practicing zero waste in college is doable and it’s a great way to help better the planet on a regular basis.