10 Tips for Going Zero Waste in College

So, I've been getting this question a lot. "What can I do as a college student?" I graduated 3 years ago - eek! But, I think I remember it well enough. I double majored in Musical Theatre and Mass Communications. So, I was around campus and involved a bit.

10 tips for going zero waste in college from www.goingzerowaste.com

Regrettably, I drank a lot of sweet tea out of giant Styrofoam cups. If I could go back, I definitely would have slapped those out of my hand and been more involved in green initiatives around campus. So, here's a little bit about what I'd change in the past, and things I would look towards in the future. 


Do you have a garden or green house at your school? Does your school already have compost? If so, that's totally awesome. I would have hooked the gardening club up with the cafeteria to start a compost. Not only could you sell the compost (extra cash what every college kid needs) but you could grow more food with it. It could be donated to shelters or used back in the cafeteria. 

campus sale:

Our campus had its own little craigslist and a couple of yard sales throughout the year to try and curb waste. But, when it was time to move out, so much stuff wound up in the dumpster. It was full of things that weren't sold in time or things that were too big to take home. I would try to arrange a storage room on campus for the summer. Freshman or incoming students the next year could go "shopping" for dorm furniture and school supplies. It would save everyone money and save so much from the landfill. Proceeds from the campus sale could be donated to charity or what was raised could go to a fun event like a pizza party for the dorm. 

the bottle:

Duh. I mean this is the most obvious one. Carry a water bottle with you. If I could go back in time I would kick my self for using disposable coffee cups, sweet teas, and water bottles. I would keep one on me to fill up at my favorite campus spots. I secretly kinda miss the caf's lemonade and infused waters on tap. 

school supplies: 

With the invention of small electronic devices, it's easier than ever to ditch a lot of the traditional supplies such as pens, notebooks, and planners. If you can go full digital, more power to you. But, in some scenarios it can be challenging. Opt for a nice notebook made with recycled paper and a couple of nice pens. Don't except junky ones from the school fairs. They run out and break really quickly. If you invest in one or two nice refillable ones you're more likely to keep up with them, writing will become more pleasant, and you keep some junk out of your trash bin. 


I pledged, which meant lots and lots and lots and lots of t-shirts. I mean is it possible to have an event without t-shirts? I didn't buy most of them; because, I knew where they'd be in 6 months - goodwill. Try to avoid the t-shirt craze. Most shirts cost around $15, and there's a new one almost every week. You could build a pretty nice sustainable wardrobe for the real-world for the cost of buying 2 a month through out your four years. Save your pennies for something better. The only shirt I still have from college is my letter shirt. 

cloth napkins & hankies:

I would most definitely carry both of those things around if I were back in school. Handkerchiefs are my all time favorite switch. Who's gotten the sniffles in class or sneezed or coughed? Boom: you're covered, and you're not that girl in the corner of the room with 18 crumpled tissues on her desk - gross. You're that classy chick with a handkerchief. People could possibly be intimidated by how much you have your shit together. 

event clothing:

Host a clothing swap. This would be so much fun to do for events, banquets, dances, mixers, and even recitals or the dreaded jury's (music majors - you know). There are lots of occasions to get a little fancy at school. Boys you have it easy one suit and you're set for life. Ladies, you probably don't want to wear the same dresses over and over. So, you'd host an event where people would bring some clothes, and for every item they bring they get a token. Then they get to go shopping and can "purchase" one item with their token. No real money is exchanged and you can leave with some new dresses for events and you can keep swapping them at an annual or biannual event. 

too many dresses

too many dresses

the bathroom: 

You probably share this with multiple people. If you're a female, it's probably decked with products, makeup, and all sorts of plastic. I'll be writing a post about my bathroom products very soon! But, I could have definitely made a lot smarter choices back when. Easy switches include bar soap, bamboo toothbrushes, and for the ladies ditch disposable menstrual products for the cup. Probably my second favorite zero waste switch. Full post about that to come soon, as well. 


You've heard of the freshman 15. Keep if off by snacking on healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Most of that come sans packaging at the supermarket or you could probably get it from the caf and load it to go. You can compost the leftover bits at the compost bin you set up. I would most definitely put some apples in my bag or load up a mason jar with caf cookies. I'm pretty sure they'd be a perfect fit for a wide mouth - because not all snacking has to be healthy. 

don't be afraid: 

Don't be afraid of talking about what you're doing.  People will ask why. And, once you answer most people will really respect what you're doing. In fact, they'll probably be curious. And, even if they aren't going to make immediate changes. They will start to view things differently and become a more aware consumer. Most people aren't aware that what they're doing is harmful. They don't know; they don't see it. So, just by that little spark of action or conversation - you're bringing it to their attention. Because, once you see it; you can't un-see it. 

So, college readers - what did you think? Would you implement some of these? Is your school already doing some of this stuff? I would love to hear! 

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