Heading into my sophomore year of college, I decided that from that point forward I was going to live a low-waste lifestyle. Living this lifestyle would be a conscious one; every product I purchase would have to be free of plastic, and thus only recyclable or compostable. But how can a college student, one who values convenience and frugality, lead a low-waste lifestyle? The good thing is: it’s totally possible. And it might be more convenient and cheaper than standing in the checkout line at Target in downtown Evanston, overpriced plastic products in hand, looking like Boo Boo the Fool.
Someone living a low-waste lifestyle aims to minimize their carbon footprint and decrease their personal impact on climate change and the Earth in general. Recent statistics reveal that roughly 127 million tons of waste end up in landfills annually. With each person that adopts a low-waste lifestyle—and thus decreasing the amount of waste and pollution on our planet—the Earth becomes a little bit happier.
The first step is to identify why you’re choosing to be low-waste. If you don’t care about the planet or climate change, then it will be harder to associate your actions with the overall idea that you’re supporting. By identifying the motives behind your new lifestyle, it’ll also be easier to acclimate. You’ll never forget about the bigger picture and the greater movement that you’re contributing to.
The second step is not to try to change your entire lifestyle overnight. That is overwhelming and also impossible. Start by using up all of your plastic products and disposing of them properly. Once it’s time to refill your deodorant or toothbrush, for example, you’ll opt for paper and bamboo, rather than plastic. And if you’re concerned about convenience, you could purchase your plastic-free products online through sites like Plastic Free Shop or Zero Waste Store.
The third and final step is to be conscious. The more you think about your plastic usage, the more you’ll find ways to substitute plastic for sustainable products in your life. For example, when I first transitioned to a low-waste lifestyle, I actively thought about every purchase I made. I asked myself questions like, “Can this be recycled? Can this be reused? Do I actually need this?” The last question is usually the most helpful because most waste comes from disposing of a product you knew you didn’t need in the first place. That’s why girls have tube tops in like 10 different colors, one that suits every possible frat party theme.
More than anything, being low-waste in college means practicing compassion and selflessness. It means sacrificing convenience for a greater good. Those around you and the planet will thank you for it. Below you’ll find a straight forward list of some easy substitutes for common college-like items. You’re welcome!
- Replace your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one.
- Replace your plastic packaged deodorant for one in paper or glass packaging.
- Get a reusable water bottle if you haven’t already.
- Get a set of bamboo cutlery, so you don’t have to use plastic ones when you eat outside of the dining hall.
- Opt for glass or stainless steel tupperware, instead of plastic ones.
- Get a metal straw to carry with you so when you do eat out, you never use a plastic straw again.
- SHOP SECOND HAND WHEREVER, WHENEVER, YOU CAN. Including:
- Crossroads Trading (1730 Sherman) … for clothing items
- Goodwill (1916 Dempster) … for decor, cookware, etc
- Market Fresh Books (700 Church) … for used books