How to Be Eco-Friendly in College: Top 8 Tips

By Sher Warkentin in Thinking Sustainably

Heading off to college is an exciting time full of independence and growth. It's not just your major you'll be working on. You'll also establish life skills that will follow you well into adulthood.

As you navigate the world on your own, it's essential to keep the environment in mind in order to develop sustainable living habits to carry with you for the rest of your life. Discover more about how to be eco-friendly in college and why it's important.

Sustainable Living in College

According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the average college student creates about 640 pounds of trash each year, and colleges observe spikes in waste during the end of the school year. This links some of this accumulated waste to students moving out and discarding items that were used for campus living.

However, just because college is a short-term living situation doesn't mean it can't be more sustainable. It won't take up any of your studying time to learn how to be more eco-friendly. There are many easy steps you can take to help protect the environment while you're at school and beyond.

Reusable bags cut down on plastic waste.

How to Be Eco-Friendly in College

Small actions such as recycling and avoiding plastic and single-use items can go a long way toward minimizing waste while you're in college. Try these simple tips to help make a difference.

1. Shop Thriftier

From furniture to clothes, buying used saves money and helps you live more sustainably in college. Buying locally from thrift stores also cuts down on shipping from mass retailers, which minimizes your carbon footprint. A thrifting adventure can also be a fun way to get together with friends and score some unique finds for your closet or dorm.

2. Use a Refillable Water Bottle and Mug

Staying hydrated and caffeinated is vital for surviving college, but all those single-use coffee cups and plastic water bottles add up to tons of waste by the end of the school year. Instead, invest in a reusable water bottle and travel mug that can easily be refilled.

3. Carry a Tote Bag

Running out for a snack break during your late-night studies? Grab a tote bag to carry those groceries home. A small, lightweight bag can easily fit into your backpack or purse, making it a breeze to grab anytime you head out the door. Every plastic bag that you don't use counts.

4. Sell Your Books

Don't discard those textbooks. There are plenty of resale programs for college textbooks that minimize waste and give you some money back on your financial investment. After all, they aren't cheap. If you can't sell a textbook, consider donating it to a library or a student in need. Renting your textbooks is another excellent alternative if the option is available.

Riding a bike on campus reduces your carbon footprint.

5. Ride a Bike

Depending on what city you're in and how big your college campus is, you might need some form of transportation to get around. Instead of driving, try riding a bike. Not only will you cut down on pollution and fossil fuel dependency, but you'll also get some exercise—which, according to Harvard Medical School, can help you study better. Regular exercise helps to improve memory and thinking, so you can better ace those finals. No bike? Find out if your college has a bike-share program on campus. If you've got the time between classes, walking is another great option that requires no gear.

6. Unplug

Whether you're researching for an essay or streaming your favorite show during a study break, devices are likely a big part of your life at college. But it's important for both the planet and for your mental health to take some time to unplug. Power down those devices at night and don't charge them longer than you need to. While you're at it, make sure the lights, along with heaters and fans, get turned off when not in use to minimize your energy use.

7. Get Crafty

Reuse and repurpose items that might otherwise end up in the trash. Before you buy something new, consider whether something you already have can do the trick. Turn an empty glass jar into a vase for flowers, or keep an old toothbrush to clean your jewelry. You can even upcycle plastic bags into a floor rug!

8. Make Moving Day Greener

Living in a dorm or campus apartment often means you need to supply a lot of furniture and household items, such as a couch, bedsheets, a coffee maker, TV, and more. But once you head back home, what do you do with all your things? Too often, items purchased for college living get left behind or thrown away. Many of these items can still be used, so instead of tossing them, resell or donate them. Local thrift shops, Craigslist, and Buy Nothing Groups are all great resources for selling or donating used household items.

Earning a degree is a lot of work, but learning how to be eco-friendly in college doesn't have to be. Just a few simple changes can make an impact and help you build sustainable practices that you'll carry with you long after graduation day.

For more ideas on how to live sustainably, check out this guide to zero waste school supplies.

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Why It's Good

It's not hard be eco-friendly while you're at college. With just a few small changes, you can make a difference and develop sustainable practices that will last a lifetime.