Closeup, top-down view of two plastic water bottles.

Going Green While Saving Green

Written by Crystal Schupbach

The zero waste environmental trend has taken social media by storm. Minimalist mindsets and composting containers can be intimidating, and to college students with limited time and resources, the movement may leave you with fear of missing out. But there are many small ways you can lower your carbon footprint without spending extra time or money—it just takes some creativity.

Reuse plastic to-go containers (or don’t get your food to-go)

Styrofoam is bad for the planet and your health. The chemicals in styrofoam, including polystyrene, are considered “probable carcinogens” by the World Health Organization.

In order to avoid using one-time styrofoam leftover boxes at restaurants, which could potentially be leaching chemicals into your food, you can start bringing your own to-go containers out to eat. Chances are, if you go to Hillsdale College, you’ve had to get a to-go meal from Café Fresco or AJ’s in a plastic to-go container. Instead of throwing these away, try washing and reusing them for your occasional restaurant meal!

If it fits in your arms, don’t bag it

Plastic bags from the grocery store are almost completely non-biodegradable. While you should set aside some reusable bags for shopping, sometimes it’s difficult to remember to actually bring your reusable bags to the grocery store. Within the last year it occurred to me how often we take a plastic bag at the check-out when we really could easily carry our items. Next time you take a trip to Walmart, consider how important the convenience of a plastic bag actually is to you.

Use a reusable water bottle and a metal straw

As reported by USA Today, Americans use 1.6 plastic straws each, which becomes 175 billion straws a year. One reason many plastic straws end up in the ocean, and in turn can hurt wildlife, is that straws are too lightweight to actually recycle.

You can buy packs of reusable metal straws for a few dollars.

Many plastic water bottles do not get recycled, and buying one-use bottles can really add up. For example, if you only bought one water bottle every other day, at a cost of approximately $1.50 a bottle, that is $273 a year spent on water alone.

My favorite water bottle is actually a coffee cup. So, dig out your complementary Bon Appetit coffee cup and bring it with you wherever you go!

Buy second-hand or host a clothing swap

Instead of buying brand new clothes, consider shopping at second-hand shops like
Salvation Army, Hillsdale Community Thrift, or Goodwill, which also commit a percent of their proceeds to charity. If you are feeling particularly social, make a party out of your newfound passion for being green. Host a clothing swap at your dorm or house in which people can “shop” for a new look while repurposing their old clothes.

Hit the lights

If you are leaving your room, dorm, or house for the day, make sure to turn off the lights. Leaving the lights on wastes energy and will increase your electric bill.

Crystal SchupbachCrystal Schupbach, ’20, is a Michigan native studying psychology and journalism. A few of her favorite things include dogs, summertime concerts, and garage sales–in that order.

Published in July 2019