Published: Feb. 11, 2022 By

An individual following a zero-waste lifestyle is someone who has consciously made changes to their habits in order to align themselves with the mindset of a nonpolluting 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 1 of 5 of those plastic bottles are recycled. Our landfills and oceans have become breeding grounds for these non-biodegradable plastic buildups and have thus endangered wildlife, compromised air quality, and polluted landscapes on both a global and local scale.

  • Here is a 2022 list of the most highly rated reusable water bottles

  • 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 was sent to landfills. It's important to note that almost all paper cups are coated with a plastic lining that makes them NOT recyclable

  • Many smaller coffee shops will offer a small discount for this

  • Lug your mug is an event hosted by the E-Centers zero waste outreach team where you can bring your own mug and receive free coffee every Wednesday  starting 3/2.

Grab a reusable mask. The pandemic has caused a huge spike in medical waste. Since the virus can live on surfaces for 3 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, additionally 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. 

  • Tip: make your own masks out of cloth and use a reusable filter liner for extra protection

  • Tutorial here


Eliminate single use plastics at lunch time

  • If dining out for lunch, eat at the restaurant instead of ordering to go in order to avoid excessive packaging

  • If ordering takeout, bring your own utensils. 

  • Link to wood eating utensil packages

  • Can keep set in the car, in your backpack

  • Bring a reusable container for packed at home lunches

  • Lunch boxes (Bring back Cars and Transformers lunch boxes to pay homage to childhood)

  • Bento boxes (Basically lunch boxes for adults 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 and respect your colon by not eating at the C4C everyday

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 

Evening/ Night

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. For more information on what to compost and what not to compost click here

  • Sustainable Soup Recipe: Save scraps from vegetables and store in a freezer bag until used to make a vegetable broth. Recipe Here

  • Free compost bins 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

Grocery shopping on a once-a-week basis reduces the amount of food that expires and has to be thrown out. Meal prepping is a strategy that lets you know the exact quantities of the food you will be using that week. With less ingredients getting thrown out, the average student saves not only money, but already has a meal planned out to work into their busy schedules. 

  • Buying ingredients that come in recyclable and composting packages

  • Look online for eco-friendly grocery stores that you can bring your own reusable produce bags to

  • 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.

After Thoughts

As students, we are always learning in and throughout our busy lives. 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. 


Sign up for an EcoVisit from the EcoBuff team here!