You know how badly plastic waste and greenhouse gases impact our beautiful planet but you’re not sure how you can do something about it as a student? You’ve come to the right place. In this post I will share a student’s guide to sustainability and zero waste!
In this guide, you can read about 20 ways to be more eco-friendly as a student, including transportation, shopping, food, basic swaps, and using your voice and contacts!
Many of the changes you can make in your life will also save you money in the long run. So let’s get started!
The Guide to Sustainability and Zero Waste for Students
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase via my link I may get a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend things I use and love, but for any questions, refer to my full disclosure here.
1) Get a bike
Don’t you want a method of transport that is cheaper AND environmentally
friendly while helping you get fitter?! If yes, get a bike!
Ok, it is more effort and takes longer but cycling on campus, to your campus, or to your job is a great way to reduce using fossil fuel while saving money.
2) Use public transport
Sometimes cycling is not always practical, maybe it’s too far of a distance for example.
If possible, use busses and trains to get around. This is a great way of traveling while doing your part to help the environment.
3) Car share
Is your destination not on the bus route? This can happen, and sometimes you need to drive.
You can still cut down on gas by car sharing. If you can car share with even one person, it takes a car off the road and can make an impact. Furthermore, this will half the cost of gas for you.
Even better, invest in an electric car!
4) Bring your own bags
In our next category of this guide to sustainability is to bring reusable and canvas bags to the store.
It’s so easy just to bring your own bags, and not taking the single-use plastic bags supplied by the supermarket.
These bags usually end up in landfills or even worse, the river, bushes or the ocean anyway.
Invest in a couple of strong bags, they’re not expensive, and take them to the store every time you go!
Pro tip: Leave them in your bike, car, or your daily backpack so you never forget them!
5) Support local businesses
This is not only better for the environment, but also for the local economy to support jobs in your area.
Supporting local businesses will reduce products being delivered from all over the world.
Remember, the biggest 15 ships in the world create more pollution than all the cars in the world (roughly 1 billion.) – We are not saying that reducing your own emissions won’t make a difference, because every little bit does, but it’s crazy that shipping has this big of an impact.
Use that knowledge to your advantage and shop for local produce and support local businesses.
6) Shop package free
One of my favorite tips of this guide to sustainability is to shop package free.
Try and buy products that contain no plastic, often you can buy a lot of these food products at farmer’s markets for example.
Furthermore, there are so-called zero waste or “package free” stores that you can take your own containers and fill them up with pasta and cereal for example. Look out for these stores in your area, yes it can be a little more effort but if we all do this it makes a big difference.
Pro tip: If you don’t have one in your area, consider going for less but bigger shopping trips -at least for basics- further away (if it’s about an hour or two away), or shop online!
7) Choose glass over plastic
Why? Because glass can be recycled infinite amount of times, while plastic cannot.
For many foods and especially drinks it can be difficult to buy package-free.
If possible, look out for glass. For example, yoghurt and milk that come in glass containers. Sometimes this can be a little more expensive, but it all helps to be more environmentally friendly and create less waste.
8) Use thrift stores
We know that buying new produced clothing (or anything really) creates more demand, and the fashion industry is responsible for quite a lot of greenhouse gases!
But if you do need new clothes, why not check out a thrift store first. This will save you money while also reducing the demand for new clothes being produced.
Not only buy from them, why not donate to them also. Maybe you have lost weight and your new top is too big for you? Why not donate it to the local thrift store, helping the environment and charities.
9) Reduce your wardrobe
By reducing the amount of clothes you own and making them last longer, you help the environment by reducing demand, and also save money!
Do you really need another top when you have 10 you do not wear? By reducing the number of clothes we buy really helps the environment and also reduces globalization.
Try to use clothes for longer, and who really cares if you wear that dress more than once.
Also, try and buy better quality clothes, these can last longer and are usually made more locally, which cuts down on shipping emissions.
10) Rent or share items
Everyone has bought something for one occasion, and for the rest of its life, it has just collected dust. Let’s avoid that by renting or sharing items.
This will reduce the demand for new products while saving you space in your storage. Furthermore, by sharing an item that you don’t use often with friends and neighbors will save you so much money!
Diet & Food
11) Don’t waste food
Only cook what you need, and if you overcook (which is easily done; everyone cooks double the amount of pasta they need) then keep it for the next day, don’t throw it out.
This will save you effort the next time while reducing demand for food,
remember there are people who don’t have enough food, so we are very fortunate.
Also, if you eat out, tell your server if you do not want the salad that you wouldn’t eat for example. I know it can be awkward to ask but it really does make a difference.
12) Cut down on meat
This can be a hard one for many people, and we’re not saying cut it out
completely if you absolutely cannot. But simply by reducing the meat you use, and perhaps only eating meat a few days per week rather than every day can make a big difference.
Personally, I set a goal to gradually reduce the meat I eat and eventually eat meat only once per week or less, because it is a big part of my diet currently, but I am willing to change some habits to impact the planet positively.
Also, make sure your meat is local and always comes from farms that treat their animals fairly and feed the cattle properly.
Little Swaps with Big Impact
13) Get a reusable coffee cup
Which student doesn’t survive on coffee!?
Invest in a reusable coffee cup, they’re not expensive. This can save so many single-use cups that are completely unnecessary.
My favorite coffee cup is this one, it’s affordable and super cute! You can find it here.
14) Take your own metal straw and utensils
Many places have switched to paper straws now, but personally I would rather use a metal straw. This can cut down on paper and plastic, and it is genuinely more practical to drink from.
Also, who doesn’t hate plastic utensils? By carrying your own set with you, you can reduce plastic, while actually being able to cut food.I’ve got my metal straws from EarthHero, but I also have a whole page with my recommendations, including zero waste products. You can view it here!
15) Switch to Safety or Electronic Razors
This one is one of my favorite tips in this guide to sustainability! It also applies to all genders. Invest in either electric or safety razors.
Even if those razors might be a little investment at first, they pay themselves after just a few uses! This reduces the amount of plastic wasted and will be cheaper in the long run.
Tip: If you do shave a lot, consider getting a laser hair removal so that you don’t have to worry about it at all!
16) Use a bamboo toothbrush
Of course, if you like an electric toothbrush, stick with it.
However, if you have a regular plastic toothbrush you replace every few months, think about buying a bamboo toothbrush instead. It does exactly the same job and again reduces plastic waste. Find my favorite bamboo toothbrush here!
17) Try Solid Shampoo and Soap bars!
There are so many alternatives for buying plastic-free cosmetics, and it can be much better for your bank account!
Simple soap bars come without plastic, and shampoo bars are now available as well, no need for the plastic bottles.
There are so many different brands, so don’t get discouraged if one doesn’t work for you.
The often underestimated…
18) Save water
This tip in our guide to sustainability is so easy to do. Cut down on your shower time, turn off the tap while you brush your teeth, we all know this!
If you don’t know why: This saves water and fossil fuels, which often are burned to heat the water. It’s easy to think that we have endless water supplies, but that’s wrong. Save water whenever it’s unnecessary to let it run.
19) Save electricity
Again, this is so easy to do.
Open the blinds, turn off the lights, and put a hoodie on before you turn up the heater.
Whenever you go on vacation or leave your dorm/apartment for more than a day, turn off your extension cords and adapters.
This will save you money on your electricity bill, and who doesn’t love saving money while helping the environment?
Furthermore, invest in LED light bulbs, these use less electricity.
20) Lastly, recycle
Yes, we kept the obvious until the end of this guide to sustainability.
Recycle whatever can be recycled, but don’t put non-recyclables in it! That reduces the chance of things being recycled, and the percentage of what actually gets recycled is already less than 10%!
Put separate items into different bins, and do not throw away items that you don’t need to. This makes a big difference to save our planet and it is the very minimum we can do, even if it’s not THE solution.
If your school doesn’t recycle, talk to the green team and try to make the first step in making your campus more green. Also, mention composting which would be a great option for the campus gardens!
21) BONUS TIP: INFLUENCE OTHERS
This bonus tip is actually the most important: share what you do with your friends and family.
If you can encourage your parents or your friends to cut down on plastic, general waste, and their footprint, it makes a big difference!
Share your routine and experiences with people, convince them to even do the basics, and if you do this, sustainability will exponentially grow in our society.
Be proud of yourself for everything you do good and everything you share with others.
Remember: You can’t do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good you can do.
I hope this student’s guide to sustainability and zero waste living helped you to get a few ideas for what you can adapt and change in your life to help the planet.
You are on a good way just reading about it, but now it’s time to act!
Get involved in the eco-club on your campus, talk to the faculty green team about ideas, and DO SOMETHING to create change.
The world needs you and I am very proud of you for trying your best in reducing your waste and footprint to create a better future.
Feel free to share any additional tips in the comments! We are all in this together:)