In the words of Greta Thunberg, “our house is burning.” The Earth is on fire, both literally and figuratively. We, as humans, have let this get way too far and are now deep in an environmental crisis. Slowly and surely changes are starting to be made, but if we want to see real improvements, we all have to act on it now.

Yes, most of the solutions to these problems lie in the hands of our government and bigger corporations, but I stand strong in my belief that change can still start from a grassroots movement.

I’m not saying you have to go out and give speeches on why climate change is real, or donate thousands of dollars to help with relief and restoration– not everyone has the privilege to give up their time and money to do so. Not to mention, as college students, paying attention to our wasteful actions while navigating school, work, and a social life can seem a little taxing. However, regardless of all of this, there are still so many ways for us to make baby steps towards change as we balance all aspects of life.

And, with a vast majority of schools transitioning to mostly-virtual classes this semester, partaking in a sustainable lifestyle right from the comfort of your own home is easier now than ever before.

So, without further ado, here is a compiled list of seven simple steps for college students to take towards sustainability!

1. Carpool

As I already mentioned, most colleges are making the move to online classes this fall. With that underway, there is less reason for people to be driving to and from campus in the first place. The rate of carbon emissions has greatly declined over the past five months due to the pandemic, but this trend will not last as things slowly start to open back up. So, although your remote work and schooling may not give you a need to carpool, you can always attempt it in other areas.

For example, need to get groceries? Ask your roommates if they’re running low too! You can make it into a group trip, or you can pick up a few items for them while you’re there.

Again, I completely understand that a short 7 minute trip to the grocery store may not seem like a big deal. However, if you and your 4 roommates all take individual grocery runs once a week, that’s 4 hours and 40 minutes of driving (both ways, between the 5 of you) to get groceries each month. Now, if you all decided to carpool to the store once a week, that time would reduce to only 56 minutes of driving a month! So, long story short, try to catch a ride every once in a while. Your wallet, and the Earth, will be thanking you.

2. Partake in Meatless Mondays

(Or any other day of the week, of course!)

Did you know that according to the United States Geological Survey, in order to produce just one pound of beef, 2,000 gallons of water is used? This includes the water for the cow to drink, as well as water needed to grow the crops that it eats. However, for that same amount of water, we could grow 20x more potatoes and 18x more corn than beef, states ZME Science.

So, by implementing plant-based foods into your diet regularly, the numbers will add up to help reduce your water footprint.

And, don’t just take my word for it, do the research yourself!

3. Thrift Clothes Instead of Buying New

Or, if you must buy new clothes, try to support sustainable, small businesses instead of fast-fashion websites and stores.

This step to sustainability is one of my favorites for many, many reasons. For starters, thrifting is a lot less wasteful and uses much less energy than continuously buying new clothes. Not only this, but by boycotting fast-fashion, you are also boycotting unethical work practices– which is a MUST.

I will admit, before educating myself on the “behind the scenes” of stores like Shein or Zaful, I was completely drawn in by their too-good-to-be-true prices. However, the sad reality is that these prices are SO insanely cheap, because they’re paying their workers a sickeningly low price for their intense, unsafe, and oftentimes child labor. Hence is why I am now making the conscious effort to thrift or support small businesses!

Not to mention, on a college student budget, thrifting is incredibly kind to your wallet. You can buy a lot more clothes from a thrift store for the same price as one shirt at Urban Outfitters.

4. Invest in Reusable Tupperware

For those who travel to work or campus for in-person learning, this applies mostly to you. If you typically bring snacks or lunch with you on the daily, switching out paper and plastic bags for an actual lunchbox and reusable containers reduces your weekly waste by an insane amount.

Similarly, for those staying at home most days, using tupperware to store halves of onions or chopped bell peppers is much more sustainable than wasting a plastic bag on food you’ll finish the next day.

And, you’re not even stuck to solely using bulky reusable containers either! I have these fantastic, eco-friendly beeswax wrappers that I use to package sandwiches/wraps when I’m taking my lunch to go! They’re easy to wash and take up much less space.

Similarly, reusable rubber bags do the exact same job as your average plastic bags, while reducing your overall waste!

5. Ditch the Plastic Bottles

… and straws!

Similar to making the change to reusable tupperware, investing in a reusable water bottle and straw is a really easy (and trendy) way to reduce your waste even further.

And, if you’re really particular about the type of water that you drink, Brita filters are a college dorm room staple.

6. Try Out a Menstrual Cup

This one is for all of my menstruating lovelies out there! (Though, I must admit, I do not own one of these myself.)

Every person’s body is different, so some people are just physically unable to use certain types of period products — and there is absolutely no shame in that!

However, if you’re able to try out one of these cups, I hear they are sustainable life-changers. You may not realize just how many products you go through with each and every cycle!

7. Use Reusable Makeup Cloths

I raved about these “magic erasers” in my previous blog post, 7 Self-Care Must-Haves For Your Daily Routine. Although these are a few extra bucks more than disposable makeup wipes, they last much longer (even when considering those 250 packs), so they are absolutely worth the buy.

And, there you have it, my eco-friendly friends. Just remember, like I mentioned with the Menstrual Cup, there is absolutely no shame if you are unable to purchase/ physically use any of these products or take part in these activities. What matters most is that we all are making our own conscious efforts to help the Earth, no matter what that may look like.