Published: Jan. 20, 2022

Many of us have goals to be more sustainable. In fact, 95% of CU Boulder students want to lower their carbon footprint (according to a 2020 campus sustainability survey). But sometimes it can be challenging to know where to start. It is possible to make positive impacts with even the smallest actions. While a concept like Zero Waste might feel intimidating, it really is about taking incremental steps to live a more sustainable lifestyle and it’s easier than you might think.

If you’re looking to be more sustainable this year, consider joining the Sustainable Buffs Community and join other like-minded students in your efforts. Joining the Sustainable Buffs Community subscribes you to sustainable lifestyle emails and is the first step in becoming a more sustainable Buff.  Here are five things you can do to be more sustainable.

Limit your food waste

A great deal of energy is used in transporting and storing food for consumption. When you can, it’s generally better to eat food that is local and seasonal. Not only will this have reduced your carbon footprint, but it will also be fresh.

About a third of all food grown in the U.S. will be thrown away or wasted, which is a huge toll on our carbon footprint that could be reduced. When eating at dining halls on campus, take only what you need and remember that you can go back for more. When eating food from home, try to prioritize eating perishable food first and plan meals around what you have, buying ingredients to complete meals. Consider using an app like Mealime or Paprika to help you with meal planning.

Eat more plant based meals

Even one day a week of plant-based meals has an impact! According to Project Drawdown, eating plant-based meals is the third most effective way to reduce carbon emissions globally out of the top 100 solutions.

For some affordable and healthy ideas, check out Meatless Monday recipes. If you’re on campus, all dining centers have vegetarian and vegan options. Use Nutrislice to filter menus to show vegetarian/vegan options. There are also plenty of imitation meat options like black bean burgers at The Alley @ Farrand. You can also use milk alternatives in things like your coffee and cereal. Give almond or oat milk a try!

Recycle and compost

At CU Boulder, recycling and composting are convenient and great for our environment. There are bins and posters all around campus to help make it easy. You can review the campus recycling and composting guides to learn more about how to determine what is recyclable or compostable. If you live in one of the residence halls, check out this video on how to recycle.

Leave your car at home

Choosing an alternative to driving is not only good for the environment, but can also save you money. Between gas, parking, insurance, maintenance and repairs, cars can be expensive. All students get a free RTD pass and can ride public transportation in the Boulder and Denver area.  If you plan on taking the bus, use the Transit App for up-to-date bus routes.

If biking is more your speed, you can register your bike with the Environmental Center and take advantage of free maintenance services at the bike stations. If you don’t own a bike, Boulder BCycle has free memberships for CU Boulder students, and there are several stations on campus where electric pedal-assist bikes can be checked out, making getting around even easier.

Reduce your plastic

Most single-use plastic items have a reusable alternative. These include water bottles, travel mugs, shopping bags and snack bags. Try to find something to replace disposable plastics with a reusable option, like bringing a refillable water bottle to campus. There are bottle filling stations all over campus. Consider buying a bamboo toothbrush over a plastic one.

Reusable items can help keep plastic out of landfills. Consider investing in quality reusable items you look forward to using every day.