By Sarah Green
School is back in session. Growing up, that might’ve meant a trip to the school supply isle with your mom, but for many college students, those needs have likely changed — so have the planet’s needs. Here are eight ways to keep mother earth in mind this semester.
1. Sustainable note-taking
One of the easiest ways to eliminate waste is by taking digital notes. There’s no need for plastic pens, piles of notebooks, and all the pencils, erasers, and binders you typically restock year after year. Many people opt for OneNote or Google Docs, but you can also scribble on a tablet with a stylus to get that good old feeling of putting pen to paper. Many tablets now even offer screen protectors giving it a similar feel to writing on paper.
If digital options are out-of-budget, consider consolidating notebooks. For example, if you are taking an environmental science class one semester, and oceanography the next, don’t throw out the notebook, but use it again to pair relevant information together. There are many sustainable paper writing options too, like Decomposition Books or O’Bon Endangered Species pencils made from
2. Create a sustainable kitchen
We all get hungry going to class throughout the day and can be tempted to buy a small bag of snacks or a drink from on-campus stores. A great alternative to this is to bring a reusable water bottle and a small container of your favorite food from home to refuel. By implementing these small changes you avoid spending money when you don't need to and avoid producing a little extra waste.
Additionally, if you frequent coffee shops — bring your own thermos instead of getting a disposable cup. (some coffee shops will even give you a discount for bringing your own travel mug)
If you are the type to meal prep or bring lunch to campus, do your best to find sustainable reusable Tupperware. Stay away from plastic bags and consider other options like beeswax wraps to keep your sandwiches and snacks fresh. Check out this cool article on how to make your own beeswax wraps!
3. Commute by bike, bus, or on foot
If you're running out of podcasts to listen to on your walk to campus, many universities offer free city bus passes to their students. If this applies to your college, you can pretty much go anywhere, anytime. Use a GPS app like Apple Maps or a local public transportation app to learn the routes in your area.
If you are looking for another mode of cheap, environmentally-friendly transportation, consider getting a skateboard or bicycle off facebook marketplace or resale site. Perhaps you’ll find a new hobby in the process. If you’re not ready to own a bike, there are services like Veo and Lime that allow you to rent electric scooters and bikes for any amount of hours, all by using an app!
4. Use campus resources
Many large colleges have composting centers where you can drop off your kitchen scraps for free. Grab a couple of friends and make the trip part of your weekend routine. It’s a fun way to explore a part of campus you may never see otherwise and give back to the earth.
Additionally, many schools with a large agricultural department have discounted produce for students. This is a great way to support local innovation in farming! It is also a great opportunity to try a fruit or vegetable you have never had before. Many times the hours and prices of these produce stands will be posted on the Agricultural school’s social media. Let us know in the comments if you end up cooking something great with your school’s local produce!
There’s no doubt about it — one of the hardest parts about being sustainable in college is the nightlife. It can be difficult to stay environmentally conscious when you are surrounded by solo cups. I feel you, and I have some solutions:
Make BYOC, or “bring your own cup,” a habit in your weekend activities. This can be a great party theme as guests can express themselves with a fun mug. You could even try “bring anything but the cup”! In that same vein, opt for a keg instead of cases of beer to cut down on waste.
6. Be creative with clothing
College is one of the easiest places to keep your wardrobe fresh without having to turn to fast fashion sites every other week. Participate in clothing swaps with your friends, thrift game day outfits, and choose local street markets. Challenge yourself to get the most out of your clothes. Try turning a skirt into a tube top or pants into a shrug. You might just be surprised what you come up with looking at your wardrobe through a different lens!
7. Carve out time to appreciate the outdoors
Between studying and classes, it can be hard to remember that the world is larger than your university’s campus. However, it’s important to reconnect with nature so you can stay motivated to help the environment, stay grounded, and stay active. Try doing workouts in a park, studying in a hammock by a lake, or doing online classes at a picnic table.
8. Get Involved!
The easiest way to give back to the earth is by utilizing student environmental organizations. Consider joining one that targets something you're passionate about, such as saving manatees, or create your own club. If you don’t have the time commitment for a club, not to worry! Many clubs have drop-in events, such as invasive species removals, guest speaker series, or vegan potlucks. Often, you can even earn volunteer hours. To find these clubs, visit your college’s student involvement website!
Images courtesy of #UNLITTER
If you are interested in starting a chapter of #UNLITTER at your college, reach out to Join@unlitter.org!