Going Back to School? Make it Sustainable

This year, you should absolutely choose sustainable back to school options for your new supplies and daily habits. Why? Because apart from a global pandemic, we’re living through a climate and waste crisis. 

This summer showed us that the climate crisis is here to stay with fires in the western states, floods in Michigan, and Hurricane Ida leaving 1 million people without power in Louisiana. 

Don’t get used to this new normal. Instead, you can do something about it by greening your back to school activities and organizing on campus. Here are our tips on making your back to school journey more eco-friendly. 

Eco-friendly school supplies


School can be demanding in terms of the amount of materials you need from textbooks to technology, to a durable backpack to carry everything around. Depending on your major, supplies can get extremely expensive, too. Here are some ways to minimize their impact. 


  • Take stock of what you have first: Check to see what you have that you can reuse from last year, if you’re continuing in the same major. You can also ask around to see if anyone has extra unused school supplies among your family and friends. 
  • Use non-toxic materials made from recycled content: For paper products it’s best to find pages made of 100% recycled content. This includes toilet paper! 
  • Minimize paper waste at school: Print less, use both sides of the paper, and take notes digitally. 
  • Minimize your digital footprint: Digital servers hosting cloud-based services use a lot of energy just to keep our data uploaded onto Youtube in 2017 available to us. Cancel and delete your unused accounts, delete old emails, and try using Ecosia, the search engine that plants a tree each time you search.  
  • Buy reused tech: Refurbished technology is not only more affordable, it’s better for the planet. When you buy from licensed dealers, the product usually comes with a warranty, as well. Check with your local technology dealer to learn about options for buying second hand tech. 
  • Buy used, rental, or digital textbooks: If you’re like me, you might fall in love with your textbooks and keep them too long. If you’re like most people, you keep them only as long as you need them. Save on the cost of new textbooks by choosing rented, used, or digital options--like a free pdf from the library--if possible.
  • Refillable water bottle and coffee mug: Coffee is the lifeblood of a sleepy college student. But coffee cups, even the paper ones, can’t be recycled because of the plastic lining fused to the inside of the cup. Plastic water bottles are another huge source of waste because most single use plastic never gets recycled. Minimize your waste by investing in a durable refillable water bottle and coffee mug. 

Create a capsule wardrobe with no fast fashion: 


A capsule wardrobe is this genius idea for making sure every piece of clothes in your closet can be worn in combination with everything else. It makes choosing outfits in the morning super easy, and it makes it easier to look stylish on a budget. 

For an eco-friendly capsule, you’ll want to choose basics like t-shirts, jeans, and jackets from used sources. If you can’t find what you need used, invest in something long-lasting so you’ll be able to wear it for a few years. Avoid fast fashion brands which sell the “made to break” equivalent of clothing. 

  • On a budget? Buy bundles from Goodfair:  Bundles from Goodfair give you multiples of key staples to create your capsule wardrobe. Check out our X, Y, and Z bundles which are a great way to stock up right before school starts.

Walk, bike, ride-share, or take public transportation


Our transportation is a huge source of CO2 emissions. Why contribute to the problem when you have other options. Not only are walking and biking better for you, physically, most campuses are designed to make it easy to go by wheel or foot. If you live in an area with good public transportation, this is way better than driving yourself. If not, share your car with friends and make sure you never drive alone. 

Make your lunches meatless and zero waste 

Our food habits create so much waste. It’s embarrassing, but there are so many ways to cut back. Here are a few ideas for how to make your eating habits sustainable on campus. 

  • Pack lunches in refillable containers: Reuse jars, tupperware, or beeswax wrappers to pack your lunches. 
  • Take a handkerchief: Go that extra mile with a piece of fabric you can use for basically anything: wiping your hands and face, drying your hands in the bathroom after washing, and blowing your nose. Ok, so you might want to pack two or three for different purposes. 
  • Avoid single-use plastic containers: This one’s hard, because pretty much everything “to go” gets wrapped in some kind of plastic, but if you challenge yourself you can succeed. Go to the deli with your own container and buy from the bulk section. 
  • Make your lunches meatless: The livestock and dairy industry is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a lot. Cut back on meat to help draw that number down. 
  • Eat all of your food and compost: Food waste is another huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 8% globally. Eat all of your food and with the scraps, you may want to try bokashi composting, which is perfect for small spaces. 

Moving on or off campus? Recycle your boxes

Get to know the campus recycling facilities like the back of your hand. You’re going to need them. Recycling your boxes is a great way to start. It’s possible you can even find someone else who needs to use your boxes. Get more uses out of each box before it has to be recycled. 

Set up a sustainable dorm room


Here are some key essentials to a dorm room that not only has style, it’s green. 

  • Recycling bin: Sit that bad boy right next to the trash. Then pat yourself on the back when your recycling contains more stuff than your waste basket. 
  • Take local potted plants: Bring a potted plant with you to school from your mom’s garden. It will remind you of home and it will keep your dorm room air fresh and clean. 
  • Thrifted decor: There are so many things you can thrift for your dorm room from curtains to blankets. If you have more space, you can bring a desk and chair which will have so much more character than its IKEA equivalent. Just like thrifted fashion, sustainable furniture has serious environmental benefits

Organize on campus


Do other students at your school want your university to divest from fossil fuels, resist greenwashing, or switch to all renewable energy? If so, connect with these people and take part. If nothing like this already exists, you can start an eco-friendly initiative of your own. You’ll probably find many other people who want to make a difference. 

One last thing! We've partnered with Loop and Thousand Fell for a Back to School Giveaway valued at $450+ that you won't want to miss. Check out the full details to enter on our Instagram. Be sure to enter before 9/4/2021.

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