Opinion: Inconvenience is the New Green. Students, Follow These Going-Green Tips

"Planet vs. Plastic." With the excess production of plastic, the Earth is quickly losing a battle of survival. People need to rethink their use of plastic before it is too late. (Photo by Jessica Behrman.)

Living in a dorm on campus makes it tough to reduce waste. Even though there is access to recycling bins across campus, the inconvenience of having to sort out and drag a collection of plastic bottles and containers to find a bin often deters students. A question arises, too: can a student can trust that the materials they take the time to recycle in the right bin won’t be mixed with non-recyclable materials?

A college student has little control over meal plans and their packaging, too. After eating three meals, or using up swipes on to-go meals, garbage cans often overflow onto to campus building floors.

Environmental impacts are not going to just disappear. Often, younger generations are given the responsibility of trying to combat these problems. As a college student, being green may not be easy, but there are definitely tips to follow, the first being to accept that inconvenience is the new green.

Every student has the option to reduce, reuse and recycle. Adding “rethink” to the already existing three R’s might be the one step to make a college student on a budget with limited resources more likely to succeed.

Here is a list of a few green tips to help save the environment and, in the long run, save money. The Green Scene, located in both downtown Albion and Marshall, offers a version of all of the mentioned products.

Eating Habitats

Those to-go meals might be handy on the way to class, but is all that plastic something worth unwrapping? If you need to eat on the go but want to go green, rethinking your utensils is a good place to start.

Reusable Straw

There are several types of reusable straws, including materials with glass and steal. Some are even collapsible. Need straws regularly? Try the key chain ones!

Brands to Try: Hummingbird, Green Steal, Final Straw

Reusable Utensils

Rice bowls from the KC and sushi from the Briton Break are meals frequently bought by college students. It would save a lot of single-use plastic utensils if people reached for their already packed bamboo spoon, fork, knife and chopsticks. In some cases of bamboo utensils, a straw is even included.

Brands to Try: To-go Wear, Earth Hero, Wheat Material

Water Bottle / Reusable Cup

With sturdy bottles designs coming out from Yeti and Camelbak, the options for reusable water bottles are endless. With drinking utenils coming in the forms of cups, bottles and containers, the need for plastic or plastic foam shouldn’t be an option anymore.

While some brands are more expensive than others, in the long run, filling up a water bottle that keeps your water cold or hot for hours is a better option than single-use plastic ones. Stirling Books & Brew and Biggby Coffee will fill up your cup and give you a discount.

Brands to Try: Hydo Flask, Takeya, Ello

Sandwich Wraps / Snack Bags

Living in apartments with a little more freedom away from those meal swipes means your meals come with a little less plastic in preparing. Using plastic-free packaging becomes easier.

Let’s face it, we still have a few more years to be kids, so instead of packing that PB&J sandwich and fish-shaped crackers in plastic bags, try beeswax or washable, reusable options. So many brands and various styles are available to make eating lunch that much more green next to reusable utensils.

Brands to Try: Planet Wise, Onya Life, Lunch Skins

Laundry Routines

Plastic is seen in the production of water bottles and candy wrappers, but what most people don’t realize is that plastic has smaller forms. Microplastics are manufactured in the fabric particles that make up clothing like nylon and polyester, along with toothpastes and lotions. These microplastics are so small that even the fish don’t notice when they intake them. Plastic never goes away, so even though it can be broken down, the particles are still out there.

Rethinking your laundry routine can help reduce microplastic pollution.


Everyone does laundry, and if you don’t, you should probably start. New mixes come out with various smells and qualities to make sure those sports stains or art oil come out of clothing. There are natural ways to whiten cloth, remove stains and freshen odors, too. To start, try making sure that the detergent you buy isn’t packed full of unnecessary chemicals.

Brands to Try: Mrs. Meyers, Zum, Seventh Generation

Dryer Balls

A smart replacement for dryer sheets, full of microplastics and chemicals, is the use of dryer balls made from natural materials. The static dryer sheets reduce while giving off a clean smell is due to the chemicals that are melted from the sheet onto the particles of your clothing. Clean, warm clothes may smell good, but it comes at the cost of chemicals rubbing up against your skin.

Dryer balls can be made from various materials, but the best ones are made from 100 percent sheep wool. With no chemicals and with a drop of natural oils added to the balls before tossing it into the dryer, your clothes will smell even better. Never buy a box of dryer sheets again. A simple $10-to-$30 purchase for a pack of two to three dyer balls will last you several years.

Brands to Try: Woolzies, Smart Sheep, Stoney Mountain

Clothing Materials

Fashion may be one thing, but comfort is another. While some materials are better for athletics, cozier for pajamas or smooth for dresswear, the most naturally made material and the healthiest for skin contact is cotton. Cotton comes without those microplastics and chemical processed fibers. If you are going shopping anytime soon, take the time to rethink your choice in fabric tags.

Going Green Goal

Hopefully you already have a few of these tips in mind. If so, take action! Spread the word about a few simple steps on how to live a greener life to your friends and family. Going completely green or waste-free in college is nearly impossible, but a few small steps towards either goal now could make a big difference.

Most importantly, you have to buy this stuff somewhere, so pack your reusable bags for your shopping trip. Keep in mind the local green stores near you, too.


About Jessica Behrman 44 Articles
Jessica is a senior from Fremont, Indiana, with a goal of one day becoming a science writer. She loves the environment, anything dark chocolate and an adventurous story.

1 Comment

  1. Jessica, I really enjoyed your article on rethinking how we use resources and how we all need to think about reducing waste. Thanks for all the great ideas to make being green more convenient!

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