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Sustainable and Successful: 4 Effective Earth-Friendly Alternatives for College Students

What better time to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle than when living away from home? It can be challenging, especially with a big family, to change everyone’s daily routines by forcing your parents and siblings to use eco-friendly products instead of those plastics they’re so used to having everyday. College is the perfect time to start ditching single-use plastic items and switching to environmentally friendly alternatives. To start your journey in going green, here are four Earth-friendly alternatives that will make for an easy switch, even at college!

1. A Reusable Utensil set

Stop buying those party packs of 100 plastic utensils, for Earth’s sake! It is much more effective, and not to mention overall less expensive, to buy a reusable utensil set. The set I bought is from The Paper Store by the brand Krumbs, and it includes a fork, knife, spoon, metal straw, and even chopsticks. It also comes in a little container to keep it all together, so it can be used on the go, too! These utensils are made from wheat straw plastic, a bioplastic that is a sustainable alternative to your everyday plastic made from a plant source. I’ve been using these utensils since the beginning of college, and it’s so convenient to have this set that I can use, wash, and reuse over and over rather than adding unnecessary trash to landfills by using single-use plastic utensils.

2. A Collapsible Metal Straw

Isn’t it awesome how so many companies have switched from plastic to paper straws? It’s such a simple yet beneficial alternative that is great for the environment, but unfortunate for coffee lovers. Nothing is worse than a soggy straw making your Starbucks coffee such a challenge to drink. Don’t get me wrong, paper is still better than plastic for the environment. But something that would make your iced coffee experience even better would be using a metal straw that won’t get soggy, and won’t get a hole poked through it. I tried out a collapsible metal straw from Amazon that comes with a straw cleaner (also collapsible) as well as a case that has an attachment for it to be used as a keychain. And, it’s pink! Of course, it comes in many colors, but it’s also super cheap. A small, simple change like this has made it so easy to avoid straws as another single-use plastic that I encounter every day.

Starbucks_Frapp
Keriss101 / Spoon

3. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars

I haven’t tried this one out myself yet, but I’ve heard from my friends who use them that shampoo and conditioner bars are an amazing alternative to the plastic bottles we get our soaps in. These are used kind of like a bar of hand soap. You just wet the bar in the shower, scrub it into your hair, and rinse. The bars can be bought at the store Lush or from small businesses on Etsy, and you can purchase a small container to store it in that you can reuse over and over again. There are many scents and colors to choose from, as well as multiple options for different hair types. I’m aiming to try these out ASAP!

4. Laundry Detergent Sheets

Quit buying those containers of Tide Pods (which don’t even smell that good in my opinion), and switch to eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets! These sheets come in biodegradable packaging, leaving you with no leftover plastic once they run out. All you have to do is throw one of these sheets into the washing machine with your laundry load, and it dissolves to clean it, leaving it smelling nice and fresh just like any other detergent. There are also a few different scents to choose from. Clean clothes for you to wear while supporting a clean, plastic-free environment.

All of these eco-friendly alternative options are not only college-friendly but effective! No matter how great or small the switch is that you make in favor of the environment, it has an impact, minimizing your personal carbon footprint, especially if you can stick to it. Plus, these small changes can become even greater if you encourage your friends and family to join you. Let’s work together to limit waste and work towards a lifestyle that’s sustainable!

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Jessica Mangels

U Mass Amherst '25

Jess is a sophomore Environmental Science major at UMass Amherst. She is from Long Island, New York, and loves being able to catch a good sunset at the beach. She enjoys sharing her passions about sustainability, saving the planet, her favorite TV shows, and music with others.