If you too are struggling with balancing saving money, trying to be an adult and manage all of your responsibilities and still be eco-friendly with your actions, this should hopefully give you an idea on how to best approach this very apparent struggle! 

For a little bit of background on me, I just graduated from Fordham University a semester early, having commuted to college my entire 3.5 years. When I first started out at Fordham, I was pretty knowledgeable of the concepts of recycling and being eco-friendly, but I didn’t do very much to practice those types of things. As I got older and matured more, I realized the importance of doing your part and being more knowledgeable of the consequences of your own actions. 

Since starting and finishing college, I have changed a lot of my habits to be a more educated and positively impactful person. It’s taken some trial and error, but I feel much more comfortable with my impact and my actions. 

woman reading book while sitting on chair

Being eco-friendly in college, I think to many people, is a very intimidating concept. People assume it is too expensive or complicated to become eco-friendly or more environmentally conscious so they just don’t try at all. It CAN be harder to be eco-friendly when at college because of limited resources, funds and time. For example, it can be so much easier to just grab a plastic water bottle on the go or take the plastic utensils from the dining hall while running to grab food on the way to class. I’m here to tell you that there are changes you can make to be more eco-friendly while at college and it’s not always expensive and it doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Here are 5 suggestions on being more environmentally friendly while in college:

1. Think *Before* You Buy 

I think that the biggest problem for a lot of people in general, college students included, is that they do not really think before they buy. People often walk into a store, walk past a store or see an online advertisement and just buy, without really thinking about if they need or want the item. 

woman standing near monitor

The best way to be more environmentally friendly and conscious is to really consider if you need or want something before purchasing. If you do not do this, more often than not, this item will not be used, or used a few times and then forgotten about. By thinking about your purchases, you can be more impactful with them and ensure that you’re not setting yourself up for failure by buying things you won’t actually utilize. 

2. Bring the Tools To Be Successful To School with You 

When transitioning to college and living on your own, there might be a few things you don’t consider bringing with you to best equip you for adult life. I recommend bringing (or buying) silverware so you don’t have to use plastics from the dining hall, other kitchen utensils like plates, cups, etc., reusable bags, rags or hand towels. These few things alone can make an incredible difference in the environmental impact you create while at college. 

I highly recommend bringing both a garbage and a recycling container with you when you go to college. This will make it that much easier for you to properly dispose of certain items. 

3. Buy In Bulk, When Possible

Buying in bulk doesn’t necessarily have to be more expensive. If you share a Costco membership with your roommates, the $60 membership fee can be divided by person and it will save you so much money long-term. Buying in bulk can be more expensive upfront, but save you money and resources long term. Buying in bulk, rather than buying small, not only saves you money and resources, but it helps limit the amount of waste you create. Another great way to buy in bulk is to go to a local store, like a farmer’s market. 

4. Try ‘No Buy’ Challenges

Something that can help your environmental impact as well as your budget is challenging yourself to complete ‘no buy’ periods. It can be a day, a week or a month. It’s up to you! A ‘no buy’ can be adapted to your lifestyle as well. It can mean not buying anything other than the essentials or it can mean not buying anything at all. I personally like doing a no buy month at least once a year to limit my spending and refresh my mind on better appreciating the things I already have. 

On the note of struggling between being a college student and being a good human; although Amazon is not an ethical shopping choice, it is actually incredible when it comes to college textbooks. You can rent a textbook for way less money than it would cost to buy new and you don’t have to worry about what to do with it at the end of the semester. 

5. Try to Buy Local

When you are a college student, you are a guest to a new neighborhood, so you should try to support the local businesses and community. By buying locally, you are supporting the local community and most times, buying locally is a more ethical and often eco-friendly option. Buying locally often means that there were fewer resources that went into creating and transporting those items. 

green fruit

So many colleges have clubs that will provide you with incredible information about the local resources in the location your college is in. I definitely recommend taking advantage of these resources. When you join an environmental type club, they’re doing the hard work, meaning research, for you! 

Overall, when it comes to being more environmentally friendly, it’s really up to what works for you and fits into your lifestyle and budget. Sometimes, less wasteful alternatives can be expensive and other times they are not. Sometimes being more eco-friendly can be easy or it can be too complicated to be realistic for you. I recommend experimenting with different approaches and seeing what works best for you.