So I’m in college. If you are a recent graduate or are in school, often you don’t have a ton of extra money. But if you are anything like me, you are super concerned about the environment. So without further ado, here’s what I’ve done in the past year.
1. Stop buying things you don’t need.
This logic is simple. If you question whether you really need every purchase you make, you will spend less money and that waste won’t end up in your trash. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in Sephora wanting to get a new foundation or something like that and I end up not buying it because I really don’t need any more makeup. Use what you have and when you run out, really think about if you really need it.
2. Never leave the house without a reusable bag.
Those plastic bags are so freaking bad for the environment. For larger shopping trips, have a stash of reusable bags. I have only bought one reusable bag since starting to work my way towards zero waste and it’s this one. That’s the one I keep in my purse since it packs up so nicely. The rest I have gotten for free at various events on campus, through organizations, sporting events, etc. Break those babies out and use them
3. Make your own produce bags.
This is a really great way to reuse old clothes, fabric, or tea towels to repurpose them into something that you can use for even longer. I had some old fabric lying around that was too small to use for any project but was perfect for some small produce bags. Make various sizes so you have a good variety to choose from when you go shopping. I use rubber bands to tie them up (I had them lying around my house), but you could use some cotton string as well. If you don’t have fabric, you can use tea towels and either tie them up or sew the sides together. They sell good ones at IKEA for 79¢ 🙂
4. Buy in bulk when you can.
When I go out with friends, have to bring snacks, or hell even movies, I try and get granola or candy from the bulk bins at my grocery store. You can buy tea, coffee, seasonings, and other kitchen staples from this area. I have a local herb store that sells teas and herbs in bulk to supplement anything else that I would need that I can’t find at the grocery store. To make it even less waste-inducing use your own produce bags that you made. If you have glass jars, those work fabulously as well.
5. Don’t have glass jars? Thrift them!
There are two main options for this one. You can go to the thrift store and usually pick them up for around a dollar or you can reuse the glass jars you buy things in (for example, salsa, face cream (mine comes in a glass jar from here), or condiments). I do a bit of both but supplement from the thrift store. If the seals on them are bad you can get new rubber ones from IKEA and I would imagine other grocery stores.
6. Change the way you clean your house.
I recently ran out of cleaning products/stopped using them. I recently cleaned my bathroom with vinegar, baking soda, rubbing alcohol, and Castille soap and holy cow is it CLEAN. This will be a future blog post on recipes and ways to do it, but none of the chemicals will go down the drain and it is considerably cheaper than the alternatives. I will include a price breakdown as well.
Another thing you can do is clean with rags instead of paper towels. Paper towels are expensive and if you have something that’s too beaten up to repurpose, they will make great rags!
7. Bring your own silverware and napkin when you get fast food.
This is something that has kind of changed my life. You don’t need to buy the fancy bamboo silverware kits, you can just use a cheap stainless steel set and make a holder out of a tea cloth. The tea cloth doubles as a napkin and voila! I keep that in my backpack at all times in case I want to grab food at the student union.
8. Use a collapsible silicone container for last second take out impulses.
I love Chinese takeout and the container can be a bit of an investment but usually, places are willing to work with you. Usually, they put the food in styrofoam, which is notoriously one of the worst materials for the planet. I found mine at Bed Bath & Beyond for $15 and I have had it since I was in high school (probably 3 years now). I throw mine in my backpack when I know I’ll be spending the whole day on campus and don’t have time to pack a lunch.
9. Never be caught without a reusable water bottle and/or coffee cup!
Coffee is probably the god that is worshiped by most college students. Disposable coffee cups, however, despite being made of paper, are lined with plastic. This makes them not great for the environment. You can usually get these for cheap or free on campus at events, but if you buy one try and get stainless steel so it will last a really long time and discourages the production of plastic. When mine break I plan on switching exclusively to stainless steel. AND coffee is usually discounted when you have your own cup. A place on my campus will sell a regular cup of coffee when you has a reusable cup for $1+tax. So you end up saving on your caffeine addiction as well!
10. Buy clothes and shoes secondhand.
Find some good thrift stores and try to buy from there. This not only is cheaper, but significantly better for the environment, and helps local charities. I have found shoes that are brand new or worn maybe once at my local thrift store. You don’t have to compromise on fashion if you shop at a thrift store, you just have to be patient. 🙂
11. Use reusable menstrual products.
This only applies to ladies (obviously) but it’s something I’m kind of obsessed with. I personally use a menstrual cup because they last for at least 5 years and I think are more comfortable than tampons. I have tried two brands, the LENA and Lunette. My favorite is the LENA, but it’s different for everyone. A really good resource for everything menstrual cup is Bree Farmer’s YouTube Channel Precious Stars Pads. She’s a lovely young lady and has tried about every single one on the market. These can be a bit of an investment, but you never have to buy pads or tampons which can get spendy very quickly. Even if you spend just $10 a month on supplies, you will spend $120 in a year. The LENA cup is about $25, one of the best prices in the market. I will probably write about this in the future too because it has changed my life.
12. Prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Humans are really wasteful. The best way from preventing more humans to wreak havoc on the environment is for them to come into this world when they are a for sure wanted type of thing. On top of that, kids are super expensive to raise. I personally have a Mirena IUD and I absolutely love it. Talk to your doctor, be informed about your options and decide what’s best for you. A great resource is Bedsider!! They have a really interactive website to help you look at every method available and how you can get it! They have help for navigating insurance and all of that! I highly recommend it!
13. Use a stainless steel safety razor.
Regular razors are super expensive and usually made with a ton of unrecyclable plastic. I find that I not only get a better shave, but refills can run as low as 11¢ per blade. I got a Merkur from Amazon for $20 and 100 blades for $11. The great thing about this way of shaving is that you won’t have to purchase another safety razor again if you buy a quality one and you will be good on refills for a long time. You can recycle the blades too so you aren’t putting anything in the landfill. The only downside I have found to this is that you can not put this with the blade in a carry-on when flying. Other than that, you save a ton of money in the long run and save the environment in the process.
I hope this helps some people and gets their gears working on reducing waste! You don’t have to be perfect on everything on this, you just have to be patient with yourself. My goal is to someday completely go zero waste, but it’s a process. Good luck and drop me a comment if you have any other things that you do to reduce waste!
All photos that aren’t mine in this post direct to the website that I got them from or where you can buy the product mentioned.