Join us today for a special article narrated by Jason Tayer, our college intern who studies at Emory University.
As the school year has recently started for many college students across the country, it’s hard for everyone to adjust to a more routine lifestyle than that of the summer. With all of the chaos involving move-in, classes starting, catching up with friends, joining clubs, and time management issues, it can be difficult to make yet another adjustment to your daily lifestyle. However, I have found that living a zero waste routine is actually very simple and relatively stress-free. Below, I am going to share some parts of a daily routine and how you can easily incorporate zero waste strategies into college life.
Most of us college students have 3 meals per day (or 2 meals plus a midnight snack if you like to stay up late). This means that we can practice zero waste anytime of the day when we eat. There’s a high chance you are either on a meal plan with the school cafeteria or cook food at your living space for most meals. As a result, this can lead to an amazingly consistent zero waste routine. For example, going to the cafeteria is a great way to limit waste, since you can choose to utilize reusable silverware, plates, and cups. The only concern is that many students waste large amounts of food while eating in the cafeteria, since most meal plans provide unlimited food with a meal swipe. This can be easily avoided by simply being conscious of how much food you are putting on your plate. When in doubt, always try to put less than you think you will eat, because you can always go back and get more later! Another thing I love doing is bringing my Zero Waste Kit to the cafeteria and filling it up with a salad, rice bowl, or drink so that I can snack later in the day without having to return to the cafeteria. Now, I understand that some of you do not have traditional meal plans and may cook or get takeout more often. When cooking, it is important to avoid overbuying at the grocery store, so make sure to plan out each ingredient you need for the meals you are thinking of cooking. We all know that we get late night munchies from staying up studying or spending time with friends, so takeout can be such an easy temptation to give into. Instead, make a reminder to take some extra food from the cafeteria, see if there’s a late night cafe on campus, or keep snacks in compostable containers in your room!
Something I have struggled with is trying to gauge what kinds of supplies I need for each one of my classes. After going through a few semesters, I have realized that it is better to wait until the class gains momentum to start buying class materials. For instance, I end up either buying the binders, pencils, pens, or folders I need about two weeks into each course so I don’t end up buying unnecessary supplies. This also saves money that we broke college students love to hold onto! Also, try to reuse all of these supplies for new semesters because binders don’t usually break that easily in the course of a few months. Another major tip is to try to take most of your notes on your computer instead of using paper so that you don’t have to worry about wasting hundreds of sheets of paper.
Moving into a dorm can be super overwhelming and tiring, especially for first-year students. With thinking about everything from bed sheets to wall decorations to furniture, organizing your room may seem a bit chaotic. However, keeping your room zero waste is as easy as maintaining a minimalistic and non-plastic attitude. When looking at decorations, try to reuse ones from previous living spaces and look into brightening up your room with plants. Succulents are my favorite because you only have to water them about once a month! Also, for all of you coffee drinkers in college, think about keeping an instant coffee machine in your room in place of getting your morning latte at the school coffee shop because buying a latte in a plastic cup every day adds up to an insane amount of plastic waste by the end of the year. One last tip I would recommend is to buy room furniture and supplies in bulk from the store. This saves you from having to order things online and then you can also avoid all of the plastic packaging, cardboard boxes, and bubble wrap that comes with it.
Say hello to our guest author, Jason! Jason is attending Emory University and is studying Business and Environmental Management. He loves skiing, the environment, and his foodie lifestyle, brought to life by his Instagram @eats.byjay.