Most of us know the basics of composting and recycling. But, if you have ever wondered if there is more you can do, the answer is yes! Stepping into the world of zero waste can be overwhelming at first glance. There are so many things we use every day that end up in our local landfills that it can feel like it is useless to try. But never fear, there are small steps we can all take, even as young adults, that reduce our contribution to landfills.
We are all guilty of giving into fast fashion. Brands like Shein and Fashion Nova offer what seems like infinite options when it comes to clothing. Their websites are updated daily with new styles to buy. The problem with these clothing brands is that they do not pay their workers a living wage and use materials that require petroleum to make. Plus, after you buy a new outfit from them, you have to get rid of some of the clothes you already own to make space, contributing to landfill waste.
Try shopping at second-hand stores. In the age of the internet, there is more than just your local thrift shop to choose from. Apps like Poshmark, depop, and ThreadUp make it easy to buy (and sell) gently worn items.
Now is also the time to invest in a reusable cups and containers. Many cities are introducing a disposable cup tax, which can add up quickly if you get coffee often. Single-use cups are hard to recycle due to the lining that keeps the liquid from seeping out, so most end up in the landfill. A bonus to a reusable mug is it keeps your hot drink warm for hours.
Having your own container can also come in handy at the dining halls. Some do not allow you to take food out of them, but if your dining hall does, try to pack up your extra food in some Tupperware. They might not let you do this, depending on health code, but it never hurts to ask if you can put the food in your reusable container to save for later.
Every college has some Facebook group that is dedicated to giving away stuff. Whether that be textbooks or an old couch, you can find some real gems on Facebook Marketplace for a fraction of the cost (and sometimes free!). By buying from Facebook and Craigslist, you are keeping perfectly good things out of the landfill while also saving some money. Also, don’t be afraid to list some of your things on these sites, too!
If you enjoy cooking, this one is for you. Chances are, you have a random plastic container lying around. That plus a window is all you need to start your own little garden, even if it is in a cramped apartment. Fill the container with soil, add some seeds, and water it. And there you go, at home garden. (It works great for smaller herbs and lettuces!)
Madonna had it right! We are living in a material world. We see materialism in the influencers we follow, and it is time we get rid of that narrative. We don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy. I am sure if you’ve ever cleaned out your room you ended up throwing away trash bags full of stuff. Random things that you didn’t even know you had. And, most of the time, we just toss that stuff into the garbage. Now that you are older and on your own and can make decisions for yourself, it’s time to retrain your brain into making thoughtful purchases. You don’t need to have everything! Before you buy, check-in with yourself and make sure you will use the thing more than once!