College is often seen as a transitional time, so there’s usually not a lot of investment in fine furniture, apartments or transportation. Students are often moving away from home for the first time and need to stock up on the necessities and the amenities to which they have become accustomed at home. Moving to college can create a lot of spending and a lot of waste. College students are more committed than ever to living a green lifestyle, so taking a few simple steps to stay green will ease your conscience and your footprint.

Bring your own

Whether you are heading down to the cafeteria or out for a rare meal away from campus, bringing your own plastic containers for leftovers or takeout will save paper and plastic. Refuse napkins at fast food restaurants in favor of your own cloth napkins from home. Cloth napkins won’t add much to your laundry bill and can drastically reduce your use of paper.

Keeping a reusable canvas or a plastic shopping bag in your backpack will give you extra carrying capacity if you have to stop by the grocery store, bookstore or convenience store on the way home. Travel mugs and plastic or metal water bottles will keep several cups and bottles out of the landfill each day, and, particularly with water, will allow you to save dollars as well.

Buy used

Because college students are so transitory, often moving every year, it makes sense to invest in used furniture, clothing and decorations. These items can get damaged in a move or even lost, and, at some point, you might move into a furnished apartment or shared housing, where your stuff will compete for space.

You’ll most likely be getting rid of most of the materials at the end of your college career anyway, so embrace the transitory existence and look for used material whenever possible. If you live in a big city or are attending a large college, there are probably older students looking to get rid of perfectly useful material because they are completing school.

Buy used books, rent textbooks or use e-textbooks when possible. New textbooks are not only more expensive, but they hold a significant amount of embodied energy. Contact your instructors ahead of the term to see if an old edition can be used for the class. Check online retailers for new versions that have been used at other places and aren’t available at your bookstore.

Advocate for green policies

Your bookstore doesn’t have e-books yet? Ask for them. Your instructors only have paper copies of assignments and syllabi? Ask for electronic versions only. Everyone drives to campus? Ask the transportation office for a few spaces reserved exclusively for those who choose to carpool to campus. Students have a powerful voice, and you can make a difference in the policies and procedures of your college.

Maintaining an environmental ethic presents a unique challenge to college students, but the same rules apply as in every other aspect of life. Pay attention to what you are using and think about other ways you might meet your needs with less impact on the environment. These are just a few tips to get you started. Most schools will offer more information to meet their specific situation, and checking these out can set you on the right path.


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