Making eco-friendly lifestyle choices doesn’t need to be difficult. Yes, college is a busy time for students, which makes it hard to prioritize areas of focus other than school work and a social life. It seems like a small dorm room may not seem like the best or easiest place to start living more sustainably, but there are so many small changes to make that will increase your role in protecting the environment. Here are some ways to begin in your dorm and housing community!
1. Organize a clothing swap.
Fast-fashion has a detrimental impact on the environment. Instead of planning a trip to the mall when you want new clothes, trade clothes with your friends and hallmates. In many ways, trading at a clothing swap is better than shopping at a retailer because you will leave with the same amount of satisfaction and way less guilt. After the swap, any remaining clothing that isn’t taken can be donated to a local thrift store or women’s shelter.
2. Invest in reusable shopping bags.
Carrying a reusable bag around is one of the easiest ways to stay eco-friendly during college, especially when bringing groceries back to your dorm. If you spontaneously find yourself at the grocery store or even grabbing a meal to go, you can avoid getting a plastic or paper bag, and use your own instead. Some states charge an additional fee for using a paper or plastic bag, so purchasing a reusable bag will actually save you money and keep you on budget.
3. Designate a recycling bin.
Recycling may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many college students don’t do this. If your dorm doesn’t provide you with a recycling bin for your room, then get one for yourself. Simply taking the time to recycle can make a huge difference. Keep the recycling bin in an easy-to-access area, so you are constantly reminded to recycle any used water bottles, plastic bags, or cardboard boxes. Check out EcoScraps for a list of recyclable items!
Related: How to Practice Living Sustainably When You’re on a Tight Budget
4. Minimize food waste.
Wasted food usually ends up in landfills, which can result in increased pollution. Keep this in mind while you are at the grocery store. Only buy what you know you will eat, and make sure to offer up foods that you won’t eat to friends or roommates. Minimizing food waste is extremely important, and it will help control the amount of plastic or cardboard packaging you are buying as well.
5. Wash your clothes with cold water.
Hot water takes up significantly more energy than cold water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hot water takes up 90% of the energy used by washing machines to wash clothes. Not only will you save energy by using cold water, you will also maintain the integrity of your clothes by eliminating stubborn stains faster and preventing color transfer onto other items.
6. Carry a reusable coffee cup.
In addition to your reusable water bottle, investing in a reusable coffee cup or tumbler is an easier and often cheaper way to say sustainable and caffeinated during a busy school week. Starbucks recently decided to give all customers a $.10 discount for bringing a reusable cup. By doing this, you are reducing the amount of waste from plastic cups and straws. Some brands of reusable mugs like KeepCup are making it easier to be sustainable with their aesthetically pleasing mugs made from sustainable materials!
7. Go vegetarian for the day.
You probably know by now that the meat industry is not very eco-friendly, because producing meat releases carbon and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere that have detrimental effects on the environment. Transitioning to a completely vegetarian or vegan lifestyle can be time consuming and expensive for college students, especially if you already have a meal plan, so instead pick a day of the week where you eat exclusively vegetarian. This way, you can positively impact the environment without drastically changing your lifestyle.
Remember that implementing these eco-friendly habits into your day-to-day routine is helping you become part of a larger movement to protect the environment. Our generation is responsible for taking part in important movements like this, since we will be the next leaders supporting them. Enforce these habits sooner rather than later and share them with your friends and roommates.