Sustainability is all the trend nowadays: from Starbucks going straw free to restaurants offering compostable single-use plastics, sustainability has infiltrated restaurants, kitchens, and Instagram feeds. Out of all the trends that have taken over the internet, I am glad that this one makes the world a better place not only for us but for the generations to come. But I didn’t always feel this way. How is one plastic straw or one plastic cup going to negatively impact the climate, the polar bears, or my life in any way? I thought. The truth of the matter is that it won’t, at least not immediately. But when billions of people think the same way, plastic enters our oceans, trash fills the landfills. Eventually, we will be forced to face the consequences. It is better to make a few small, sustainable adjustments to help our planet now than to wait for the situation to become even more dire. As a student, there are small ways to live more sustainably. Because I am an economics student, I am aware of students’ concerns about the price they will have to pay to be sustainable. But the costs of living a sustainable lifestyle–a tiny extra amount of time, energy, and effort–are greatly outweighed by their benefits: less waste, a healthier planet, a more sustainable life.
Here are a few easy tips for students who want to be more sustainable!
If you’re new to sustainability, straws are a great way to start. Making a more sustainable straw choice, whether plant-based or reusable, is easy to implement in your life. I enjoy using my reusable silicon straw from Seastraws Co., a paper/reusable straw company founded by NYU students! Get your own here. However, if you’re a boba fanatic like me, a wide straw is also a necessity.
I like to bring my own mason jar to coffee shops: not only does it make me look ten times more hipster, but I’m also reducing the use of single-use plastic. In addition, lots of places give you a discount for bringing your own mug/thermos, including Boba Guys and Starbucks.
The fashion industry is the second-most polluting industry in the world. The rise of fast-fashion, the production of cheap clothes that are worn for one season and thrown out the next, not only creates large amounts of waste but also encourages unfair labor practices. While it is true that ethically-produced, better quality clothing will cost more, it will last longer and have a better environmental impact. Buying fewer cheap items will save you money in the long run. Instead of buying a new item of clothing next time, check out your local thrift store or Poshmark. Click here for a complete guide on buying ethical clothes.
Using locally grown products has many benefits, both personal and societal. Foods grown locally are healthier for you: they have more nutrients because, instead of traveling for weeks in an airplane, they are allowed to ripen naturally. Reducing the distance your food has to travel to get to you also decreases the amount of pollution used to transport your food. Finally, buying local supports farmers in your community and their families. Even though the eggs from your farmers’ market is more expensive than, say, a $2 dozen of eggs, the food you are putting into your body is healthier and safer for you and has a positive impact on both the ecosystem and the farmers in your community.
An easy way to cut down on plastic waste while grocery shopping is to use reusable produce bags. I use a combination mesh and linen produce bags from Whole Foods, which are very similar to these. A bigger way to make the way you grocery shop more sustainable would be to go to a waste-free grocery store, such as Precycle NYC. Everything–from cleaning supplies and pickles to pasta and spices–is sold without packaging. You bring your own clean container and buy in bulk! Buying food that’s without plastic packaging likely that it’s not processed–meaning it’s probably healthier for you than a bag of potato chips or a package of candy.