Eco-Series: Embrace a waste-free lifestyle on campus

By Katelyn Melder
Freeform Editor

By welcoming a waste-free lifestyle, college students can lessen their harmful impact on the environment. Partially committing to this lifestyle, and improving upon my current waste production day by day, I’ve become more aware of the materials I use, where I buy from and how I can go further in reducing my overall carbon footprint.

Committing to this lifestyle on campus is difficult, but even accepting part of this change will have a positive outcome. Here are eight ways to be environmentally mindful while living on campus:

Shop secondhand and consider antiquing

When moving back on campus, it’s tempting to want to go to Wal-Mart or Target for new décor and small furniture items. Instead, go to local thrift and antique stores to find items that can be upcycled. Imagine what these items would look like reupholstered or painted. Be open-minded and think DIY.

Use Facebook Marketplace

The KU campus is filled with seniors who may no longer need their furniture or appliances. Facebook Marketplace is perfect for finding these items through other students and the surrounding community. This is how I acquired a free, nearly-new Target desk from a family in Harrisburg.

Turn down free promotional items

Since arriving at KU, I have been handed bottle-openers, cups, bundles of papers, folders, drawstring bags, pom-poms, pens and t-shirts, among other miscellaneous items. They may seem like necessities at the time, but they aren’t. Turn down what you don’t need or know you’ll throw out, and leave it for a peer who could benefit from it more.

Keep, donate and reuse plastic grocery bags

Keep Use the bags for packing when moving in and out of the dorm every year. Bags can keep fragile objects protected without needing to buy bubble wrap or wrap them with clothing, which you will later need to unpack.

Donate Check with local daycares and animal shelters and ask if they accept plastic bag donations. I donate a lot of bags to daycares, and they use them to bag diapers, make crafts and bag up accidents.

Reuse Instead of accumulating hundreds of bags, actually use the ones you already have.

Make cleaning eco-friendly

When it comes to cleaning, college students tend to stick with convenience. Swiffer and Clorox are our best friends when it comes to cleaning our dorm rooms. There are, however, better brands available.

Out of habit, I always buy Mrs. Meyers for the kitchen and laundry basics if I have the spare change. I’ve recently discovered Thieves, a product distributed by Young Living. To use this product, I’ve bought a reusable glass spray bottle, and I use the multi-purpose powder, which becomes cleanser when mixed with water. This provides a non-synthetic cleaner that smells like lemons or whichever oils you prefer.

There is a multitude of eco-friendly cleaning brands to consider, including (but not limited to) Method, Seventh Generation, Ecos, J.R. Watkins and Green Works.

Make your lunch supplies reusable

Swap out plastic baggies, bottles, flatware, brown paper bags and straws for reusable items. Each of these items can be swapped for higher-quality, reusable items that can save some money and prevent the use of more plastics.

Fill your shower with plastic-free products

Sunrise Soaps, Ethique, Beauty and the Bees and Lush Cosmetics offer shampoo, conditioner and body wash in soap bars. These products eliminate plastic waste, come in a variety of scents and support the ethical practices of the businesses who sell them. Most bar products need to be ordered online, so try buying on Etsy or through a local shop.

Try out local farmer’s markets

Here at KU, Renninger’s Antique and Farmer’s Market is the best location to buy local food products. Corporate agriculture has slowly been creating issues related to the destruction of local farming, producing environmental accidents and the risks of public health due to food-borne illnesses and has been adding to the world’s carbon footprint due to transportation. You can avoid supporting these practices by shopping at locally-sourced food markets.


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