5 ways to reduce your waste (and save your money)
By Mackenzie Mason, Staff Writer
While we’ve all been focused on a certain global crisis (COVID-19), there’s another global crisis that has been ignored for decades — the waste problem.
Waste is produced faster than it can be managed nowadays. Since plastic doesn’t decompose, it has made its way into the oceans from our rivers and streams and is creating major problems for not only sea life, but also land animals and ourselves.
It’s easy to feel helpless, especially as young adults, but there’s many ways students can help the planet – and their bank accounts – by reducing their waste.
Here are five ways students can reduce their waste while saving money:
Bring a reusable water bottle
This is an easy swap from disposable to single-use water bottles that I think most of us put into action in our daily lives, but if you don’t this is a great place to start. There’s so many different water bottles you can choose from to fit your lifestyle – hard plastic, metal, silicone collapsible water bottles, filtered water bottles, etc.
Not only would bringing a reusable water bottle to school save the environment, but it would also save you money and us students need all the help we can get. Let’s say you bought two water bottles a day, five days a week at school for $2. It doesn’t seem like a lot in the moment, but in just a hundred days that’s over 500 water bottles and just over $1,000.
So grab that reusable water bottle and you could go on a nice weekend trip to the mountains, or eat some good food or just put it towards your student loan debt… whatever you want.
Bring a reusable coffee cup/mug
Us university students LOVE our coffee, and if you’re anything like me you’re stopping at Tim’s at least once a school day. Over time, those single-use coffee cups add up and you’re making a big contribution to the waste problem. But don’t worry, there are easy solutions!
First, the easiest and cheapest way to reduce your waste would be to bring your own coffee or tea to school from home. You use the coffee you already paid for in your own travel mug that you already had.
Sometimes, this just doesn’t hit the same and that’s understandable. Thankfully, Tim’s and Starbucks sell a medium/grande sized reusable coffee cup that looks the same as its disposable cups for around $2-3 and will put your drink you ordered in that cup when you buy it. Then you have your cup for next time!
Pack your own lunch
Wyckham House — like losing a sock in the dryer — is where we lose our money. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Packing your own lunch is not only better for your bank account, but it’s better for your health and the planet’s health!
By packing your own lunch, you can make conscious decisions of how you’re fueling your body for the day and the best way to pass that test is to feed your body properly. Eating a balanced meal will give you the brain-food you need during a long day of classes.
Bringing your own lunch also saves you from spending $10 on a meal that won’t give your brain the nutrients it needs to succeed and it also saves the planet from another disposable, single-use container that will most likely be on the planet longer than you will. It’s a win-win-win!
Bring your own cutlery
Bringing your own cutlery means you’re always prepared, whether you brought your own lunch or not. I ordered a few sets of cutlery for $18 online that came with a metal fork, spoon, knife, two straws and a straw cleaner.
I carry one with me wherever I go so I can always skip out on the small stuff like plastic straws and plastic forks. Though most of the time the plastic cutlery is complimentary, you can feel good that you saved the planet of another single-use plastic item.
Once you run out of something, replace it
If you feel passionate about reducing your waste, it’s easy to feel intimidated and give up before you even start. But take a deep breath because everyone has to start somewhere and if you already do some of these tips then you’re further along than most people!
The easiest way to get started is to replace the items you’ve run out of with zero-waste alternatives.
Think about your bathroom. Running out of shampoo or conditioner? Consider swapping to shampoo and conditioner bars. They usually last longer than a bottle of shampoo, making it more worth your money! Out of toothpaste? Consider toothpaste tablets or powder. If you need a new toothbrush, bamboo alternatives are available that can be composted after it’s life. Makeup wipes add up very quickly and take a while to decompose. Switching to reusable cotton rounds or a microfiber round is better for your face and the environment.
For groceries, bringing your own bags is a great first step. Then, consider buying in the bulk sections and filling up your own containers, rather than using their disposable bags. You can also purchase reusable produce bags, and take it one step further by trying to buy “naked” produce (unpackaged, unprepped produce).
This way, you can slowly introduce yourself to a new lifestyle instead of switching all at once and getting overwhelmed and ultimately giving up. Calgary is home to a few refilleries and zero-waste markets such as Canary Goods, The Apothecary and Nudemarket as well as options such as Bulk Barn and Lush that can help you make the switch to zero-waste.
We are the leaders of the future, but we can make little decisions today to reduce our waste and promise ourselves a better future.