Ecobricks, biking, more: 5 affordable ways to be sustainable

Charlotte Lang

Colorado State University’s Student Sustainability Center hosts many organizations dedicated to empowering students who want to follow sustainable principles on campus.

Students don’t need to be part of these groups in order to be sustainable, though.


“Taking small steps towards reaching a sustainable lifestyle is sometimes all that we can do,” said Catherine Staley, president of CSU’s chapter of Strategies for Ecology, Education, Diversity and Sustainability. “It’s not about a complete 180-degree flip, but about recognizing where someone can adopt sustainable habits and slowly working towards a reasonable solution for that individual.”

Staley and representatives from other sustainability organizations offered ways for students to be sustainable on a budget.

Here are five options for affordable sustainability.

  1. Reuse single-use items

Faith Kelly, a member of the Zero Waste Team, said saying no to single-use items is always a good option. 

“This means bringing a reusable water bottle, packing food in reusable containers, bringing bags to the grocery store, using cloths instead of paper towels or choosing to eat in instead of getting takeout boxes,” Kelly said. 

Staley said she’s noticed a majority of students on campus bringing their own water bottles. With refill stations, it’s not only sustainable, but it’s also easier for students to do.

David Cressy, president of the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Club, said students can get discounts at places such as Sweet Sinsations if they bring a reusable cup.

“Even though (Sweet Sinsations’ cups) are compostable, they don’t end up in the compost often,” Cressy said. “People throw them in the recycling or in the trash. It’s a lot more sustainable and cheaper to bring your own cup.”

2. Spend less time eating out

“Eating out is not nearly as sustainable as cooking your own meal,” Cressy said. 


Cressy said students going out to eat is the greatest sustainability struggle he’s noticed. He said people don’t take time to cook, especially freshmen who can easily pay for meals at the Lory Student Center with RamCash.

Staley said the amount of waste produced by the LSC food court is higher than it should be.

Apples in a produce section.
Fresh produce at the Mountain Avenue Market. (Addie Kuettner | Collegian)

“Bringing your own meals to campus can be a fun and easy way to promote sustainable eating habits and eliminates the need for single-use materials,” Staley said.

Cooking and packing meals prevents waste and saves students from spending too much money on food.

3. Buy and borrow used

Fast fashion has become an increasing issue, and one solution is to buy sustainably sourced and manufactured clothing or to buy second-hand, Staley said.

“Plus, if you do buy second-hand, chances are, the piece is going to be more unique than anything you can buy at a mall, and that’s super rad,” Staley said.

Kelly said new clothes and other items require valuable materials that are often water and energy-intensive. It’s cheaper and more eco-friendly to buy from local thrift stores or borrow from a friend.

4. Take alternative transportation

“By taking alternative modes, we take vehicles off the road, meaning less carbon emissions entering the atmosphere,” Kelly said.

The MAX bus runs both North and South allowing free transportation options for Colorado State University students. (Collegian | Clara Scholtz)

Instead of driving to school, students can carpool, take the bus, bike, skateboard, scooter or even skate to campus, Kelly suggested.

“Something that people are great at, especially in Fort Collins, is transportation,” Cressy said. “Some of my friends don’t even own cars. It’s just biking or bus.”

Cressy said biking is as cheap and sustainable as transportation can get.

5. Ecobricks

Something few people know about are ecobricks, Cressy said. 

Ecobricks are made with plastic water bottles that are stuffed with clean, dry micro trash — material that cannot be composted or recycled. Once the bottles are fully stuffed, these ecobricks can be used as construction blocks.

“At the end of the day, ecobricks (are) probably something everyone should be doing in their home,” Cressy said. “That’s putting a dent in the micro trash, which is ending up mainly in the oceans.”

Cressy said this is a tactic used in countries around the world.

“In the United States, we don’t really have to deal with our trash,” Cressy said. “Other countries have gotten used to dealing with their trash in sustainable ways. In this country, you just toss it in a bin and it’s gone forever.”

Charlotte Lang can be reached at or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.