live sustainably at college

10 Easy and Cheap Ways to Live Sustainably at College

Live sustainably at college

Credit: leightrail via iStock by Getty Images

College students use their time on campus to learn more about themselves and begin independent lives. If you are a college student, you may have decided to live a greener lifestyle, but how can you make it happen without a full-time income or a lot of control over your housing situation? 

Here are a few easy and cheap ways to live sustainably at college, no matter how busy you are.

1. Submit Assignments Digitally

Many professors encourage students to submit assignments through email or a website submission portal. Most lectures happen with digital content anyway, like slideshows or videos. They’ll post the class material online for easy access, and the site will likely feature their submission link, if they don’t prefer emailed assignments.

You may find the occasional professor who wants things printed. Feel free to talk with them about working digitally. You could express your desire to live sustainably and find a compromise for their assignments. They’ll appreciate your openness and may be more willing to work with you because of it.

2. Find Reusable Kitchenware

Campus cafeteria and fast-food restaurants will hand out plastic silverware with every order. They may also provide meals on Styrofoam plates or serve coffee orders in plastic cups. Although you could petition your food services department to replace them with sustainable alternatives, you can also stock your dorm or apartment with reusable kitchenware.

Thrift shops and budget stores always have metal silverware and ceramic dishes for sale. You only need a dollar or two to find everything you need for your meals and snacks. You’ll double your sustainability if you purchase your kitchenware from thrift stores or farmers’ markets because you’ll reuse household items and keep them out of landfills.

3. Recycle Your Waste

Many modern colleges and universities have on-campus recycling programs. Learn how to separate your recyclable materials and take them to the properly labeled dumpsters for pickup.

Anyone who goes to a school without a recycling program can offer to carpool people to the local recycling center once a week. You’ll promote reusable production materials and minimize everyone’s carbon footprint by loading everything in a single car.

4. Move Off-Campus

There are numerous reasons why so many students move off-campus after their first year. Dorm rooms cost $2,238 more per year on average compared to one-bedroom or studio apartments. But moving off-campus can also help you implement more eco-friendly practices, like cooking sustainably at home or putting a small compost bin in the yard area.

Some universities do a great job constructing more eco-friendly dormitories and giving students opportunities to get involved in green living initiatives. For many students, however, striking out on their own and being able to cook more of their own food allows them to put more of their eco-friendly beliefs into practice.

5. Buy Recycled Class Supplies

Brands have noticed the increase in consumer demand for eco-friendly products. Making name-brand products with recycled materials is an easy way to make people happy. The next time you need a new notebook, set of pens or study supplies, look for brands with labels emphasizing their recycled products.

Everything from plastic pens to lined notebook paper can exist without natural resources. All you have to do is read each label in the office supply aisle of your local store to learn which brands will support your sustainable lifestyle and help you keep up with your schoolwork.

6. Skip the Coffee Pods

Keurigs and other pod-centered coffee makers are popular dorm room features. They’re small enough to fit on a desk and make one cup at a time, so you never have to make more than you need. They also rely on single-use pods, which end up in landfills.

Don’t worry about buying a new machine if you rely on your coffee pods to keep you awake during your early morning classes and late-night study sessions. A few dollars will buy reusable coffee pods. They only require a quick rinse between uses and never need to go in the garbage. You’ll prevent your trash from adding to the 9 billion annual pods in landfills without changing your caffeine habit.

7. Leave Your Lights Off

You don’t have to worry about paying the electric bill if you live on-campus. It’s tempting to get into bad habits like leaving your lights on while at class or studying in the library. However, you should switch everything off before leaving your room. You’ll shrink your carbon footprint in an instant.

There’s also a compelling reason to get into this routine if you live off-campus — you’ll significantly decrease your electric bill. The extra $10-$30 each month allows you to invest in eco-friendly brands for other necessities like clothing or food.

8. Use Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent

Doing your own laundry is one of the many changes young people have to get used to in college. While getting groceries, you may scan the shelves and select whichever detergent is the most affordable. When was the last time you looked at the ingredients?

Laundry detergent uses numerous chemical ingredients to remove stains, odors and bacteria. They aren’t always good for the environment because they aren’t biodegradable. Look for green brands instead, or make some in your dorm with these ingredients:

  • A bar of organic soap
  • Your preferred essential oil
  • Baking soda
  • Washing soda

You’ll only need a tablespoon for an average-sized load of laundry, which means you’ll rarely need to restock on your detergent supplies. It’s an easy way to live a greener life without needing a bigger budget.

9. Walk to Class

Walking or biking to class is a great sustainable lifestyle change, unless you live far from campus. It doesn’t require fossil fuels and won’t cost you too much. All you need is an initial investment in comfortable walking shoes or a bike from a thrift store. The extra exercise will also improve your health, so it’s an excellent way to help yourself and the planet.

10. Participate in Meatless Mondays

Water is an essential resource, so it requires conservation. People might make their showers shorter or avoid watering their lawns, but what can college students do? You can always pick a day of the week and go vegetarian for those meals.

A quarter-pound of ground beef requires 150 gallons of water to produce. Chicken and seafood also need water, so avoid contributing to this usage by swapping protein sources. Eating meals with beans, tofu or other vegetarian proteins once a week will improve your environmental impact and even save you money because they’re more affordable.

Learn to Live Sustainably at College

It’s possible to live sustainably at college on the cheap. Simple shifts in your daily habits make a big difference in how your life affects the planet. Work with your schedule and budget to find the best tips to be green on campus.

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