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7 ways to be a more sustainable student

Whether you’re a climate change activist or climate change denier, everyone has a different perspective on how to treat the Earth. The ways people choose to do this can vary. Some choose to be totally waste free, some choose veganism and some implement simpler sustainable practices like recycling. No matter where you are on the sustainability spectrum, any act of good, no matter how seemingly small and inconsequential, is better than nothing. 

You don’t have to be a person who keeps all their waste in a single jar for a year to be more sustainable; part of this practice is small, long-term lifestyle changes that make a bigger impact over a long period of time. If you want to start making some of these changes, here are a few ways to be a more sustainable student.


1. Shop small

As students juggling many different responsibilities, including extracurriculars and work, it’s way too easy to buy all the necessities on Amazon. Personally, I’m guilty of using Prime shipping as a crutch when I simply don’t feel like going to the store. However, these small purchases can really add up after a while. According to eMarketer, Amazon is the biggest shipper and producer of packaging waste

Instead of finding a reason not to leave your house (which admittedly can be very easy with all the resources at our fingertips), find local spots to suit your shopping needs. Old Town is filled with small shops that meet all the necessities, whether it’s locally made home goods or sustainable outdoor gear. The best part about spending money at locally owned shops is you will get something unique that you can’t find on Amazon or at Walmart, and while you’re at it, you’ll help these shops, which are integral to FoCo culture, stay in business. 

2. Thrift

Secondhand clothes hanging on thrift at flea market store.

Let’s be real — many college students can’t afford the higher price tags of sustainably made clothing. As a result, some of us may find ourselves in the aisles of H&M or Forever 21 for our seasonal shopping.

A good alternative to this is to scavenge some of our local Fort Collins thrift and consignment stores. For those looking for more everyday wearable fashion, Plato’s Closet, Repeat Boutique and Flamingo Boutique may be some good options. There are plenty of other less conventional thrifting opportunities; stores like The Gearage sell used outdoor gear. 

Oftentimes, the wide range of knickknacks offered at thrift stores can be frustrating if you’re looking for something specific. If that’s the case and you don’t want to sift through an array of random items for hours, thrifting apps like Depop are incredibly helpful. 

3. Reduce and reuse

This one seems obvious, but the amount of plastic coffee cups and water bottles on campus would suggest that Colorado State University students can use a little help when it comes to reducing personal waste. Bring your own coffee cup before stopping by Sweet Temptations or Morgan’s Grind. Buy a CSU reusable water bottle at the CSU Bookstore. Bring your own silverware and reusable straws instead of using the plastic alternatives when grabbing lunch in the Lory Student Center. 

4. Pack your own lunch 

Cooking is a seemingly impossible feat when you have five minutes to spare every day. However, the several benefits of meal prepping might change your mind about waiting in the long line for lunch at the LSC every day. Meal prepping helps people cook new recipes and step outside their comfort zones, provides healthier meal alternatives and saves a significant amount of money. In addition to the personal benefits, lots of plastic and paper are used at the food spots on campus, which can easily be replaced by a lunch box and Tupperware. 

5. Drive less

a bus
A Transfort bus at the intersection of Plum and City Park on Nov. 16, 2019. (Ryan Schmidt | The Collegian)

If the pricey campus parking isn’t enough to convince you to find alternate methods of transportation to class, perhaps the fact that vehicles make up a rather large portion of air pollution might change your mind. Luckily, the busses that run to campus are free with a valid student ID, consistent and go all across Fort Collins.

If busing just isn’t your thing, investing in a good bike is a great way to get to class on time and enjoy some of the great Colorado outdoors. As sturdy bikes can get pretty expensive, Fort Collins has a wide array of recycled bike stores for you to find what you’re looking for at a much lower price tag. 


6. Reuse supplies

Nowadays, plenty of courses not only allow but encourage the use of technology in class to reduce paper and plastic. However, the constant distractions caused by using laptops in class can be a burden to both professors and students. Further, evidence shows that writing by hand improves the ability to memorize and process complex concepts. Still, concerns about the heavy use of paper and plastic in school remain. 

Oftentimes, you may not use your entire notebook after completing a course. In these cases, try reusing old notebooks and binders instead of throwing them away altogether. If you’re a pretty heavy note taker, the CSU Bookstore also sells decomposition notebooks, which are 100% recycled and printed with soy ink, according to the Bookstore website. 

7. Support local farms 

Buying groceries locally is often an afterthought, especially for students who don’t have the means to do so. However, little changes in the way you shop can help both local farmers and the environment. According to Arrowquip, buying locally grown food preserves small farmland, reduces food miles and creates jobs for local farmers. 

Mountain Avenue Market, a co-op in Fort Collins, is open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. every day and offers a wide range of fresh produce, healthy snacks and bulk items such as grains and legumes. The shop operates on a community-owned principle and offers a much more personable environment when it comes to buying food. 

We can’t all be perfect environmentalists. While I have all the respect in the world for zero waste folks, this lifestyle may not be realistic for some college students. However, being more environmentally friendly doesn’t have to be a huge feat.

Elena Waldman can be reached at or on Twitter @WaldmanElena

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