4 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint in College

1. Carpool, walk or take public transport

One of the biggest contributing factors to carbon emissions is personal transportation. With COVID restrictions beginning to lessen, classes will likely be switching to in-person soon – which means getting back in the routine of having a commute longer than from your bed to your desk. 

If you live off-campus, consider setting up a carpool with your friends or roommates to keep gas mileage down (an added benefit to this is saving some money on parking passes). Walking or biking are also good options when the weather is good and can help you stay active! 

Going to college out-of-state? When you visit home for weekends or holidays, consider taking a bus or train instead of driving long-distance.

2. Go plant-based (even if it’s only sometimes)

The type of food you eat has a huge impact on your carbon footprint, with products like meat and dairy ranked as the most harmful for the environment. Going vegetarian or vegan can seem daunting -- and can be a big personal expense -- but keep in mind that there’s no contract involved in a plant-based diet. Making simple switches like from dairy to oat milk can still make a difference without having to uproot your entire diet! 

If you can’t handle going fully meatless or dairy-free, simply reducing your consumption of high-emission foods can be helpful. To start, try committing to one meatless day per week and go from there.

3. Consider sharing groceries

Beyond just thinking about what you eat, also keep in mind that food waste is another big problem. One of the most frustrating things I’ve faced since moving off-campus is that food is sold in such large portions; I only ever see packs of meat or cartons of eggs in sizes that are way larger than what I need, so I end up either throwing away expired food or leaving things forgotten in my freezer. To cut back on food waste (and your grocery bill) consider sharing groceries with friends like you would a ride-share. 

It seems a little strange, but buying a family-size pack of meat (or eggs or produce) and splitting it between two or three friends means that you each have to spend less, it reduces the amount of packaging sold, and you each only get the amount you need!

4. Shop second-hand, and watch out for fast fashion

Stores like Forever 21 and Shein produce clothes that are meant to be cheap and “disposable” to encourage consumers to buy more frequently. The environmental impacts of the constant production and subsequent disposal of these items are piling up. 

While it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that fast fashion is the only option for your budget, it might save you more money in the long run to get pieces that will last you a long time. Now is a great time to start investing in a few wardrobe staples that are higher quality and will last longer, now that you’re a little older and have a better sense of your long-term personal style.

 Of course, that’s sometimes easier said than done – as much as I love the idea of buying high-quality for long-term payoff, I don’t always have the money in my pocket to buy an $80 jacket. If that’s the case, thrifting is a great option! It allows you to get a greater quantity of what you need for prices even lower than most fast-fashion stores, and you can still reap the benefits of high-quality brands if you search for them.