Kick off the school year on a green foot

Today is the first day of classes… for most people :). I have Mondays off, so blog post it is!

Personally, one of my biggest struggles as an environmental studies student is maintaining a green lifestyle on little to zero budget. We all want to tread lightly, but most of the time, big box stores offer the best deals and the eco-friendly option is forgotten about. As another school year winds up, I have some green habits to share that can also save you some cash!

If you have any other ideas I didn’t include, please share in the comments!

Rethink your back to school shopping tradition.  Is it really necessary to purchase a brand new wardrobe for the upcoming year? Take some time to determine what you already have and what you actually need to purchase. Try second-hand stores and local clothing swaps for cheap new clothing (you could even organize your own on campus!). Also evaluate your current stock of school supplies. Only purchase what is truly necessary, and try to opt for products made with post-consumer recycled content! If you need to upgrade your laptop, be sure to dispose of it responsibly (through an e-waste recycling program) and choose an energy-efficient model.

While this one is quite obvious, it can be the most challenging to maintain: pack your own lunch. While it will take some extra time out of your day to prepare, this habit will make the most significant impact on your bank account. There are some excellent lunch bags, containers and thermos’ on the market to suit the needs of any diet and ensure that you pack a healthy, delicious lunch! Wake up 10 minutes earlier in the morning to brew your own cup of (fair trade) coffee in a to-go mug and toast a bagel (or any other quick breakfast). Making your own breakfast costs a fraction of what you would pay on campus.

If your city has a Farmers’ Market, I strongly recommend going to buy your fresh produce there. Some campuses even have their own weekly market (we do here at Waterloo! It’s great!). Not only does it taste better and support your local farmers, it can also be much cheaper too. Don’t forget to bring your own reusable bags! I like  making these produce bags out of old t-shirts.

If you’re tired of taking transit and live close enough to campus, try commuting by bicycle. Not only is it a great opportunity to stay in shape, it may even take you less time to get to class! All the more reason to feel good about a zero-emission commute. If you’re an urban-dweller, it may even be worth getting a bike-share membership if it is available. If you must commute by car, check your school’s rideshare postings to see if you can carpool with other classmates and save money on gas.

Tired of purchasing textbooks? Many campuses now offer textbook rentals to students for a lower price. There are also websites that offer online versions of the textbook for a reduced price. Sharing with a friend is also an option. I haven’t bought any brand new textbooks since first year (I was once a keener). Now I only buy used via the campus used book store, through textbook exchange groups on Facebook, or share with a friend.

These ideas won’t necessarily save you money, but they are great ways to keep a green lifestyle and give back:

  • Get yourself (and your roommates, if you have them!) on board with composting if your city offers a green bin program. You can even start your own backyard compost if your landlord allows it.
  • Join a new club on campus and donate your time to a project that greens your campus or community. This is a great resume builder too!
  • Donate any old clothing, furniture, housewares, used books, obsolete textbooks to a local charity if you can. Many will even offer pick-up, so it’s worth doing a bit of Google-searching!

Happy term everyone!

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