How to Be Sustainable at School: Tips for College Students

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Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Wednesday July 14, 2021

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As a college student, part of your education entails learning about the world people share — and hopefully, how everyone has a responsibility to help protect it. What can you do while in university to reduce your carbon footprint? 

While you might not convert your dorms to solar power, you can take proactive steps to become greener. Here are six tips for college students who want to learn how to be more sustainable at school. 

1. Add Recycle Bins

You probably waste plenty of pleasant minutes shooting paper balls at your so-called circular file. However, those sheets could enjoy a second life as paper towels or toilet paper if you put them in the recycling bin instead. 

You don’t have to spend a dime on adding this amenity to your dorm room. Your campus library or computer center probably has ample empty ream boxes that you can repurpose — creating another ecological win in the process. You may have to ask them to put some aside when they restock. 

College life often means traveling back and forth from home, turning your ride into a roving trash bin. When looking for garbage receptacles for your ride, select one with multiple pockets for sorting your recyclables. Even though you might not find many gas stations and convenience stores with bins, you can do the right thing once you reach your childhood abode. 

2. Bike or Walk

If you are an incoming freshman, you might be dismayed to discover that your school discourages you from having a car on campus. Many universities do this to encourage students to get more involved in on-campus clubs and activities. However, you can also look at this shift as a lesson in how to be sustainable at school by relying more on pedal and foot power. 

Walking to class offers multiple advantages. You get exercise, which helps you ease stress and control your weight — helpful if you dread the freshman 15. You also become more acquainted with your campus and its offerings. You might drive right by the counseling center with nary a glance, but that flyer about a support group you’d find useful could catch your eye if you pass by on foot. 

What if you have off-campus employment and don’t always have time to walk to work? A bike offers a more affordable alternative to a car, and you can find electric models that power you up steep hills without leaving sweat stains on your dress shirt. 

3. Go Used 

According to the Best Colleges, you should budget approximately $1,240 annually for books and other supplies. However, if you purchase new, you could end up paying more — and you never recoup the full value of your investment come trade-in time. 

Instead, choose to go used whenever possible. Who knows? You might find the notes that the last student scribbled in the margins useful — they might clarify the material. Plus, choosing used minimizes production needs, which results in loggers felling fewer trees and paper mills producing less pollution. 

4. Skip the Plastic

You might think little of heading to the caff for a slice of pizza or two. However, you probably don’t need the plastic silverware package your server tosses in your to-go bag — request that they omit it. Even a tiny dorm room has room for a set of utensils alongside your hot plate and miniature microwave. 

Another thing you can do is reduce your reliance on plastic straws. You can find collapsible metal models that clip to your keychain. You have no more excuses — tell the associate at the drive-thru that you don’t need one in your bag.  

5. Carry Your Bags 

You know that carrying cloth bags to the store is one way to be more sustainable at school and life in general. What can you do, though, if you are a member of the “I left it in my car” crew? 

You can reduce your carbon footprint and frustration levels by investing in a foldable bag that clips to your keychain — no more excuses. However, it won’t take long for you to marvel at how handy these little devices are. Anytime you find your hands full, you have a container at the ready. It saves considerable angst at the supercenter when you find yourself juggling a handful on the opposite side of the store from the cart corral. 

6. Join the Campus Clean-Up Crew

Many colleges encourage student volunteer efforts, and getting involved is a perfect resume-padder. If you care about the planet, why not join the campus clean-up crew? 

Some environmental clubs might correlate with your future career goals. For example, if you‘re studying mechanical engineering, groups like Build It Green can enhance what you learn in class about eco-friendly techniques. 

Be More Sustainable at School With These 6 Tips for College Students

If you want to be more sustainable at school, the six tips above can help. Going to college shouldn’t mean polluting the planet. 

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