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7 Ways To Become More Sustainable in College

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Sustainability. This is a word we hear and see almost every day and everywhere we go: on posters, signs, Instagram, and the news. You may even see the word ‘sustainability’ on a sign in your campus dining hall. For example here at ICU, our cafeteria recycles lunch containers. 

Ever since the establishment of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) in 2015 by the United Nations, aimed to be completed by 2030, countries around the world have been trying to make tangible changes. While sustainability has been an ongoing project and is being more widely known in recent years, I feel like there has been a plateau or stagnation in this movement. 

One of my new year’s resolutions for 2022 is to become more proactively involved in sustainability. Perhaps you might also be interested. So, here are seven ways you can be more sustainable, especially while being a college student!

1. Make A Smart Wishlist

In 2021, did you impulsively buy clothes, room decor, and other items just because it was trendy? Well, here is one way you can become a smarter, sustainable consumer this year.

How to make a smart, systematic wishlist: Open an application of your choice, or physical notebook, and make a table with four-six columns. Write these labels on the top of each column going left to right: “Maybe Buy”, “Decided to Buy”, “Bought”, and “Review”. You can also add “Reason to buy” and “Reason for Review”. 

For example, I use Notion, in which I make a new list with a “table view” and “board view” to keep track of my wishlist items. 

The “Maybe Buy” column is important because oftentimes we tend to impulsively buy products that are trending on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube, and forget to take a moment to consider if this product is a need or simply a want. Of course, you can still buy things that you want, but it would be better for you, your wallet, and the environment if you take the time to think if your desire for a certain product is solely driven by consumerism and the need to be trendy, or whether you like it and want it. 

Another section I think is important is the “Review” column because this would allow you to reflect on whether your purchase was beneficial for you. While you may have taken time to think about your purchase beforehand in the “Maybe Buy” column, sometimes the products we buy end up disappointing our high expectations. To save your money, and to prevent wasteful buying that would lead to landfilling, I recommend giving a review of the products you bought. 

Let’s all be responsible consumers!

2. Recycle Makeup & SkinCare Containers

Do you ever look at the plastic recycle mark on the backside of a facewash container, and yet throw it out, not knowing how to properly recycle it? I was guilty of this too, unaware and ignorant of proper recycling methods. 

Good news! Some makeup and skincare brands have started recycling programs, encouraging customers to return their empty containers so that the plastic can be recycled. By partaking in these programs, you are not only helping to close the loop on plastic ending up in landfills and oceans, but you can get consumer benefits such as discounts and gifts! 

Here is a list of cosmetic container collection services available in Japan: 

Example: LUSH

According to an article on Fashionsnap.com (Sep. 30, 2021), LUSH has been holding the “BRING IT BACK” project since 2010 and has been collecting and recycling their black pots and clear bottles to make new products. Here are the benefits you can get by partaking in this movement:

1) Trade 5 containers (on the list of considered products) with one new face mask pot. 

2) For one container (on the list of considered products) ¥30 is given back to use for your new purchase.

3. Bring your own utensils to campus

This may be a very small action to take, but if your dining hall or cafeteria at university does not have reusable utensils (especially with the pandemic, most campuses may use plastic utensils), consider bringing your reusable utensils! Utensil packs may include a combination of a fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks.

Here are some possible options on Amazon (some are available at LOFT):

4. Bring a Resusable Cup or Tumbler to Cafes

How often do you go to a cafe to study? Personally, I go once or twice a week, and almost every day during intense final exam seasons. If you relate to this, I strongly encourage you to invest in a reusable cup or tumbler. With every purchase of coffee, you can prevent contributing to plastic and paper waste, and you can get your drink at a discounted price! This is a great way to save money on your weekly coffee spending!

Cafes in Japan that accept reusable cups and tumblers:

  • Starbucks — ¥20 discount
  • Tully’s — ¥30 discount 
  • 上島珈琲 (Uejima Coffee) — ¥50 discount
  • Excelsior Caffe — ¥20 discount 
  • Cafe de Clie — ¥30 discount 
  • Lawson “Machi Cafe” — ¥10 discount

The information above according to Sushi Voyage (Kanako, @eco.japan)

My recommendations:

5. BUy Second-Hand & Recycle Clothes

Acquire new clothes and books from local thrift stores, from friends, or a flea market held by a club at university. 

At ICU, the HCICU Events Team will be launching our thrift brand “OFURU”. We will be selling HCICU members’ clothes, books, and handmade or secondhand accessories at cheap, affordable prices! We will be donating a portion of our total sales/ profit to organizations of our choice. 

Alternatively, if you want to get rid of clothes instead of buying new ones, you can either sell or donate your clothes to thrift stores or an NPO or donate to stores that collect clothing. Here is a list of stores that collect and recycle clothes in Japan: 

6. Replace Saran Wrap & Ziplock Bags

College is when most people start cooking more frequently, either at home with family or in on-campus/off-campus housing. How many times do you use saran wrap when microwaving or storing food in the fridge? An easy way to become more sustainable and waste less plastic is to buy silicone lids or beeswax wrappers. This is something I want to get into doing this year, so I will share some products I found online!

7. Educate Yourself

So far I have shared six tips to become more sustainable in college. However, this may be a bit overwhelming. The most important part about partaking in sustainability and aiming to achieve the SDGs is to educate yourself. Check out these websites and Instagram accounts to get started on your sustainability journey.

I hope this inspires you to start living a more sustainable college life!

Mana Kitazawa

ICU Japan '25

Hi, I'm Mana! I am currently a freshman at International Christian University. I enjoy yoga, reading, going to cafes, and being in nature.
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