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12 Green Living Tips for College Students to Live Sustainably (2024 Guide)

Early morning and late-night classes, eating at the dining hall, chaotic schedules, trekking around the campus no matter the distance, staying late to write my assignments, looking for quick results and grades, we’ve all had our share of the college! 

But when trying to live a green and zero-waste lifestyle at school, things become more challenging. Without proper planning, will you practice the sustainable lifestyle you envision? 

Admittedly, there is no way you can have a 100% eco-friendly lifestyle in college. You still have to use buses for transportation, toss the occasional Starbucks coffee cup, or trash papers after solving pages upon pages of math

So, how do you live sustainably in college? 

Luckily, you can become much more eco-friendly just by taking little steps!

Today, we’re sharing some easy tips for green living to help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle during the busy campus life.

Let’s jump right in! 

12 Easy Green Living Tips for College Students

1. Become An Avid Recycler 

One of the simplest green living tips for college students is to dust off your laziness and get into the habit of active recycling. Most schools have recycling programs and your little acts can determine whether your waste may be recycled or not. 

Tips for recycling:

  • Tinfoil should be recycled in bulk because small amounts of tinfoil won’t weigh into the amount required for recycling
  • Black plastics (like the ones microwave meals come in) are not recycled as they are invisible to many recycling scanners. Choose options that do not use this kind of plastic. 
  • Your recycling must be clean before you put it into the recycling bin. Contaminated recycling is segregated and sent to landfills. 
  • Check which types of plastic your local recycling center accepts and try to only use those types of plastic. 

By recycling properly, you are actively supporting the green planet cause and fighting the plastic waste crisis!

Check out this video to learn how to recycle properly: 


2. Compost Your Food Waste 

Another way to ensure you support a greener planet is using compost. Many schools have compost systems or a community garden to compost waste. 

If your school has composting system, food leftovers and scraps can be composted instead of being sent to landfills with the garbage.   

However, if your school doesn’t have composting system, you can make your own in the garden or you can use a composting appliance or worm farm to decompose your food waste and turn it into compost. 

Composting eliminates the greenhouse gasses (methane) that are emitted when food rots in a landfill. Methane is greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change.  

This video provides more insight into this: 


3. Use Reusable Water Bottle and Cup

Plastic is a major material militating against a greener planet. As they don’t decompose easily, they end up causing problems to natural habitats and the sea. 

You can live a greener lifestyle by getting a permanent and durable water bottle. It could be a plastic, glass, or stainless-steel bottle that you can refill and use instead of single-use plastic water bottles. 

A reusable coffee cup will help you avoid single-use plastic coffee cups from Starbucks or campus cafes. An insulated steel tumbler will keep your coffee or tea temperature regulated throughout the day, thereby providing a better alternative to buying single-use cups. 

4. Make a Zero-Waste Kit to Carry with You

Instead of using single-use plastic materials, why not get a zero-waste kit for all your essentials? 

In the kit, you may have your reusable cup, reusable bottle, a cloth napkin, a reusable straw, stainless and microwavable food containers, your signature cutlery, a reusable tote bag, and anything else that will help you eliminate disposable and single-use plastic items from your day-to-day life on campus.

Analyze where you’re creating the most waste, and work out how to change that and add what you need to your zero-waste kit.  

Green Living Tips for College Students - Zero-Waste Lunch Kit

5. Use Eco-friendly Textbooks, Notebooks, Handouts, and Planners 

We all know one thing that puts a significant threat to our eco-friendly cause is books. How will we manage handouts, textbooks, and stationeries to avoid global waste? 

You can start by buying secondhand textbooks and recycled paper stationery. Choose items that you can re-sell or recycle when you’re done with them. You should opt for wooden stationery over plastic, and choose items that can be repurposed. 

Go paperless as much as possible – use the digital version of your textbooks, take notes electronically, and submit as many assignments by email as possible. 

Apart from going zero waste, you are actively reducing paper usage, which reduces the impacts of commercial forestry and the papermaking industry. 

This video goes into more detail on the benefits and drawbacks of going paperless in college: 


6. Reduce Your Transportation Impacts 

Cars and busses are major sources of carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change. To maintain a zero-waste lifestyle, choose to walk or ride a bicycle instead. Bicycles are a very campus-friendly alternative to taking taxis. They contribute nothing to global emissions and they will save you a lot of money in the long run too. 

Green Living Tips for College Students- Female Students with Bicycle and a tablet sitting on the grass

If you do need to use a car, cab or taxi service, car pool and ride share as much as possible. If three of you use one car instead of three separate cars, that is one third of the emissions to achieve the same thing! 

7. Take a Minimalist Approach to Buying Things 

One of the most overlooked green living tips is to simply buy less. The most eco-friendly and sustainable item there is, is the one you already own

Reuse things, upcycle them and extend their lifespan. This applies to everything from household furniture to clothing! Don’t buy something new if you don’t need it.  

Interested in Mindful Consumption and Switching to Eco-friendly Alternatives? 

Check out these great resources:

8. Buy Cleaning Products and Toiletries in Bulk

One seemingly counterintuitive green living tip is to buy in bulk. Buying in bulk saves money and reduces the amount of packaging you use and reduces the environmental impact of multiple trips to the store to buy things. 

Buy bulk of the non-perishable items you will definitely use regularly – laundry detergent, dish soap, bath soap, shampoo and conditioner etc. 

These products keep for a long time, and you can refill smaller containers from the bulk ones. It is much easier to clean and recycle one large container than it is to do the same for 12 small ones! 

Green Living Tips for college students- Buying Bulk Soap

9. Don’t Buy Excess Perishables 

Don’t buy excess food or anything that will spoil before you can use it all. Most students live on a budget, so this favors you. Leftover food and drinks often end up in the trash and not your stomach, which is a waste of money as well as food

Plan your meals and buy only what you need. If you have leftovers or excess ingredients, plan meals that will use up those items. 

10. Say No to the Freebies

Yes, students jump at freebies. Well, who doesn’t want free things? However, it could prove detrimental to your zero-waste cause. 

Ask yourself if you really need or like an item, and if you will really use it, before you take it. It might be tempting but if you won’t use another plastic water bottle or you know you won’t wear that cap… Don’t take them! 

If you must take them, donate or give them away to someone else who will use it. Otherwise, it will just end up in your trash.

11. Buy Vintage and Secondhand Clothes 

Apart from saving tons of cash, you will divert a huge amount of waste from going to landfills! Fast fashion sends billions of tons of clothes to landfills every year. 

So called Slow Fashion is a more thoughtful and sustainable alternative. You can get great clothes that have been lightly worn, or repaired for re-sale.

One notable ‘worn wear’ brand is Patagonia, they have a whole section for clothes that have been repaired to be resold at a discounted price. 

However, if you don’t like the idea of buying worn and repaired clothes, you can shop for cheap clothes at local charities and vintage shops. eBay and Depop are also good places where you can buy good clothes. 

Check out this video for some great online stores for pre-owned and vintage clothing:


By buying worn and vintage clothes, you save the landfills of huge unworn clothes that pollute the environment. 

12. Change Your Eating and Cooking Habits 

One other way to live a zero-waste lifestyle in college is by upscaling your cooking and eating habits. There are a few changes you can make to your eating habits that will help you live a more-eco-friendly lifestyle and reduce waste. They include: 

  • Cook for Yourself 

Instead of buying takeout or pre-packed foods in plastic or styrofoam, you can make a difference by cooking yourself. You can buy whole foods and raw foods at groceries and cook them yourself. This is heathier, more cost-effective and it is much better for the environment! 

  • Have A Modest Table

Don’t buy or cook food that you cannot eat. Excess food and drinks end up in the trash can thereby, adding to global wastage. You can make a difference by buying the right amount of food that you can eat. Additionally, it would save you some extra bucks. 

When food goes to landfills, it rots and produces methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas and is a significant driver of global warming. Choosing to buy only as much as you need reduces the amount of food you will potentially waste. 

  • Use a Food Flask or Sealed Microwavable Dish with a Lid 

You could keep your excess leftovers in flasks or microwavable dishes. Sealed containers keep food fresh for longer, and you can heat leftovers up and eat them again. These containers are usually made of silicone, glass, or steel, and will easily fit into your school bag. You can put your food or snacks in them, or your leftovers. 


Green living in college is both super easy, and super hard. You have to build a pattern of behaviors that ensure you don’t generate excess waste and limit your contributions to climate change. 

Luckily, the simple green living tips we have covered here today will help you do just that – one small step at a time! 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much plastic waste does a college student produce?

The research established that an average college student accounts for 640 pounds of trash annually. This trash accumulates more during the end of the session. Check out the full guide for ways to reduce the waste you produce in college.

What are greening initiatives in colleges and universities? 

Greening initiatives are green project ideas by colleges aimed at students to take active roles in protecting the ecology. It may include planting trees creating green living awareness, and campaigns, amongst others. Check out the full guide for more geen living tips.

How can college students reduce waste on campus?

Students can reduce waste on campus by implementing some or all of the following. 
● Promote usage of recyclable papers, cardboards, plastic, cans, and glass
● Go paperless and use digital alternatives
● Promote waste reduction and incentivize students about going zero waste
● Rally against food wastage
● Create decompose system
● Go biking or trekking. 
Check out the full guide for more easy green living tips.

What are the best green living tips for students?

Students can live a greener lifestyle on campus by doing the following. 
● Taking notes electronically
● Using reusable bottle waters and cups 
● Recycling wastes
● Buying in bulk
● Buying less and borrowing more
● Trekking or going biking instead of taking cabs
● Avoid using single-use utensils
Check out the full guide for more easy green living tips for college students.

References and Useful Resources

US Environmental Protection Agency: Recycling Basics  

The Atlantic: Online Shopping and Accumulation of Junk 

Eco Friendly Habits: How to be Eco-friendly  

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