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7 Ways to Live Sustainably on Campus

As a student living on my own, I have struggled to try to balance my strive for sustainability with my very limited budget. But you may be wondering, what is sustainability? The UN World Commission on Environment and Development defines it best, as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Essentially, helping the planet while changing your lifestyle as little as possible.

Sounds like a great idea, right?

Except, often necessities such as plates and utensils created from recycled materials are quite expensive, and I for one can’t afford much. It’s always been quite a challenge trying to find the balance between sustainability and affordability, but I have managed to develop some tips along the way. Here are my tips and tricks for being more sustainable on a budget:

Invest in a good water bottle.

While water bottles can be a bit pricey, when you consider the one-time cost of buying a nice, stainless steel one versus cases of plastic water bottles for the year, you’re actually saving money! For example, take my water bottle. It’s about $40 without tax or shipping. One case of twenty-four, Poland Spring water bottles costs approximately $8.50. Considering humans are supposed to drink sixty-four ounces a day, and one plastic water bottle contains about sixteen ounces, you should go through four bottles a day, or need to buy a new case every week. At that rate, you’d exceed the cost of my Yeti water bottle in just over a month. Not only would you save money, but also all the plastic in those Poland Spring bottles is saved from entering a landfill or the ocean.

Paper plates!

Styrofoam plates may be less expensive, but paper plates are far better for the environment. It is still waste, so perhaps not the perfect solution, but one that helps the environment and doesn’t harm your wallet. 


Sometimes, when you come back to campus for the fall, you’ll find the curtains you used or the storage bins you purchased last year just don’t fit in your new space. That was exactly the case when I walked into my dorm room and realized the windows were a completely different shape. While I had to buy new curtains, I was still stuck with an old pair. When learning about how to help the environment, so often you hear the phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle!” Recycling may be the most common one, but did you know reusing contributes far more? Ultimately, when you place something in the recycling bin, it is most often still ending its life as a useable object and becomes waste, but by reusing materials when you can, you are giving it another life. So, after some brainstorming, my roommate and I realized we could use those old curtains in our entryway. We strung them on some wire a friend didn’t need, and now they add a personalized touch to our room. Another idea is that you could add some cute Washi tape to any empty tissue boxes and make them small storage containers for food or utensils!

Reuse plastic utensils.

I learned this from a friend after lamenting that I couldn’t find any metal silverware at Target. She and her roommates buy plastic utensils, but clean and reuse them a couple of times before throwing them out, which certainly works with the idea of reusing stated in #3!

Explore your closest recycling center.

While it is more helpful to reuse, there’s certainly no harm in recycling too! There is a place for recycling in every BU dorm, sometimes even multiple, such as in West Campus. Buying a small bin for recycling not only helps the planet but it also limits how many times you have to take out the trash— which I certainly benefit from.

Unplug unplug unplug.

Even when not in use, a plugged-in cable uses electricity. When you aren’t using your phone charger or Keurig, unplug it! It’s so simple but so effective in helping our planet.

Turn off water when you can.

When in the middle of brushing your teeth, or shampooing your hair, you can conserve water— and your water bill if you live off-campus. And why not? It’s not like you need the water at that moment anyway!

Sometimes, some of the best ways to be sustainable are the simplest, like unplugging your Keurig or reusing items when you can. Hopefully, you’ve been inspired to use some of these tips, and come up with your own!


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Cait is a junior at Boston University studying International Relations and Journalism. She is excited to continue writing and editing for Her Campus BU this Fall. On-campus, Cait is also a member of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta where she holds an officer position. Other than writing, Cait loves photography, her cats, and exploring the effects of nuclear proliferation. You can find out more about Cait's plans and goals at www.caitmeyer.com
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