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Small Steps for Sustainability on a Budget


On the surface level, I don’t seem like the type of person who lives the most sustainable life. I’m not vegan, I drive a gasoline-fueled car to work, and a lot of my clothes are probably not eco-friendly. However, the older I get, the more I feel a moral obligation to lessen my carbon footprint on the Earth. 

As I continue to educate myself on climate change, I have learned that living a slightly more sustainable lifestyle does not have to be nearly as costly as often shown in mainstream media, nor does it have to be as extreme. As a broke college student, here are four cost-effective ways I choose to live sustainably. 

Meatless Mondays (or whatever day!) 

According to Climate Central, an independent group of journalists and scientists investigating climate change, a reduction in red meat consumption may cut greenhouse gas emissions by half. Although I can’t say I see myself giving up cheese anytime soon or going raw vegan, I like to make it a goal to consume less meat. Some ways to do this can either be going meatless for one day of the week, or even just making the choice to not eat meat for a meal. It can also be a fun quarantine activity with friends to find, share, and prepare recipes that are plant based. A tip for this is to learn cooking Indian cuisine- most of the dishes are naturally vegan and vegetarian friendly! 


I have a love-hate relationship with thrifting. On one hand, I love that I am saving money and finding unique clothing while also making less of a contribution to fast fashion and limiting environmental waste. On the other hand, it can take FOREVER to find that one perfect vintage tee. A way to make thrifting less tedious is to make it a fun outing with friends and clear some time to spend a few hours perusing through the store. Due to COVID, it may seem daunting to visit a thrift store in-person. Some of my favorite resources for online thrifting are ThredUp, Depop, and Poshmark. 

Grocery shopping

Yes, even my favorite quarantine activity can be made more sustainable. If I have an idea of how many groceries I will buy, I like to bring my own reusable bags to the store. On the days where I forget to bring a bag, I will try to reuse the plastic grocery bags to carry my lunch or as a trash bag. There are also hundreds of crafts on Pinterest to upcycle grocery bags into something new. Bringing a bag does not require much planning, but it can make a big difference in reducing plastic consumption.  

Metal Straws “sksksk” (if you know you know!)

One thing the VSCO girls got right is that switching to a metal straw really can save the turtles. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, hundreds of millions of straws in the United States are thrown away daily. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably addicted to your daily dose of iced bean juice. What makes me feel better about my caffeine dependency is my choice to use a metal straw instead of a plastic one. On Amazon, there are many cheap options to buy several straws for less than ten dollars. 

Remember, a drastic change in lifestyle is not likely to be realistic nor sustainable. If we all can make minor changes in our daily lives, we can make a large collective impact. 

Sachi Shukla

Cincinnati '23

Sachi is a second-year majoring in Neurobiology with a minor in Sociology. She is passionate about mental health, women's health, and social justice. In the future, she hopes to go to medical school and eventually become a gynecologist.
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