An individual following a zero waste lifestyle is someone who has consciously made changes to their habits in order to support a non-polluting future. Our generation is the first to grow up in a world that requires all of us to implement sustainability into our lives in order to preserve our planet. As university students, we live chaotic lives. Between balancing classes, work, assignments, friends and mental health, the thought of changing our already ingrained habits can seem difficult. However, living an eco-friendly lifestyle is not only good for the environment, but makes us healthier as well. This article will investigate ways that the average student can adapt to a lifestyle that saves money and time while reducing their ecological footprint.
Using a glass or steel water bottle is an excellent option for students trying to reduce plastic waste while saving some money. More than 100 million plastic bottles worldwide are used and discarded every day and only one fifth of those plastic bottles is recycled. Our landfills and oceans have become breeding grounds for these non-biodegradable plastic buildups and have endangered wildlife, compromised air quality and polluted landscapes on both a global and local scale.
- Check out these highly rated reusable water bottles.
- Thrift shops have hundreds of used water bottles for cheap prices. For more information on thrifting and how it reduces waste, check out another one of our articles.
- Tap water in Boulder county is safe to drink; however, due to pollution there is always some risk of contamination. Fear of drinking contaminated tap water has turned more people towards plastic water bottles. Using a water filtration device such as a Brita can protect against pollutants.
- Did you know you can request an annual water report from your local government? The information tells people exactly what biochemicals are in their water. If someone is immunocompromised, they can even purchase a filter that works for filtering out the exact chemicals that would be hazardous to them! Check out this guide for safe tap water and water filters.
Use a personal reusable cup to take coffee on the go or even take it to your favorite coffee shop. Annually, 9.4 million trees are harvested for these cups and 363 million pounds of waste are sent to landfills. It's important to note that almost all paper cups are coated with a plastic lining that makes them un-recyclable.
- Many smaller coffee shops will offer a small discount for bringing your own cup.
- Lug Your Mug is an event hosted by the E-Center's zero waste outreach team where you can bring your own mug and receive free coffee every Wednesday starting March 2.
Grab a reusable mask. The pandemic has caused a huge spike in medical waste. Since the virus can live on surfaces for three days, hospitals are forced to throw out any infected vaccines, IVs, masks, etc. in order to stay safe. Avoid getting sick by practicing good hygiene and wearing masks, and always stay home if you do get sick. By doing your part to keep everyone safe, virus spreading rates will slow down and thus the need for disposable masks will also decrease. Disposable masks have plastic in them that makes them not recyclable or reusable.
Eliminate single use plastics at lunch time.
- If dining out for lunch, eat at the restaurant instead of ordering to go to avoid excessive packaging.
- If ordering takeout, bring your own utensils. You can keep a set in the car or in your backpack.
- Bring a reusable container for lunches packed at home.
- Use a lunch box.
- Bento boxes are like small lunch boxes that have tiny compartments which are great for packing a well-balanced meal or a variety of snacks to eat throughout the day.
- Save money by not eating at dining halls every day.
Throughout your day on campus, be mindful of the three bins seen all over campus (recycling, compost, trash) when getting rid of day-to-day waste. We are fortunate enough to attend a school that has a recycling center on campus that sorts through recyclables and compostables and re-distributes them to be reused.
- Gum wrapper goes in landfill trash (not recyclable).
- Receipts go in landfill trash (have receipts emailed instead).
- Disposable masks go in landfill trash (use rewashable masks instead).
- To go containers and food waste from dining halls on campus are compostable.
Composting food scraps when cooking dinner each night reduces the amount of waste going into landfills. Items that are compostable are used to make vitamin rich fertilizers that sustain growing plants and vegetables.
- Toss fruit and vegetable peels and scraps into a compost bin. Read more about what to compost and what not to compost.
- Sustainable soup recipe: Save scraps from vegetables and store in a freezer bag until used to make a vegetable broth.
- Free compost bins are available to those who schedule an eco-visit through the E-Center’s Eco Buff team schedule.
- Save leftovers for a quick and easy lunch the next day.
When you grocery shop once a week, it lessons the likelihood of your food expiring or going bad. Meal prepping is also a great strategy for finding a set quantity of food to use each week. When you throw away fewer ingredients you'll save money and help the environment.
- Buy ingredients that come in recyclable and compostable packages.
- Look online for eco-friendly grocery stores where you can bring your own reusable produce bags.
- If you must buy plastic, look for plastic with numbers 1-7 as they can be recycled in Colorado.
Online grocery stores such as eco cart offer a sustainable packaging grocery delivery service.
As students, we are always learning. Changing a habit can be difficult which is why the Eco Buff team offers a free in-home visit to educate, support and give away eco-friendly amenities. There are a multitude of issues beyond zero waste initiatives such as greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, climate extremes, water source contaminations and so much more. The Environmental Center at CU Boulder is dedicated to making the campus an eco-friendly place for all its students and faculty. The E-Center employs students who have a passion for environmental issues and gives them a platform to learn and spread awareness. As students, we must keep having conversations surrounding climate change so that we can continue to make change happen as we enter the professional world.