Recently, I’ve been trying to live a low-waste lifestyle. My mom and I have been subscribed to Causebox, which sends sustainable and ethically-made products to you four times a year. We love our Causeboxes because they let us try new things that we wouldn’t even know existed otherwise. In addition to the Causebox subscription, I have been trying to cut down on my waste, recycle, and frequent low-waste stores more often. Obviously, the most sustainable options are those that include using the resources you already have, but if you are ready to make the switch, here are my top 10 sustainable options for students!
- Reusable Water Bottles
Everyone knows that plastic water bottles are extremely harmful to the environment. For the past few years, many people have started to switch to using reusable water bottles in order to reduce the amount of plastics that are polluting the earth. A lot of people swear by Hydroflask bottles because they maintain the temperature of your drink for a long period of time. I love my Hydroflask, but I definitely prefer Nalgene bottles because they’re a lot cheaper and sturdier. I know that using a reusable water bottle seems like a very small swap to make, but it really adds up. I drink a lot of water, so I know that my reusable bottles usually save me from wasting hundreds of plastic bottles per year.
- Reusable Coffee Cups
If you’re someone like me, you drink a lot of coffee and tea throughout the day, especially in the mornings. Sometimes, I’m in a bit of a rush, and don’t feel like bringing a mug of coffee to class, so I reach for a reusable coffee cup. I really like this one from Hydroflask because it keeps my drink hot for a long time. I think this cup from Stojo is a really great option for college students because it’s collapsible and won’t take up too much space in the tiny dorm rooms. Usually, you can take these cups to coffee shops and get your drink in your own cup, rather than using a disposable one.
- Reusable Produce and Shopping Bags
Luckily, paper bags are pretty normal in Maine, which helps reduce the amount of plastic being used when you go to the grocery store. I’m from Tennessee, where plastic bags are still a really big problem. For several years, my family and I have been stocking up on reusable produce and grocery bags in order to help with this problem. Usually, you can find the grocery bags at any supermarket for a few dollars, so it’s a really cost-effective way to reduce waste. We also eat a lot of vegetables, so we like to use cloth produce bags. They’re a little bit pricey at first, but we use them all the time. I also have a bag or two set aside to use as delicate wash bags for when I do laundry!
- Metal Cutlery vs. Plastic Cutlery from the Dining Halls
Some of the biggest sources of waste on Colby’s campus are the dining halls. Although Colby uses a lot of recyclable and compostable materials, students don’t really take note and everything ends up going in the trash. Although it seems like a bit of a hassle to always have forks to wash, I prefer eating my meals with metal cutlery instead of the plastic ones in the dining halls, because it’s one less thing to throw away.
- Tea Strainers
I really enjoy drinking tea and I’m definitely guilty of buying huge packs of tea bags and throwing away the wet bags once my drink is ready. If you’re an avid tea drinker like myself, you may want to look into purchasing loose-leaf teas and a metal strainer. To be honest, I prefer loose-leaf teas because I think they have a much stronger flavor and I’m able to control how much tea I’m using for each cup. I think that The Tea Spot has really delicious blends that last for a while. To steep the tea, I like using a metal strainer like this one, because they’re really easy to clean. Sometimes, you have to be careful about using silicone or other strainers, because mold can grow in them.
- Dryer Balls
If you aren’t yet on the dryer ball train, you should be. Aside from being extremely cost-effective for college students on a budget, I think they work better than usual dryer sheets. Dryer balls also tend to shorten the time it takes to dry your clothes, since they knock apart clumps of wet clothes. If you want to add a bit of freshness to your load, you can put a few drops of your favorite essential oil onto the ball before tossing it in, and your clothes will smell heavenly afterwards. I like these ones from Public Goods because they’re the perfect size and they come with a bag to store them in. If you have a wool allergy, you might want to look for alternatives, like these super cute Cactus Dryer Buddies from Walmart.
- Safety Razors
If you’re someone who shaves often, you should look into purchasing a safety razor, rather than buying plastic ones every month or so. I really like this one from Seek Bamboo, because it gives me a really close shave and I love the rose gold finish. Although safety razors can be pretty expensive, you end up saving money over time. If you treat your razor well, it can last years. You do have to buy new blades every now and then, but the extra few dollars doesn’t really interfere with your savings.
- Thrifting/Shopping Secondhand
One of the most popular ways to reduce waste is to shop secondhand at local consignment and thrift stores. It’s also really important to donate your clothes to these stores so that they don’t go to waste. In addition to shopping secondhand, you should also reduce the amount of “trendy” items you’re purchasing, since trends move quickly and those clothes often get stuck in the back of your closet for years. Personally, I enjoy shopping at thrift stores that are linked to charities, like AMVETS or The Salvation Army, since I know my money will be going to a good cause.
Let’s face it. Composting is pretty scary. I’ve heard several horror stories about composting bins stinking up entire houses, so I have been a bit hesitant to start composting in my dorm room. I’ve been doing a lot of research, and I’ve found that bins with filters at the top are usually pretty smell-proof, so I’m thinking about buying this one from Burpee. Since I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, I think that composting will be a really good option for me. I’ve also noticed that in the Spa, there are campus compost bins next to the trash cans. If you’re also a little bit scared of having a stinky dorm room, try taking your food scraps to the Spa!
I feel like everyone and their mother knows that recycling is one of the easiest and most important things to do in order to live a low-waste lifestyle. I love how Colby has a ton of recycling bins around campus, but I wish that more people would take advantage of them. Every day, I see people throwing plastic cups and cardboard boxes into the trash can, rather than the recycling bins. This habit can definitely be a bit hard to latch onto, but it’s a really important habit to have. If you aren’t an avid recycler yet, try practicing over the summer so that our next year at Colby can be a low-waste one!