Kudos to you for thinking about being zero waste in college!
You are young, yet you are already doing your part to help save the earth.
In case you’re new to the idea of a zero waste lifestyle, it doesn’t mean that you are not allowed to throw something away.
It’s more about reducing waste and pollution in your own way.
So here are 20 of the simplest zero waste tips any college students can do to protect the environment and even put more money in your pocket.
1. Stay Close to the School
There are many advantages to living near or within your school campus.
Besides not getting late to your classes, you can simply hike or bike your way to classes instead of driving your car or calling an Uber.
As you may already know, the transportation sector is one of the top contributors to CO2 emissions.
So with each day that you don’t ride a car to school, you’re helping reduce the greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming.
Furthermore, hiking or biking to school keeps you in shape and saves you gas money.
2. Buy Plastic Free Personal Products
As you may already know, plastic is not biodegradable, and as of the moment, our landfills are filled with plastic trash.
Worse, our oceans are also becoming a plastic dumpsite.
So for a zero waste lifestyle during your college days, here are some plastic free swaps to consider.
- Zero Waste Toothpastes
- Bamboo Toothbrush
- Plastic Free Perfumes
- Zero Waste Shampoo & Conditioners
- Zero Waste Deodorants
- Zero Waste Makeup Removers
- Reusable Straws
- Bamboo Toilet Papers
- Reusable Face Masks (minimize waste during COVID)
All these products are more eco-friendly than their typical counterparts because they are made with recyclable or biodegradable materials.
3. Buy High Quality School Equipment
While they can be a little pricey, high quality school supplies are generally durable and can be used for a long time.
For example, an eco-friendly backpack made with high quality materials might cost a little extra than the cheap ones.
However, they are generally durable and can last long enough (with proper care) that you might not need to buy another pack bag in your entire college life.
Hence, you save money and reduce waste from tossing away low-quality equipment.
You can also check out our list of zero waste school supplies to get more options.
4. Cook Your Meals
Most meals and snacks in school cafeterias come in plastic wrappers or paper containers.
Not only are they wasteful but oftentimes, also expensive.
By cooking your meals and packing them using leakproof and BPA-free reusable food containers, you can save money and avoid unnecessary trash.
However, we understand that many college students might have limited time to cook meals with all the studying and school-related stuff.
So if you have no choice but to buy food, buy the ones that aren’t packed with plastic, or find places where food doesn’t come in plastic containers.
5. Avoid Buying Snacks in Plastic Containers
That means your Snickers, Mars bar, Doritos, frozen food, potato chips, cling wrapped fruits, etc!
Oh man! Those were my favorites too!
A brilliant thing to do would be to pack fruits and homemade snacks to school using eco-friendly food containers.
This might need some adjusting at the start but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to have a zero waste lifestyle in college, right?.
And actually, you’ll get healthier because if you’ve noticed, most prepackaged foods are “junk foods.”
These snacks are unhealthy and don’t provide you with any nutrients and vitamins. They are also expensive.
6. Get a Reusable Water Bottle
Instead of spending $1-$2 (or more) a day for bottled water, you can save those if you get yourself a stylish reusable water bottle.
Today, many reusable water bottles are insulated so that you can use them not just for water but even for various cold and hot drinks.
Trust us, having a reusable water bottle will help you save the environment and money!
7. Conserve Water
From doing your dishes responsibly to having a zero waste dental care routine, there are many ways to save water while going to college.
Here are some honorable mentions:
- Take shorter showers
- Don’t let the water running while brushing your teeth
- Unless they’re dirty and stinky, don’t wash clothes
- Soak oily dishes before washing them
- Report leaks in pipes and faucets
8. Shop for Eco-friendly Clothing
It’s a common thing for college students to buy new clothes before classes start.
So here are our zero waste tips for college students when getting new clothes.
Buy Second-hand Clothes
If you take the time to look around, you can find plenty of good quality and affordable second-hand clothes in thrift shops.
Buying second-hand clothes instead of brand new ones won’t add new waste into the system and help you save money too!
Buy Eco-Friendly Clothing
If you’re not fond of wearing second-hand clothing and you prefer to buy brand new clothes, then consider shopping from eco-friendly clothing brands.
For instance, shop for clothing made of bamboo.
9. Ever Heard of Bamboo Bed Sheets?
What are your bedsheets made of? Egyptian cotton?
There are cheaper and eco-friendly bamboo sheets that are as soft and comfy as expensive cotton sheets today.
Consider getting a bamboo bed sheet for your dorm because, again, bamboo fabric is more eco-friendly than cotton.
Don’t worry if bamboo sheets are new to you.
Here are the 12 best bamboo sheet brands today.
10. Practice a Zero Waste Travel Routine
Most students travel from home to universities at the start of the semester, then go back home at the end of the sem. Not to mention traveling during holidays and short breaks.
When traveling, there are many things you can do as a college student to help reduce waste.
Avoid air travel if possible
Planes produce the most CO2 per kilometer among passenger vehicles. So if you can go home or go to school without flying, it would be good for the environment.
Pack snacks for the trip
Most snacks on the road aren’t only overly expensive but also come in plastic wrappers.
For a long trip, take homemade snacks in non-plastic containers.
Besides food, carrying your own water in a reusable water bottle is also a great way to minimize waste and save money at the same time.
Pick up trash along the way
Let’s face it, you might be practicing a zero waste lifestyle, but not all people do.
Picking up other people’s garbage (whenever you can) goes a long way toward reducing plastic wrappers, cans, and other trash littering in the ground.
11. Use Electricity Wisely
You’re probably tired of hearing this, but you’ll be surprised how much money you can save by using electricity wisely.
Here are some things you can do:
- Don’t be too lazy to turn off the lights when not used.
- Unplug phone and laptop when they are fully charged.
- Don’t leave any electrical appliances plugged in or on when going to school.
- Don’t’ iron your clothes unless necessary.
- Install LED lights on your room.
Meanwhile, some dorms might be charging flat fees per electric appliance you own.
In this case, wise usage of electricity might not help you save money, but you will be doing the Earth a huge favor.
12. Wash Your Clothes by Hand
Instead of relying on laundry shops, wash your clothes and sheets every now and then.
Doing your laundry can help save water, electricity, and money.
Here are 3 practical zero-waste laundry tips for college students like you.
- Use cold water
- Use DIY laundry detergents (get free recipes here).
- Hang your cloths on a clothesline, it’s an eco-friendly alternative to using a machine dryer.
13. Don’t Buy New Books
We all know that books are made of paper, and paper comes from trees.
Unfortunately, tons of books are simply thrown away by their owners after they are used.
To help minimize paper waste, buy used books. You can find used books in your local used book store.
Alternatively, you can also ask your friends and dorm mates if they know someone or someplace that sells the book you need.
Moreover, you can also ask your professor if your textbook’s pdf or downloadable file is available online.
And finally, and this is a little time consuming, you can visit your library and take pictures of the book as you need. Just inform the librarian properly to avoid some troubles.
14. Take Notes Like a Pro
Save trees and take notes using your phone, tablet, or laptop.
If you love handwriting notes, especially if you can easily remember notes if you write them manually, find notebooks and pads made with recycled paper.
In a related “note,” you don’t need to get paper calendars and planners. Most phones today already have built-in calendars and planners.
15. Rent Clothes for Parties and Events
This is probably one of the best budget-friendly zero waste tips for college students.
There will be many parties and events in your entire college life. But instead of buying brand new clothes for every single party, simply rent clothes instead.
This will reduce waste and help you save a lot of money.
16. Reuse and Recycle
This one is pretty self-explanatory to a smart college student like you. If something can still be reused or recycled, don’t throw it away.
17. Practice a Zero Waste Period
So much waste comes from menstrual products like tampons and sanitary pads. But did you know there’s a more eco-friendly alternative?
Menstrual cups and cloth sanitary pads are getting very popular among eco-warrior ladies today.
These products give women full functionality during their “bloody” days without creating any waste and are big money-savers.
18. Start Composting
Instead of throwing away biodegradable trash like fruit and vegetable scraps, you can use it to create a natural soil fertilizer.
Most people also don’t know that rotting food in landfills emits methane – a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
And contrary to what others believe, composting doesn’t need to be hard nor messy.
You can start by finding the best compost bin for your kitchen.
Then, check out this video about innovative ways to compost in your apartment.
Composting is an excellent way to reduce your environmental impact even as a college student.
19. Donate or Resell Your Old Stuff
Instead of simply throwing away the old stuff that you don’t need anymore, try giving them away to your friends.
You can also donate them or sell them to other people.
For instance, you can sell old books, sports gears, clothing, accessory, and other personal stuff on your campus or via online sites like:
This is a cool zero waste tip for college students since it doesn’t only help reduce waste.
It also allows other people to buy cheap stuff they need and will enable you to earn a few extra bucks.
20. Get a Reusable Shopping Bag
Having a reusable shopping bag or a tote bag is an excellent way for college students to reduce trash from single use plastic containers.
As you already know, plastic bags from stores immediately get tossed in the trash the moment you take out the supplies from them.
There are many reusable shopping bags today that are durable and can last for months to come.
They are also neat and stylish that you’ll not be embarrassed to use them carrying books, clothes, groceries, and other things.
They are also washable and foldable for easy safekeeping.
When it comes to saving the environment, every little thing helps.
Implementing these zero waste tips in your daily college life will undoubtedly have a lasting positive impact on our planet.
You can also become the instrument to help other college students realize that saving the environment is everyone’s responsibility.
By sharing this article with them, you can educate them on how to help save mother Earth.
There is no other planet (yet) we can go to should Earth become a total inhabitable wasteland, so let’s all do something to save it, whatever way we can.