Home Environmental23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
EnvironmentalBy Trista -

While the current crisis has thrown off the college living in many ways, there are still various emotions and questions about heading off to college, especially for incoming first-year students. You might have a list of items that the school sends you with ideas of what to bring. Of course, there are the visible items such as towels, toiletries, clothing, and school supplies. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t wonder what you can do to live a bit more green. 

Living sustainably is not something you simply decide to do for a while or part of your day. It’s a lifestyle. It helps you reduce your carbon footprint so you can do everything to leave earth in better condition for future generations. It is no surprise that many college students feel that living this way is a daunting task and, therefore, they cease trying. It can become more complicated, especially living in the dorms. But this doesn’t mean that you should give up. This article will give you the best chance of living sustainably in college, whether you’re by yourself or sharing a house with other people. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Walking will not only help you live more sustainably, but it is also good for your health. Shutterstock.

Walk as Much as You Can

Walking is not only good for your health, but it’s also useful for sustainable living. While you might think that most college students walk from one class to another, it’s always possible that you can take a bus or drive because you feel you will get to your next class faster – especially if you go to a more massive campus. 

However, using a vehicle isn’t good for the environment. It’s better than if you can’t get to your class on time by walking, you should use a bicycle, skateboard, or rollerblades. It will help you live more sustainably and keep you healthy and save on your dollar bills. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
One advantage of taking your notes electronically is that you don’t need to skim your notebooks for information, as you can effortlessly search on Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Shutterstock.

Take Your Notes Electronically

You have seen many movies and television shows where students are busy writing down their notes on paper. While some turn to computers, many seem to feel that they need paper and writing utensils; otherwise, they don’t fully get the college experience. The truth is that no matter how you take your notes, you’ll gain the knowledge and understanding to build your sustainable living and look to your laptop or iPad to take your notes. 

This method will help you save money when it comes to buying school supplies as you won’t need to spend your dollars on paper, but you will also stop wasting paper. Think of it this way – what will you do with the notes when you’re done with a class? Throw them away? Instead, you can simply delete them from your device. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
If your university doesn’t have bins for recycling, you can always find a way to incorporate this technique so more students and faculty on campus can live more sustainably. Shutterstock.

Don’t Forget to Recycle

Fortunately, recycling is easier on many college campuses than you might think. Several have turned to make sure they have different bins where you can put your paper, cans, and glass. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be in an area with recycling bins. You might need to find some nearby or even create your own and find a place to bring them within your community. 

Other ways to recycle are to donate your clothes or shop at a thrift store. It’s estimated that up to 60% of all clothing made within a year is thrown out. This notion means that all the energy and water used to make these items are wasted. By recycling your apparel, you can build your sustainable living during your college years. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Be active when it comes to sustainable living by joining the Green party or taking political action. Shutterstock.

Get Political

There are many tips that you can follow to live a most sustainable lifestyle. However, many people think that changing your behavior is enough because you should also get politically active. You can do this by joining political groups at the university or even in your community. You can also take part by joining specific strikes, such as the Fridays for Future climate strike. 

You can take action to vote for a green politician or support the green party and participate in a global or national climate march. It’s also possible to join a massive act of civil disobedience, for example, Extinction Rebellion in the United Kingdom or Code Rood in the Netherlands. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Purchasing a reusable water bottle can help you say no to the disposable plastic bottle that can find itself littered on the ground or even in the oceans. Shutterstock.

Buy a Reusable Water Bottle

One of the easiest ways that you can live more sustainably is by purchasing at least one reusable water bottle that you can take with you around the university. This change will help you save money because you won’t need to purchase plastic water bottles every day. At the same time, you can help keep the planet cleaner. 

There are many ways to find reusable bottles. You can even design your own on certain websites. While hard plastic ones are great, you can also purchase stainless steel as they tend to last a bit longer and keep your water colder for a more extended period. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
If you don’t want to use straws at all or don’t have a reusable straw with you, think about drinking straight from the cup. Shutterstock.

Stop Using Plastic Straws

Instead of asking for plastic straws at a local restaurant or buying them to use at home, you can look to purchase reusable straws. They’re just as easy to find, and you can easily use them at home or carry a few when you go to restaurants to use. 

While it is a small problem in the big scheme of things, it’s essential to think of the more minor issues. Plastic straws can’t be recycled, so they are left to find their way into oceans or across the lands where they can hurt animals or marine life. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
While you can recycle single-use plastic bags, it’s estimated that only 1 out of 200 will be recycled. Shutterstock.

Use Your Own Shopping Bags

Some stores have already started to go this route, but you can begin before a store requires you to use reusable shopping bags. All you need to do is purchase a couple of bags that you can bring with you to the stores for your items. 

One of the biggest challenges, once you have your bags, is remembering them when you go shopping. One way to help you do this is by keeping them in your car. Once you’ve put your groceries and other items away, bring the bags back out to your vehicle. Another way is setting a reminder or placing the bags by the door, so you will have a better time remembering. You might also have roommates to help you remember. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
It’s easy to keep appliances plugged in, but it’s better to unplug them so you can save on electricity. Shutterstock.

Unplug and Power Down Devices

There might be a lot of electronics and appliances that you use daily. It’s not just the computer or iPad that you should think about. Instead, you need to look at your television, toaster, microwave, and other appliances. 

Unplugging your appliances when you’re not using them is the same as shutting off lights when you’re not in the room – it will save on electricity. Even when appliances aren’t in use, if they’re plugged in, they are connected to the outlet and still using energy, which can take some more money out of your pocketbook. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Going meatless for at least one day out of the week is more beneficial to the environment that you can imagine. Shutterstock.

Go Meatless For a Day

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you already have this tip covered. If you enjoy eating meat with nearly every meal, this tip might be harder for you than you think, but it can also help live you a more sustainable life. 

The key is that if every United States citizen skipped one meal of meat every week and ate more vegetables, fruits, and grains instead it’s like taking over half a million cars off of U.S. roads in terms of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This idea means following meatless Monday good for you, but it’s also good for the environment and can save you anywhere from $60 to $80 a month, more if you have a family to feed. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Social media accounts can help spread the word about sustainable living. Shutterstock.

Share on Social Media

One of the best ways to get information to other people about recycling is through social media. Whether you have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or another account (or all of them), you can use it to tell people to look at sustainable living. 

You could give them pointers on how they can take steps to recycle in their life or even find sustainable success, such as second-hand stores and plastic-free supermarkets. You can join social media groups that are filled with like-minded people and share their posts on your page. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Buying items with less packaging can help you cut down on overall waste that lands in the landfill and cause problems for the environment and animals. Shutterstock.

Note What You’re Buying at the Grocery Store

You already know that bringing reusable bags can help save the planet because plastic bags take thousands of years to break down. They also tend to kill thousands of animals every year. But there is another step that you can take to improve your sustainable living, and that is to buy produce that has less packaging.

When you purchase items in less cardboard or plastic than other things, you are cutting down on the overall waste. Another way you can boost your sustainable living is by getting digital coupons instead of cutting them out. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Women – think of going green when it comes to your monthly cycle to cut down on waste. Shutterstock.

Go Green on Your Feminine Supplies

Most women don’t think much about this, but there is much waste when it comes to your menstrual cycle. While much of this can’t be helped, you can take a step in the more influential sustainable living column by knowing what products are the best to use during this time. For instance, between 11 to 30 tampons are used every cycle. It’s estimated that you will throw away 250 to 300 pounds of pads, plugs, and applicators within your lifetime.

You can start bringing this waste down by opting for reusable cotton pads instead of ones you dispose of. You can also switch to tampons that don’t have the plastic applicators or try using menstrual cups. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Meal planning can help bring more ease into your week, help you eat healthier, and let the environment breathe better. Shutterstock.

Plan Your Meals

Who knew that taking time every week to plan your meals would be helpful to the environment? It will help because you’re less likely to purchase food that you won’t use or that will go bad before you can use it. Meal planning allows you to know exactly what you need to buy at the store because you know what you will make every week. 

One reason this helps is that you will save food from waste and create CO2 in landfills. Another benefit is that you will save money and it also helps decrease the stress you feel because you don’t need to worry about what you’ll make for dinner after a busy day at work. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Buying only what you need can help you save money and improve the environment. Shutterstock.

Turn to Borrow or Buy Less 

You live in a consumer culture, which makes it easy to buy more items than you need. It’s easy to fall victim to know what you need and grab what you want when you’re in the stores – or shopping online. For instance, when searching for an item on Amazon, you might run into several other products that you don’t need but decide to buy because they’re cool or might come in handy. 

Another challenge is knowing when to buy or rent. For example, the next time you want to see that new movie on DVD, you should look into renting it instead of buying it. The same goes for music; you can download the songs instead of buying all new CDs. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Your toothbrush might take years to decompose, depending on what type you get. Shutterstock.

Think About Your Toothbrush

One way to help decrease the number of toothbrushes in the dump is to purchase a bamboo toothbrush instead of the plastic ones. Take a moment to think about this – it takes about 400 years for a toothbrush to decompose completely, and they haven’t been around that long. This number means that every toothbrush made is still lying around in some landfill, waiting to decompose completely. When you decide to choose the bamboo toothbrush, you will help cut down on plastic pollution. 

While bamboo is usually more than the plastic ones you can buy, it’s worth choosing the more expensive to live sustainably. Plus, you can purchase a set of four of them for under $20 at Amazon. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Second-hand stores, sometimes called thrift stores and organic supermarkets, are great ways to purchase sustainable items. Shutterstock.

Find Sustainable Shops

It seems like there are new stores to visit every day, which only leads you to purchase more items than you need. However, it also creates a challenge of knowing when and where to shop to live a sustainable life. One way to help improve the environment is to know the best places to shop for sustainable shops. 

While some cities will have more of these types of shops than others, there are many places to look, such as second-hand stores, plastic-free supermarkets, repair cafes, vegan and vegetarian restaurants, local farmer’s markets, and organic supermarkets. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
One of the best steps to decrease the amount of food you waste is to make smaller portions. Shutterstock.

Don’t Waste Your Food

It happens to everyone – you make a meal for your family, and it seems that it’s barely touched. Your children aren’t hungry. You pack the food away in the fridge or freezer with the thought of making it later, but then realize you’ve waited too long, and you just need to toss the food out. 

While it’s not always easy to only make enough food that people will eat in one sitting, you want to do everything you can to try. However, you can try to help ease the tons of food wasted every year by making smaller portions or setting a night where you will warm up the leftovers for your family. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
When you choose LED lights, you can use their advantages to help save you money and make some areas darker and the other regions lighter. Shutterstock.

Purchase LED Light Bulbs

LED light bulbs are a newer phenomenon in the world, but they are also great energy savers. Many people have turned to LED lights not only because they can save a few dollars on their electric bill but also because they don’t have to change light bulbs as often as LEDs are known to last longer than regular bulbs. 

Another great benefit is that these lights range when it comes to brightness. You can tailor your home according to how much light you want in a corner or the whole room. For instance, you might have your bedroom darker than your living room or kitchen. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
You wouldn’t just throw away your home or car when they need repair, so why would you do that to other items that you can fix up? Shutterstock.

Fix Items Instead of Throwing Them

Sometimes items break by accident, and other times it happens because they are old and worn out. While you can always fix what’s broken, you should always take the chance and look at it as a possibility. You might not be able to fix it yourself, but other people could help you, whether they’re friends, family, or professionals. 

Fixing items instead of throwing them away will decrease the garbage in the waste dumps and help you save money because you won’t need to go out and buy a new one. If you’re not sure how to fix it, turn to Google as the Internet can help you learn how to repair most items. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
The next time you’re running low on cleaning products, look to make natural cleaning products to boost the environment. Shutterstock.

Turn to Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

One of the most significant factors that the current crisis helped produce for people worldwide is how to make eco-friendly cleaning products and hand sanitizer. There are usually harsh chemicals in the cleaning products. While alcohol won’t hurt the environment as much, you can help boost the world around you from creating an alcohol-free hand sanitizer. 

There are dozens of recipes you can find online and make at home. All you need to do is ensure you can gather all the supplies at the store. They usually consist of some type of essential oils, which you can have your pick. For instance, if you want to make cleaning products that smell like lavender, you know which type of essential oil to choose. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Not only will the microwave help cook your meals faster, but it also helps preserve the environment around you. Shutterstock.

Microwave Over Conventional Oven

You might not need a big push to follow this tip. You might already follow it and not realize that you’re living more sustainably, especially when you’re living in a college dorm room. After all, not all dorms have kitchens or large appliances like ovens that you can use. 

You can make a lot of food in the microwave, including baked potatoes. The key is to ensure that you take all the safety measures and watch the meal, so it doesn’t explode or cause a big mess. Using the microwave over the oven can help you live more sustainably because it uses less energy than the oven. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
Saying “no” to flying can help you preserve the environment because flying is the worst way to travel. Shutterstock.

If You Don’t Have to Fly, Don’t Do It

While you probably think that you can’t fly for a while because of the current crisis, you always want to think of staying closer to home, so you don’t need to fly anywhere – even when the current crisis ends. 

When you turn to the airplane, you’re damaging the environment worse than using your vehicle or taking a bus. Flying from Bristol to Edinburgh produces 0.15 metric tons of carbon. You might not think there are many sights to see close to home, but if you can take the bus, train, or car, you can see it. Therefore, enjoy your drive across the country. 

23 Tips for Living More Sustainably in College
You can turn gardening into a family event and get your children to help so they can learn how to live more sustainably. Shutterstock.

Start a Big Garden

Even if you feel you don’t have much room to start a garden, you can find a small corner in your yard to get yourself a little start. Maybe you can start a community garden where people from your area will grow their food and share with other members of the community. 

Gardens are a great way to eat healthily, save money, and cut down your carbon footprint and be eco-friendly. You can always invest in windowsill boxes if you don’t have a yard to help grow your garden. 


“5 Tips for Being a Sustainable College Student.” Lily Iler, Spoon University. 

“The Ultimate 20 Step Guide to Eco-friendly Living.” Good Energy. August 2017. 

“15 Tips for Green Living in College.” The Princeton Review. 

“15 Easy Ways Students Can Go Green.” Elizabeth Hoyt, Fast Web. August 2019.

“Green guide: 15 tips for a more sustainable lifestyle.” Green Office Movement.