Getting Ready for Back to School Zero Waste Style!!!

It’s that time of year again!! For many of you that means going away to college! I graduated from college last year, and miss it more everyday. If I could go back, I would definitely be more conscious of my waste. I can’t believe the amount of coffee to go cups, plastic utensils, and to go containers that I used whilst in college. What’s even crazier is that my school was against plastic water bottles. And yet they still used plastic utensils, straws, and plastic cups for parties and other college events. In this guide, I will explore how you can go zero waste whilst in college! 

(Side Note) Whilst in college, I was vegan and a minimalist. By avoiding the meat, I didn’t get sick as often as my friends. The minimalist lifestyle helped me get ready in 10 minutes. This allowed me to get more sleep, stay organized, and get all of my work done and go out with my friends on the weekends.



After the first day of classes, you will see a whole bunch of people swarm into the local book store to find all their necessary books for class. Once they grab their books and go to the register to check out, their eyes will go from happy to anger. "How did I spend around 1,000 dollars on books alone?" What if I told you that I only spent 100 dollars on books each year? As an anthropology major, who also took way to many English classes, I had to purchase at least 30 books each semester. Instead of purchasing them brand new from the bookstore, I used sites like, to find cheap second hand books. A couple of times I was also able to find free pdf’s online of the books, but I recommend checking with your professor to make sure it’s the correct version.


Tote Bag:

This one is easy, but not everyone thinks about it. Fun Fact: No one cares what you use as a backpack in college. It’s crazy when people feel the need to spend all of this money on an expensive backpack because they are going off to college. For my freshman and sophomore year I used the same bag from high school. After it fell apart, I decided to buy a new one. Why did I purchase a new bag, when I had a ton of good bags laying around the house?! Instead of investing in something that you are only going to use for the next two years, use a tote bag that you already own as a backpack.

Reusable Water Bottle:

My school would allow us to re-fill your reusable water bottles for free! Why did I buy bottles of water?! Seriously, I am kicking myself right now for all the plastic bottles I wasted. My school even provided everyone with a reusable water bottle, but I wouldn't use it because it made the water taste like metal. The more I drank from the bottle, the less the water taste like metal. Always bring your reusable water bottle.


Shower Items:

I bought a plastic caddy, that definitely came in handy all four years. Once I graduated from college, I threw it away. Looking back at my four years, I definitely think that I could have gone without it. You can use metal containers to put your shampoo and soap bars into when you go into the shower.

(Side Note) I would invest in a nice pair of flip flops or water shoes for the shower. By purchasing items that will last, you will also be able to use these flip flops or water shoes for the beach or pool.

To Go Items:

I had back to back classes with only a few minutes to woof down some food that was supposed to last me for the next five hours until dinner. Class schedules are tough, and I understand that it’s more convenient to grab some take out. I would recommend grabbing some food at the dinning hall during breakfast for later. I know my school was completely against bringing in your own containers because of “germs”, but I knew tons of people who did it without any problem. You just need to know how to work within the system.



I am guilty of purchasing a whole bunch of new clothes from H&M, Forever 21, and Zara for my freshman year of college. I also brought all of my clothes to school with me. I only wore about half of the clothes that were in my room. I realized that by having a capsule wardrobe in college, I was more productive and it only took me 10 minutes to get ready in the morning. I would recommend looking at your wardrobe before getting rid of anything that you think makes you look like a high schooler, because no one cares in college. Everyone is too concerned with their own problems. Also, my school had a free bin that people who throw clothes into when they didn’t want them anymore. Anyone could go into the free bin at any point throughout the year and take some clothes. Just make sure to wash them before you wear them.


I know that everyone in your school probably uses clorax wipes and other chemicals to clean their spaces. For your daily cleaning needs, I highly recommend using white vinegar and water in a spray bottle, to clean your dresser and floor, vodka and water in a spray bottle to help freshen up your bed and pillows, and soap bar, washing soda, and baking soda for laundry detergent. These are all easy to make and you will feel better using on a daily basis. 


Makeup and other non-necessity items:

For many, makeup isn’t a necessity but I love wearing it. I love it more now that I am can make it myself. I use arrowroot powder and cacao powder as a face powder. For my mascara I will burn a tablespoon of almonds, crush or grind them until they forum a powder, add a tablespoon or two of melted coconut oil and beeswax. Put it into the fridge to solidify over night. Both of these recipes are fun, easy, and don’t break the bank, which is an essential in college. 

For other items like bed risers, storage containers, and other items that seem useless after graduation, I would recommend purchasing them second hand from previous students. Each year, seniors are constantly trying to pawn off their stuff for super cheap, fridges, hot plates, microwaves, and other items that they can’t take home with them.

Get Involved:

Why stop your impact with just yourself. Start a club and get others involved in making your school a little bit more waste free. During my time in college, there was a big initiative for the campus to go plastic bottle free. Why stop there. Why not try to help your school go entirely plastic free. By standing up for your belifs, you are inspiring others to make a difference and spread positive reinforcement. I wish that someone had inspired me to join their club and help make my life a little bit more package free whilst in college.

Remember that these next four years will be the best four years of your life, but it will also be the most stressful, anxiety inducing four years of your life.  By using this guide, you will make your next four years a little less expensive and package free! Zero in on Your Impact and make sure that you leave your college better than you found it.