Sami here! My zero waste journey started in college. I learned more and more about the harms of plastic pollution and wanted to make an impact in the ways that I could. It can seem overwhelming to focus on reducing your waste when you’ve got classes, homework, and fun going on—but it’s absolutely possible!

A great thing about going zero waste is that it can be much cheaper than the conventional options presented during “back to school” season!

Shop secondhand for dorm and apartment supplies

You can find so many great, gently-used items for your dorm or apartment (at much lower prices) by shopping secondhand! Facebook marketplace, thrift stores, and Buy Nothing pages are helpful places to look for household essentials. Not to mention all of the stuff that gets thrown out on the curb during move out week! We’ve seen plenty of Tiktok hauls showing off the brand-new items found outside fraternities and sororities in the springtime. 

Shopping secondhand means items that are still in good condition stay out of the landfill!

Find reusable items that work for you

Opting for reusable items rather than the single-use versions is a great way to save the planet and your bank account.

Don’t forget that reusables can be things like cut up t-shirts that you use for cleaning instead of paper towels or silverware from home you bring with you instead of plastic takeout cutlery. You don’t have to buy the trendiest zero waste items to help the environment—using what you have is actually more sustainable!

If you want to invest in other kinds of reusable items, Swedish dishcloths or a collapsible reusable bag are great places to start for college students. Birthdays and holidays can be good opportunities to request reusable items as gifts if you can’t purchase them yourself!

Take advantage of your campus resources

As sustainability becomes more important, universities are catching on and investing in programs to reduce waste on their campuses. Check out what your college is doing!

Many colleges have sustainability departments, and some even offer campus composting programs for free or at a very low cost.

You can also invest in sustainability with your time. Get involved in clubs that volunteer to clean up streams or educate fellow students about sustainability!

Find a local zero waste store

Zero waste stores offer household cleaning, personal care, and food products without packaging to help you reduce your waste. Refilling your products is often cheaper than buying those same products packaged in a store. 

If you’re short on time, many offer delivery—like New Moon Refillery! If you’re a college student in the Denver Metro area, you can order online for next day delivery.

Do your best

Ultimately, just do what you can! It’s important to remember that everyone’s zero waste journeys will look different and even the smallest of steps add up to make a big impact.