Move over, fast fashion. There’s a new trend in town.  Over the last few years, sustainable living, in all its various forms, has kept in stride with the big trends of the last decade. The constant flow of paranoia that says our planet is dying on our watch seems to have awoken sustainability movements across different lifestyles and ages, especially in the fashion and lifestyle industry.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013, the average American contributed 4.4 pounds of waste per day.  According to Save On Energy, with 323.7 million people on earth, we’re filling up around 63,000 garbage trucks a day. That’s a lot. Since thinking about this topic the past few months, I’ve been taking notice of how much waste I create. There’s the more obvious trash, like napkins, straws, cups and makeup wipes, but there’s also the packaging on the birthday present your mom sent you, skincare bottles, menstrual products and contact lenses.  Is it even possible to live waste-free? Waste is woven into our society without any thought of negative consequences, such as how it affects animals.

Plastic bags, for example, have a huge impact on animals.  When they get into the ocean, sea creatures like turtles think they’re jellyfish and swallow them; the bag expands in their stomachs, and because the animals think they’re full, they starve to death.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pointed out that because of pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss, bumble bees are dying off -- one species, the rusty patched bumble bee, has even been put on the endangered species list.  Bumble bees help pollinate plants and crops, and are very important to the earth.

As more research comes out about climate change, ecosystem destruction, and recyclable goods in landfills, people are starting to take action.  In recent years, articles, blogs, and YouTube videos devoted entirely to tips on creating less waste have surfaced by the millions; when I googled “tips on being waste-free”, 136,000,000 results came up. People are curious, and just enough curiosity may be able to help our environment.

Let’s hope this trend is here to stay.

It’s hard to be environmentally conscious as college students, but here are some easy tips you can implement in your daily life!  Even the tiny act of replacing one plastic bag with a reusable bag could save the life of a sea turtle.

1.  This has been a popular trend lately, but I use a reusable water bottle every day.  With all the water bottle filling stations around college campuses today, there’s never a shortage of fountains and refill stations, so you may as well take advantage of them. Plus, you can decorate your bottle with cool stickers!

2.  I now grocery shop with a cloth bag, and Target even offers a reusable bag discount!

3.  I’m in a group of 10 gal pals, and when we drive anywhere, all of us pile into only two or three cars.  That way, we are decreasing the amount of fumes being put into the air. (This is beside the fact that only three of us have cars…)

4.  I really try to not take more food in the dining hall then I’m going to eat.  There are so many hungry people, not just in global south countries, but even in North Carolina, that I don’t want to throw away any food if I can.  Not only is this ethically wasteful, but there is so much water that goes into growing the crops that feed animals; only taking one bite of a hamburger before throwing it in the garbage isn’t acceptable.  This discarded food ends up in landfills, and an exorbitant amount of energy goes into disposing of it.

5.  Try making a homemade cup of coffee, or bring a mug to your favorite coffee shop!  Making one at home saves you a ton of money a year. (The average American spends around $1,100 a year on coffee.  Yikes.).

My next endeavors are to try buying in bulk with mason jars and reusable bags next year when I don’t have a meal plan.  I made some DIY toothpaste in a mason jar, and I hope to see good results!

Even ordering a soda without a straw, or a cocktail without an umbrella is a step in the right direction.  So go out and change your corner of the world!

Some of my favorite helpful videos and blog posts:

  • The entirety of is devoted to more sustainable, simpler, and more intentional living.  I think everyone today, including myself, could use a little bit of all three.

  • and Trash is for Tossers on YouTube.  Lauren has been zero-waste for four years!  She offers great advice on how to take steps that way yourself.

Here are some of your favorite companies experimenting with waste-free lifestyles!





Thumbnail image taken by Caroline Farrell