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College is the perfect place to find people who share the same niche interests, join advocacy groups, and educate yourself about how you can make a difference. However, not all college students are fully aware of their own habits, and practices on campus, which might be very wasteful. Luckily, a variety of student groups and organizations provide opportunities for students to adopt a low waste lifestyle or influence their community to recognize areas that need improvement.
Buying second hand gives older items a new life, decreasing demand for new production. Hosting or attending a yard sale also prevents many items from reaching the landfill and provides college students with an inexpensive way to acquire clothing, furniture, decor, and more. Circulating used items within a college community reduces the carbon footprint of clothing and furniture manufacturing; most manufacturers contribute to the depletion of natural resources by sourcing new, instead of recycled, materials for their products.
Although it may seem daunting at first, students have the power to change the amount of waste their campus creates. After some research, students can contact their university’s Waste Management or Environmental Board to learn more about recycling, composting, and trash collection and reduction. Requesting food vendors to switch to compostable utensils and cut out materials that are difficult to recycle such as styrofoam and certain plastics make a big difference. Students can also bring out their creative side and work with campus organizations to create flyers on proper recycling to share around campus.
Many students join environmental advocacy groups on campus and work with other students to organize events and speak with campus officials about making their university more environmentally conscious. While student groups differ at every university, PLAN, the Post Landfill Action Network, works with colleges across the country to support zero waste initiatives.
PLAN provides colleges with the option to purchase a campus membership, gain access to resources and training on zero waste initiatives and gives out discounts to zero waste companies! Learn more about PLAN’s programs on their website.
Of course no one can live a perfectly zero waste lifestyle. However, every small change to reduce waste makes a large impact. From holding a clothing swap with friends to taking on larger responsibilities such as working with campus organizations and waste management, students should feel empowered to advocate for the low waste movement.