The College Student’s Guide to Living Eco-Friendly

If you were a Disney Channel kid (or still are), you might remember the advertisement breaking up hit shows like Hannah Montana and The Suite Life with Zack and Cody with the musical message of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” As a generation, we were taught in schools and on our televisions the teachings of gardening, the importance of picking up trash, and recycling our man-made containers and wrappers. The destructible and most popular topic conversation in mind is the global pandemic which has limited our “green” practices of reusable shopping bags and reduction of single-use plastics. This propels the need for a revised list of ideas to extend our “green” outreach. Where I come in is to give students eco-friendly practices that are ethical in regards to the pandemic, and are centered around dorm and apartment living. Articles like these can be overwhelming, which is why I have done my best to create an approachable, digestible list of small ideas that are simple and not overbearing.

A very close friend of mine has opened my eyes to the various ways we can be more environmentally conscious, which has allowed me to observe my waste creation throughout my day and allow for ideas on how to limit this. From repurposing kombucha bottles to restricting the purchase of new clothing items, my inspiration for this piece works her hardest each day to make her impact on our Mother Earth as beneficial and as less-impactful as possible. 

I feel we each can be a little more conscious and helpful around our surroundings to make the earth cleaner and healthier. 

Here is what I’ve found works for us college students, gift-wrappers, and civilized humans.

Let’s get greener, my friends!

  1. 1. Use canvas bags instead of plastic

    Whether it’s grocery shopping or hitting the retail stores, keeping a canvas bag with you is a key way to reduce unnecessary plastic use. Canvas bags are sturdier and won’t quit on you, and they are also more breathable than plastic bags, so damp items or produce are better off in this environment.  Another added plus: these bags are super customizable! You can add your own designs or buy a printed one that shows off your style.

  2. 2. To go along with your grocery shopping, check out reusable produce bags.

    Instead of ripping off the thin plastic bags in the produce section, try reaching for a canvas, knit paper, or any non-plastic material to bag your apples instead! This will allow you to have less waste, since we all know there’s really not a great way to reuse those thin, easily-ripped produce baggies. You can find these on Amazon in bundles for quite cheap, or just search the good ‘ole Google web!

  3. 3. No bag? Carry it out. Say ‘no’ to plastic bags

    We have no system to recycle these; plastic bags do not belong in your recycling bin. This means we each have the ability and the responsibility to severely cut out single-use plastic bags (and plastics in general)! So, unless you’re planning on repurposing them to make pants, don’t allow your cashier to give you one at checkout. Some places, including grocery stores like Hannaford in Southern Maine, are taking it a step further and charging five cents per plastic bag! In this case, it’s cheaper not to use wasteful plastic bags.

  4. 4.   Carry a water bottle

    Let’s be real, those single-use Poland Spring bottles you buy at the small coffee shop are not doing anyone any good. Then you have to carry them around your whole outing, which is just a handful. To avoid all of this, carry a water bottle that you can refill, it saves money and plastic (and low-key the earth). In general, each college student should have a water bottle; hydration is of utmost importance, so make sure to take care of yourself!

  5. 5. A reusable mask

    Opt for the soft, customizable, and reusable safety face mask coverings instead of the disposable masks. Moving away from disposable masks creates less waste, and allows you to simply wash your reusable mask every few days. The customizable factor of reusable masks is my personal favorite, from colors to patterns to fabrics. A mask with cats playing tennis on them is one you will want to hold on to!

  6. 6. Don’t use a straw unless it’s metal

    Ditch the straw phenomenon! It’s about time us Americans learn how to raise a drink up to our lips and drink out if it and ditch plastic straws! That being said, it is important to take into account that some individuals have personal obstacles that make drinking out of plastic straws a necessity; do what’s best for you! If you’re a straw person, you can purchase a metal or sustainable one below:

     

    Amazon, Simply Straws, Target, Dollar Tree (if Dollar Tree has this you have no excuse)

  7. 7. Create a compost bin (not recommended for residence hall students, lol)

    Recycling your old food scraps is very important; creating a compost bin can guarantee good planting soil and a reduction of food waste. So if you’ve been dreaming of a cute outdoor garden, start up some compost and get digging! There are options that include worms or other creatures to speed up the process as well as non-worm options if that’s not your vibe!

  8. 8. Borrow instead of buying

    Yes, this includes clothes. Thrift, buy second-hand used books, jewelry, clothing, shoes; any item you need you can most likely find at a second-hand store, and this will cut down your textile waste by 80% (Green and Prosperous). Limit spending on new clothes and new items. If cutting out new retail is not going to work for you, even setting limits such as one month purchasing new items two months off or any sort of variation is wonderful; any impact you can make is a good and accepted impact.

  9. 9. If you’re gonna buy new clothes, check out sustainable clothing lines. Here are some of my favorites!

     

    Depop - if you haven’t heard of Depop, welcome to your newest obsession! This is an online store that is app-based ranging from small businesses, thrift finds, reworked pieces and designer goldmines. Shopping on Depop helps small businesses, entrepreneurs, and independent sellers who need the cash. It’s sustainable, community-friendly, and keeps new-businesses flourishing!

     

    Reformation - tells you the gallons of water, CO2 emissions, and landfill additions you save from each purchased item.

     

    Boyish Jeans - sustainable denim. Enough said. 

     

    This Is A Day - focuses on making clothing items one would wear year round to diminish needing new clothes; all items are for all seasons.

     

    Instagram- There are so many people creating Instagram accounts just to sell clothes that they don’t have a use for anymore! Sometimes they’re selling the clothes as is, or they are customizing them to breathe new life into the items.

  10. 10. Limit your meat consumption (primarily beef, cows are big polluters)

    We are told from a United Nations study that “the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2,” (United Nations News). You can take part in the wave of limiting greenhouse gases by limiting the meat intake in your diet. This can simply be cutting down one meal a week to eating plant proteins like lentils, beans, nuts, or tofu to limit your meat consumption; again any small, tiny difference in your routine makes a large difference for our earth!

  11. 11. Use bar soap

    Instead of plastic-pump soap or dish soap that is bottled in (yet again) plastic, opt for bar soap! You can find great smelling and disinfecting bar soap at grocery stores, with most containing more natural and less harmful ingredients, as well as being cheaper than pump soap!

    Another great way to reduce plastic in your bathroom is to hunt out bar shampoo and conditioner! While it seems expensive, you actually get to use all of the product that you pay for! Both Lush and Public Goods are well-known brands that provide this option, with tons of different scents and ingredients for everything your hair needs at various price points!

    Bar dish wash soap is also a great new invention I’ve found—check out Amazon or your local grocery and natural food stores to see if any are available. Scrubba dub dub!

  12. 12. Save and reuse wrapping paper

    From paper bags to wrapping paper, all of it can be reused each birthday, Valentine’s day, or special gifting occasion! Create a designated box to store it all in. Each time you need to package a gift, you’re covered, no need to go to the store; such a money and time saver!

  13. 13. Plant more seeds

    There are local garden stores anywhere, so finding seeds in-store or online is very simple! Planting seeds and giving life to new plants is important for our ecosystem and our clean air; microgreens are also wonderful to eat and are easy to grow as houseplants! Once spring has truly sprung, some fresh air and dirt on our hands will grant our lungs and our green state of Maine a great blessing.

I hope this gave great insight to each of you as to how you can be more mindful and friendly to our environment each day; we need it now more than ever. Any small act is considered a monumental one, so please do the best you can!

Let us know of your own sustainable ideas!

Happy greening everyone!