Sustainable tricks and products every college student should know

Elin Johnson, Life & Culture Editor

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Starting on an environmentally conscious path can seem daunting and hard to begin. However, there are small steps you can take to jumpstart your journey. 

One way to do this is invest in reusable goods. Some affordable examples and easy switches include reusable straws (which are available in stainless steel and glass in different sizes), wax food wrap and mesh produce bags.

Using wax food wraps like Bees wrap in place of disposables like foil or plastic wrap helps cut down your carbon footprint. Using glass containers to store leftovers is also an option (and it’s basically meal prepping, right?).

You can add larger reusable bags for all your groceries, not just the more delicate produce, to your collection as well. If your area has a bag tax, this can also help you save money. Reusable bags are often cheap or free depending on the store or event.

If you must produce waste, recycling and composting get you brownie points. You can get in contact with your college’s residence life office to see how you can best compost in your dorm or where the nearest recycling bin is. They might also know of an organization you can get involved in that promotes recycling.

Using less energy by turning off lights or unplugging things that are not in use is another small step anyone can make toward saving the planet. You can use less water as well by turning off taps when you brush your teeth or taking quick showers. 

Tip 1 – Reuse Daily Items: “Because climate change is one of the defining issues of our generation, I try to do what I can to mitigate my carbon footprint. Reusable straws, reusable food wrap and reusable produce bags are all small ways I try and do my part,” Linfield college senior Elisia Harder said.

Harder uses the products Bees Wrap instead of typical disposable wraps like tin foil or saran wrap. This also cuts down on food waste because it can preserve leftovers better. Try not to throw out food in general. She also uses containers like Pyrex to stock up on leftovers (which is basically meal prepping, right?). Pro tip: sneaking tupperware into dining halls allows you to smuggle out meals for later in your week.

Harder also brings her reusable bags to grocery stores every time she goes shopping. If your area has a bag tax, this can also help you save money. Reusable bags are often cheap or free at some college sponsored events.

Tip 2 – Recycle and Compost: “Recycling and composting are some simple ways that I live sustainably,” another Linfield college senior Ellen Gallagher said. You can get in contact with your college’s residence life office to see how you can best compost in your dorm or where the nearest recycling bin is. They might also know of an organization you can get involved in that promotes recycling.

Tip 3 – Shut It Off: “I also turn off lights in classrooms that aren’t being used to lower the amount of energy consumed on campus,” Gallagher said. Using less energy by turning off lights or unplugging things that are not in use is another small step anyone can make toward saving the planet. You can use less water as well by turning off taps when you brush your teeth or taking quick showers.

Tip 4 – Eat Local Foods: Gardening is another way to help the planet. Grow your own herbs or veggies so you don’t have to buy them at the store. If you can’t grow your own food, both Harder and Gallagher agree on the importance of shopping at farmers markets. Buy local and sustainable products any chance you get. 

Both also bring a reusable water bottle wherever they go. Not only does this cut down on plastic waste, but it also helps you stay hydrated. A win-win! In addition to this, avoid plastic cutlery like the plague. Bring your own whenever you go out to a food cart or bring takeout back to your dorm (which you promise your mom you only do a few times a month).

If possible, air dry your clothing instead of using a dryer. This will help you both save money and use less energy, which is good for the earth. Also your neighbors that live near the laundry room will thank you for minimizing the noise pollution.

Tip 5 – Donate, Don’t Throw Away: At the end of the year sell or donate things you are no longer using. Many schools have services available for students to donate to community charities. Things like mattress pads, extra pillows, clothes that were only cute for two seconds, and unopened school supplies can all be donated. Textile waste filling up landfills is a massive problem that is rarely talked about. Help curb this by being careful with how many decorative elements you buy from Target for your dorm room.

Splurge on ethical fashions and natural cosmetics. Brands like Lush offer shampoos, conditioners and lotions all with minimal packaging. Of course before you restock use all of your products as much as you can.