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10 ways college students can live more sustainabily - The YEARS Project

10 ways college students can live more sustainabily

Making big lifestyle changes can be out of budget for most college students. The movement to end climate change has become the most pressing topic of our time. It is imperative that each of us join in on the fight to curb climate change, and a lot of that entails living sustainably. But what does it mean to live sustainably? 

Living a sustainable lifestyle means creating less waste. But, this means altering the way we buy clothes, food and even how we use our electronics. It also means becoming aware of how we can exercise their political rights. Here are some little changes college students can make to lead more sustainable and eco-friendly lives.


The easiest way to help fight climate change is to recycle. It can be a little challenging to know exactly what goes where, but here’s a video that can help you out: 


60% of all clothing made will be thrown out in its first year. This means that all of the water and energy used to make these clothes are wasted as well. The fashion industry is the second largest contributor to global pollution, surpassed only by the oil industry. One of the most important ways that you can help fight climate change is by buying eco-friendly clothes. But, places like Madewell and Reformation are expensive and out of budget for a lot of college students. Thrift and vintage shopping is a cheaper alternative to these brands and it’s easy to find trendy clothes that way as well. Instead of going to Topshop or Vans when you want a new t-shirt or blouse, stop into your local thrift store. Buffalo Exchange, for instance, has the most up-to-date and gently used clothing for lower prices. 


If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted with vegetables and grains, it would be like taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads in terms of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Not only is Meatless Monday beneficial for the environment, but it is also cheaper. By substituting meat with beans, legumes, eggs, nuts, and seeds, an average family of four can save anywhere from $80-$100 a month. 


In the US, packaging makes up the largest category of municipal waste. Single-use items make up 10% of trash in the US and 29% of greenhouse gases come from stuff we make, consume and dispose of. It takes a lot of energy to make single-use items. In addition, plastic is made from petroleum and toxic materials such as benzene and vinyl hydrochloride, which are harmful to humans. By switching out plastic water bottles and straws for reusable water bottles, we can help cut down on the 7.5 million plastic straws that are lying around America’s shorelines and the 1 million plastic water bottles that globally are bought every  minute.


Globally, consumers use more than 8,000 paper cups from Starbucks every minute, which adds up to more than four billion a year. Since Starbucks coffee cups are lined with plastic, they are not recyclable and further contribute to plastic pollution. Reusable coffee cups are a great way to help reduce the amount of plastic on earth. 


 It takes 400 years for one toothbrush to decompose, meaning that every toothbrush ever made is still on the earth today. By buying a bamboo compostable toothbrush, you are helping cut down on plastic pollution. 


Forests help keep the planet cool and have the ability to capture greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from the air. When we clear forests, trees release all of the carbon they’ve been storing back into the atmosphere. Americans use approximately 8 million tons of paper a year. You can help save trees and reduce pollution by buying recycled material notebooks, and they are roughly the same amount of money that you would spend on a normal college-ruled notebook. 


Many people leave their computers, TVs, phones, hairdryers, and other appliances plugged in all day. The price of keeping those things plugged in can add up.  In 2018 alone, overall electricity production represented 37 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States alone. This percentage means that electricity is one of the main contributors to climate change. By simply unplugging your electronics when you’re done using them, you can help minimize your carbon footprint. If you live off-campus and pay your own utility bill, you can also save anywhere from  $100 to $200 a year.


There are many free and easy ways to get involved in climate change activism right on your campus grounds. Organizations like ZeroHour, and Extinction Rebellion, have branches all across the U.S., including on college campuses. You can also find campaigns to green your own campus, like divestment efforts and projects to install solar panels on campus buildings. By getting out there and talking about climate change, you can help spread the word about sustainability and why it’s important.  


In 2020, it is estimated that nearly 4 million 18- and 19-year-old students will attend college throughout the U.S. which mean they’ll will be eligible to vote for president for the first time.  The most important way you can join the fight to stop climate change is to vote. Voting for candidates that have strong climate change plans can help break the political roadblock we face today. 

The U.N recently released an article explaining that we now have 11 years left to transition away from fossil fuels and prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

It is up to us to work together so that the world will remain habitable for future generations. There are many small changes you can make in your day to day life to live more sustainably and help curb climate change.