Save yourself money and contribute to the planet with these simple eco-friendly product swaps.
Between maintaining attendance, learning how to ‘adult’ and the numerous stressors that come with being a college student, the last thing many of us worry about is saving the planet. It seems like a huge task, and much scarier than the assignment you are rushing to get done. But it is the need of the hour. Here are some simple ways to be kind to the planet – budget friendly campus edition.
- Arrange your waste
Almost all college spaces have incorporated the blue and green bin system of waste disposal – Blue bins for non-biodegradable waste like wrappers, tetra packs, pizza boxes, cartons, stationary junk, metal cans etc. and Green for biodegradable waste like tea bags, paper plates, fruit and vegetable peels etc.
- Bring your own bottle
Remember the tweet that said ‘Uni life is just me and my bottle against the whole world’. Well, yes. But instead of buying bottled water every time, buy a refillable bottle to carry around campus.
- Cut down cutlery
While the ease of disposable products like plastic/Styrofoam plates can be tempting, it adds to tonnes of non-biodegradable waste. Invest in a set of cute plates, bowls, spoons and mugs that you can reuse. It really doesn’t take much to scrub and let them dry. In fact, food delivery apps are also working on environmentally friendly packaging alternatives.
- Ditch polythene bags
Time to put all the jute and tote bags to use. The next time you go to Sarojini Nagar or shopping for groceries carry your own big bag and ditch the poly that the shopkeepers offer.
Shipra, a first-year student at Zakir Husain Delhi College, says, “It is difficult to say complete no to plastic, you do need polythene bags at times. What I do is store them for the next time. By reusing them I’m least not contributing to the new generation of polybags.” However, one should always try to minimize their use of plastic. Cloth and canvas bags are extremely durable and perfect alternatives.
- Eco-friendly room decor
Prefer tapestry over paper posters. They can be reused and do not get damaged while shifting. Choose wooden racks over plastic stands. These are easily available at metro stations like GTB or local markets for cheap. Recycle your used shampoo and spray bottles for pen stands.
- Fix and close faucets
Report the leaky taps and faucets in your college washrooms. Turn off the tap while you are brushing your teeth and doing dishes – people have probably been telling you this since you were four, but this is just a friendly reminder.
- Glass over plastic
Limit the use of plastic ware for storage or cooking. Glass is the alternative – it is microwave safe as well. Replace single-use snack bags or zip-locks with glass containers. Put the Keventers bottles and jars to daily use.
Tushti, a student at Indraprastha College for Women, says, “I prefer cold drinks in glass bottles at the canteen. Also, since I’m trying to cut down on my plastic use, I like to carry around a reusable tumbler with me”. Look out for repurposed or biodegradable packaging.
- Hang-dry your clothes
Consider skipping the laundry dryer. Letting your clothes dry in the sun not only saves energy but also keeps them fresh and long lasting. Sunrays also disinfects the clothes.
- Invest in organic supplies
Skincare and haircare products are usually expensive. Save a few bucks and invest in organic brands to ensure that minimal amounts of chemicals go on to your body.
- Join local plantation drives
A lot of NGOs and Eco clubs conduct regular drives for sustainability awareness or planting trees. Whenever you can, volunteer and be a part of these. As an individual it may be difficult to make a lot of efforts – if you collaborate with others, you can open the world’s eyes to a cause in a more efficient way.
- Kettles over microwave
College life involves loads of tea, coffee and Maggi making. Use an electric kettle and not the microwave in your hostel/PG. It uses less energy and trust me, tastes way better.
- Lesser prints
Paper is one of the main areas where students can save money and the environment. Use refillable binders save more paper than notebooks. Also try to avoid getting all of your readings printed. Prefer e-notes or reading them online. Whenever possible, submit papers and assignments electronically. If you do need to print something, always print double-sided or on the back of rough paper.
- Manage your laundry
Prefer using cold water to wash your clothes. Without having to heat the water, the washing machine will save a lot of energy. Moreover, cold water helps in preserving the quality of delicate fabrics. Also use a washing machine only when you have a full load of clothes to wash.
- Natural and local products for the win
Natural skincare is not only better for your skin but also limits the amount of toxic chemicals that go down the drain. Look out for home remedies with local products – very effective and easily available.
Mehak, a student at Kamla Nehru College says, “I use things turmeric, aloe vera gel and milk for my skincare instead of chemical lotions. Since they are easy to store, I have them in my hostel room. Also, I prefer wearing natural fibers, cotton over polyester. It just feels a lot nicer. Going local has helped me save a lot of pocket money.”
- Open your windows
Air out your room/flat often. Sometimes indoor pollution can be more toxic than the air outside. Keeping your curtains open in winter lets the sun in and naturally warm up the room. Good amount of sunlight would make your room feel a lot fresher. Remember to close them in the evening for extra insulation.
- Purchase energy efficient lights
Use CFLs or LEDs for your desk and room lamps rather than the regular bulbs or halogen lights. They use less energy and last longer.
- Quit straws
Of all the plastic products we use, drinking straws are the most unnecessary and taken for granted. They are designed to be used once and discarded. Most restaurant chains have discontinued them or opting for paper straws. Local juice sellers and shikanji stalls still offer them. Try persuading them to discontinue it.
- Reach out to others
Talk to people about adopting sustainable practices in daily life. It doesn’t take much, just a little bit of adjustment.
- Shorter showers
Reduce the amount of water you use on a daily basis. Every minute less you spend in the shower saves up to two gallons of water. Think about lowering the water pressure using the sliding handle. This small change will surely make a huge impact on the environment in the long term. Guess what, maybe you could reach your classes on time as well?
- Turn off lights
It may seem obvious, but don’t forget to turn off the lights and fans when you leave your classroom. Before you leave for your classes, look around and check if all the switches are closed including the fairy lights.
Electronics pull electricity from the outlet while plugged in, even when the device is off. This is called phantom energy. Power down and unplug your phone and laptop chargers before you sleep. Shut your laptop off when you don’t need it instead of using screensavers. Put it on sleep instead.
- Visit recycling or compost centers
Find out the recycling or compost bin center nearest to your college; give a visit once every two months maybe with your stack of paper and plastic waste.
- Walk when you can
Avoid taking individual autos for shorter distances. Prefer to walk or take an e-rickshaw to commute. Alternatives can be pooling or using a bus.
- Xerox only when necessary
Students end up getting many of their books photocopied and not use them throughout the semester. Prefer to use soft copies of textbooks. You can also think about renting your textbooks. If you need to purchase a book, consider picking up a used version. You can always sell them later or give them for recycling.
Anurag, a student at Hansraj College, says, “I do not buy any textbooks. I usually issue them from the library or cam-scan the relevant parts to refer to them while studying. This way I don’t have a pile of paper waste at the end of the semester, unlike most of my classmates.”
- Yes to one-day of Only Veggies
Producing meat is detrimental for the environment as it releases carbon and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Pick one day of the week where you eat exclusively vegetarian. This way you can positively help the planet without drastically changing your lifestyle.
- Zero waste
Try to incorporate an environment conscious lifestyle through segregation of waste, reusing products whenever possible, recycling and reducing your carbon and plastic footprint. Make sure to dispose of biodegradable waste properly. Separate your paper waste in a cardboard box and give it for recycling.
Feature Image Credits: The Zero Waste Collective