How To Live More Sustainably as Told by College Students

“A lot of people think they like everything in their closet,” Maanasi Shyno, a sophomore at Dartmouth told me over Zoom. Three years ago, Shyno watched a TEDx Talk on how to have a 10-item wardrobe. She was intrigued by it and got to work sorting through her clothes narrowing it down to her 15 most frequently worn items. She wears all 15 on rotation with only a couple of new additions when she moved to college. Shyno’s wardrobe was better suited for her hometown of Los Angeles but nowhere near ready for New Hampshire’s winter. 

As more people become conscious of their impact on the environment, many are seeking solutions to integrate a better lifestyle to help, and college students in particular are becoming more conscious of their impact. Many have noted that they felt like they couldn’t wait for others to do the hard work of making lasting sustainable changes in their lives. 

Sharon Tang, a sophomore at Harvard, estimates that 80-95% of her closet is second-hand. She was galvanized after watching “The True Cost,” a documentary on the harmful effects of fast fashion. In 2017, 11.15 million tons of clothing were sent to landfills, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report. Tang says she rarely buys any new items but sticks to brands that operate sustainably and ethically at all stages of production. When thrifting, she seeks out fabrics like denim, which she knows can endure a lot more wear. 

Seiyon Kim, 17, a freshman at Rutgers University, incorporates the practice of refusing single-use plastics in her daily life. While many have adopted the mentality of “if it’s free, it’s for me” at events like street fairs and art shows, Seiyon says, “If it’s anything I don’t see using in everyday life, I refuse to take it.” 

Kim also chose to become a vegetarian once learning the extent of the damage being done to the environment due to the livestock industry. Understanding that this is a large commitment inaccessible to many, even taking steps to make small dietary changes can make a difference. Cutting out meat for one or a couple days a week, or “Meatless Mondays,” can help slow the demand for meat. The livestock industry accounts for approximately 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

“We all have a responsibility to make some sort of effort,” Shyno said. And her advice for those still on the fence about making sustainable changes? “Just start. Once you start, you don’t feel like you need to stop.”