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How to Live Zero Waste in College

How to Live Zero Waste in College

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Quite often, college is the first place a person will live independently of their parents or caregivers. This makes it a great background for adopting new practices to live more sustainably. Wondering how to live zero waste in college yourself? If you just bid adieu to high school and are getting ready for the next stage of your educational journey, we’ll provide the tips for zero waste living while in college. 

Why and How Colleges are Going Zero Waste

If you’re one of many asking, how can I be waste free in college, you’re not alone. 91% of college students agree that their place of study should promote sustainability. The impacts of global warming are becoming increasingly apparent and students are taking a stand on a range of environmental issues. While the average graduate is getting greener, they still have a long way to come—as can be seen by the answer to the following question. 

How much waste does a college student produce? The average college student produces around 640 pounds of solid waste EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. This typically encompasses around 500 disposable cups and 320 pounds of paper. So, why should college students recycle? Well, the hundreds of pounds of paper disposed of every year make the answer clear! 

School waste is up to 80% recyclable. Not only do recycling programs help to conserve precious resources and limit space taken up in landfills, but they’re also significantly cheaper than trash services and can save the college or university a lot of money. 

In addition to easy-to-recycle materials, like paper, many universities are getting creative with their zero waste strategies. From recycling kitchen grease and eliminating water bottles, to exporting food waste to local pig farms and recycling e-waste, many colleges are rethinking waste.

But what can you, a college student, do to adopt a zero waste lifestyle in college? Let’s take a look.

5 Tips for Zero Waste Living in College

When it comes to going zero waste, it can be accomplished—even on a college student’s budget! Here are five ideas for low-waste living while in college. 

1. Curb consumption of single-use items

Disposable has become quite the norm for people living in shared dorms or constantly on the rush to make it to class. Between forks, cups, plastes, straws, and bottles, an average day can end up entailing a lot of single-use plastics for students. 

Fortunately, zero waste products make it easy to cut out some of these single-use items. A reusable bamboo bottle can be used instead of disposable coffee cups. A collapsible stainless steel straw can be hung on your backpack for convenience, replacing the hundreds of plastic ones that might be consumed otherwise. 

Just by having a stainless steel water bottle on hand, you could save anywhere from 300 to 1,460 plastic bottles a year (and the thousands of dollars that come with them!). 

2. Turn your dorm room into a zero waste oasis

Single-use items aren’t just used for on-the-go convenience. Many of our personal care products also come in packaging that is unnecessary and takes up significant space in landfills.

Set a good example for roommates by switching to solid shampoo and conditioner bars, using a safety razor, and trying out a menstrual cup.  While the upfront cost might seem a little daunting, these reusable versions last anywhere from three—up to hundreds—of times as long, making them the cheaper version in the long run. 

3. Make second-hand the first option for clothes and more

Secondhand shopping is great for the environment, your wallet, and your personal style. Thrift stores provide an excellent way to keep precious materials out of landfill—and look great. You can expect to spend 50 to 80% less than you would at a new store, and can feel great about the environmental benefits. 

In addition to clothes, many thrift stores and other secondhand options (Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle, etc.) are a great source for dorm essentials like lamps, furniture, backpacks, and storage units. 

4. Exercise caution in the food courts

Many dining halls are designed to be buffet style and, as a result, an average student will waste around 1.54 pounds of food each week. At just a single large university, this is equivalent to more than 14,000 pounds of wasted food daily! 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can encourage your university to start a composting program and also keep a reusable silicone bag in your backpack. It’s perfect for leftovers and is microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe.

5. Say ‘no’ to freebies

Especially as a freshman, it’s likely you’ll be bombarded with free promotional… junk. Between glossy-paper coupons, logoed umbrellas, and sports mascot plush toys, you might have to say ‘no’ to a lot of the items you don’t want or need. 

But you can still enjoy some of the excitement of  a new year! If you or a loved one is about to head into freshman year, a zero waste kit is essential. With a reusable bottle, food container, silicone bag, bamboo utensils, and a straw, it’ll have everything necessary for a zero waste school year—without the unnecessary promotion.

Enjoy College, Sustainably

If you’ve been wondering how to be zero waste in college, we hope that you now realize that it can be done easily and affordably! You can still enjoy all of the typical things of an average college student—favorite professors, parties, and lifelong friends—without taking the toll on our planet. To help make studying and fun as sustainable as possible, Green Eco Dream will be here with all the zero waste products you could need for an eco-conscious college experience. 

If you are ready to level up your college adventure, check out our Eco-friendly school supplies below and use code BLOG10 to save 10% on your first order!


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