Living Zero Waste in College


Photo by Sawyer Morton

I recently graduated college. This means, I’ve moved back in with my parents and am officially on the job hunt. Like I expected, the move back in has not been easy, and not because I don’t get along with my family-but because of their non-zero waste lifestyle. Before college, I thought of my family as being especially eco-friendly. We never bought paper towels, we composted, and we ate vegetarian quite frequently. And even though I still believe my parents are quite environmentally conscious in comparison to most people, there is room for improvement. Looking back, I realize that my life as a college student was probably the most eco -friendly it will ever be, and this is why.


1.)  I walked everywhere.

Although I resided in Los Angeles, an area known for being extremely automobile-centric, I hardly ever needed a reason to drive. My school campus, job and all my friends were a 10-minute walk away. I walked to the Whole Foods, and to the Farmer’s Market every Thursday. Even if I did need a car, I would carpool using rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. Everywhere I needed to go was simply within walking distance: a phenomenon I recognize might never happen again in my life.


2.) I cooked my own food.

I feel privileged to say that I never lived in the college dorms, and instead rented an apartment. Because of this, I was able to cook all my own meals. I am always surprised to see how many college students not know how to cook. Many of my past roommates always seemed to order in from Postmates or buy pre-packaged foods from Trader Joes. I have always loved cooking but in my senior year, I found zero waste and began consciously grocery shopping. No longer was I buying pre-packaged food. I found that not only was this choice healthier, but also so much cheaper!


3.) I was in control of my own purchases.

Consciously buying is extremely important to me. It is my own small form of daily activism. I feel great whenever I give my money to local farmers, small businesses, or towards a cause I feel just. When I was living on my own, I had total control of my purchases. I wasn’t living with my family or boyfriend and so I could buy and use whatever eco-friendly products I wanted without judgement. Although I still pay for most of my purchases, things like food and dishwashing liquid, or toilet paper are not my choices to make anymore. My parents are super receptive to my suggestions (…most of the time) but living at home made me realize just how much freedom I had to buy what I want.

I definitely do not plan on living at home forever. Once I get a job, I plan to get back to living on my own and making my own lifestyle decisions. However, the smallness of college living is something that is extremely unique and that I never took for granted. Without a doubt, I think I will forever envy that time in my life where my carbon footprint was tiny and everything I needed was just a small walk away.


Written by Sawyer Morton

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