Shop second-hand when you can
Thrift stores, garage/estate sales, and Facebook Marketplace have been my new best friends as I look for things for my apartment. You can basically find anything you’re looking for and for way cheaper too! You may have limited options, but buying second-hand is always better for the environment than buying new. But before you shop second-hand…
Use what you already have
I saw a quote once that said “the most eco-friendly clothing item is the one that’s already in your closet” and I have kept it in mind ever since. And it doesn’t have to just be about clothes; it can go for anything. Give new life to old things by repurposing them to best fit your needs. Anyone up for a little DIY makeover?!
Always carry a reusable water bottle
It may be a cliché tip, but it really is important! I would be lost without my reusable water bottles; I take one with me everywhere I go! The best part? You can totally customize them however you want; mine are covered in stickers. Not only does it make drinking water more fun, but cool stickers are a great conversation starter, which is vital during your first few weeks of college. Staying hydrated, saving the planet, AND making new friends?! I think yes!
Sticking to the reusable dishware train
Use a reusable travel cup when you go out and reusable dishes and silverware in your dorm/ home. Many coffee shops give a small discount for bringing a reusable cup, and there are so many cute ones available! I have one with birds on it that I get compliments on all the time! As for dishes in the dorm, you’ll save money in the long run (seriously, you can get dishes for 79 cents) and washing dishes is a quick five-minute task!
If you’re on a college campus, take advantage of being able to walk/bike everywhere
There are so many benefits! You’ll save money on gas, you can enjoy the great outdoors, and, let me tell you, you WILL get your steps in for the day. I’m not kidding, all of my jeans were loose after the first month of college because I walked that much--I’m convinced the freshman 15 is a myth. Does it get any better than easy exercise and saving the planet?!
Use reusable bags
You only have to buy them once, and they’re super cheap. They’re sturdier than regular bags, hold more, and they have the cutest designs! Keep one or two folded up in your backpack so you’re never caught without one.
Try out more vegetarian or vegan meals
Our planet takes a huge hit from factory farming, as it results in deforestation to make space for farms (fewer trees to take in harmful CO2), methane gases produced from farm animals and food waste being emitted into the atmosphere, and the transportation involved in the meat industry. Going completely vegetarian or vegan is difficult for many people to do, due to lack of availability, costs, allergies, or chronic illnesses, but just a few meals a week can make a difference!
Use a reusable notebook or a tablet to take notes
I am a firm believer in writing notes by hand, so it’s against my nature to suggest typing your notes, so these are wonderful alternatives! Reusable notebooks (yes, they’re a thing!) are about $30, but they last a lifetime. All you have to do is scan your notes with your phone and send them to wherever you please (I use OneNote), then wipe off the pages with a water and a towel, and you’re good to go! And if you have a bigger budget, look into getting a tablet for notes. You can store everything in one place, use it every semester, and your notes will be seriously beautiful (no eraser or scribble marks!!).
Hit up your local farmers market
Smaller farms and businesses are typically more sustainable than bigger ones. Locally grown produce doesn’t travel as far, therefore it produces less carbon. And produce from small farms always tastes better! You won’t create food waste, because you’ll want to eat every last bite! And who doesn’t love supporting local small businesses?
It’s not necessary to devote your entire life to saving the planet in order to make a small difference. There are many small lifestyle changes that you can make in order to be more environmentally friendly without sacrificing much time, comfort, or money. Even though switching to a more eco-friendly lifestyle oftentimes can be more costly upfront, your investments pay off quickly and save you money in the long run. However, it’s important to recognize that being eco-conscious is a privilege that not everyone can afford, so never judge someone for not putting in the same effort as you. Not every idea will suit everyone’s lifestyle and that’s okay!