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10 Ways to be Sustainable on Campus

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Amanda Rovner

PHHS '18, Rutgers '22

When you take your first steps on campus in the fall, you are greeted with lots of excess: the dining hall buffets are plentiful, the dorms are filled with decor, and backpacks are stuffed with fresh notebooks. This lifestyle may be fun for the first few weeks but it gets exhausting after that. When you arrive in the fall, you should take your first steps in your new found independence sustainably. Here are a few tips to start college off in an eco-friendly way:

1. Get yourself a BPA-free reusable water bottle

Campuses are equipped with water fountains and water bottle filling stations so be sure to always carry a water bottle with you. Look for a BPA-free bottle because it impacts your hormones level and is often lined in the inside of bottles and cans. Here are some options:

  • Nalgene Wide Mouth Bottle

  • CamelBak 32oz. Water Bottle

  • Hydroflasks

2. Carry a reusable bag in your backpack

You never know when you will end up grabbing takeout after class or buying something so it is always helpful to carry a bag with you. They are often given out at college events so keep a lookout or steal one from your stash at home.

3. Shop secondhand online for clothes

Thrifting and shopping sustainably is difficult at school, especially if you can’t travel off campus. Websites like ThredUp, Depop, and Poshmark fill that void at school and are helpful for broke college students because you can barter with the sellers. Buying directly from sustainable brands is expensive so searching those brands on second hand selling websites is a great way to get the clothes you want at a fraction of the price!

4. Eat less meat, become vegetarian, or vegan

When you enter a dining hall you are surrounded by copious amounts of food but it is the first time that most of us get to choose what we eat for every meal. It is no longer whatever is in the kitchen, so, it is a great time to try to make your diet more sustainable.

5. Use public transportation if available

When you live on campus, especially at New Jersey schools, they offer a wide array of public transportation options to New York or Philly often at a discounted price to students. Take advantage of these options as much as possible. If you are a commuter, try to carpool with a friend if your schedules match up.

6. Keep a reusable straw and silverware set in your backpack

It is always important to save the turtles but by carrying a straw and some silverware with you. In the United States “one estimate suggests that 500 million straws are used every single day” ( Using a reusable straw and a silverware set is an easy way to reduce waste when you are grabbing a morning coffee or going out to eat. Here are some options:

  • Yoocaa Reusable Silicone Collapsible Straws

  • YIHONG Stainless Steel Drinking Straws

  • Eco-Pals Collapsible Straws

7. Buy dorm furniture/decor secondhand

Dorm shopping can be super expensive so look in thrift stores for decor or stores like the Restore for larger pieces if you are looking to furnish a larger space. Asking friends and family is a great option too because so many people are cleaning out their homes right. Facebook Marketplace is a good place to look too for affordable prices and proximity to you.

8. Cut down on paper products

Since school is almost entirely online now it is easy to not lug around notebooks and binders but it is always helpful to print things out sparingly. Reuse a half used notebook. Also, try to not buy paper products like cups or plates for your dorm. These are super wasteful and it is more cost effective to buy a reusable plate or cup.

9. Avoid buying new books

Sometimes it is unavoidable but if you can, buy a used copy of your text for class. It will save you money and reduce the waste of printing a new book. Check the Facebook group for your class to see if another student is selling it, if not check Chegg, CampusBooks, or ThriftBooks for novels.

10. Buy local

Lastly, buy local! If there is a farmer market, street fair, or festival on or near campus be sure to check it out. Not only does it help you get involved with the community in your town but it gives you the opportunity to support local businesses. Support local restaurants and farmers as much as you can because it reduces food miles (how far your food has to travel before it gets to you), supports the local workforce, and provides you with fresher produce.

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