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Four simple items that make sustainable college living easy, affordable

Ali Gold | Senior Editor

Wake up. Turn the bedside lamp on. Brush teeth. Buy coffee at Whispers Cafe. Go to class. Eat a snack. Stop by the bookstore. It’s a fairly mundane morning routine at Washington University. So mundane, in fact, that we are unlikely to ever question it.

However, our daily routines comprise our long-term shopping and spending habits, which inform supply and demand on a macro scale. These routines deserve some intentionality–especially with the climate crisis afoot. Amidst the immense amount of demands on a college student’s time–essays, exams, job applications and extracurricular commitments–it may feel as though there is scant time to think clearly about which habits may be harming you and the environment.

Over the past several months, I’ve swapped out items that are central to my daily routine with far more sustainable counterparts. I’ve compiled my four favorite items, all available on campus or within walking distance. These items have saved me a lot of time, money and ‘I’m-contributing-to-the-downfall-of-this-climate’-induced stress. Remember: The best practice in sustainability is usually (but not always) to use up whatever you have left of already-purchased, less eco-friendly products before replacing them with more eco-friendly ones.

Stasher bags, available at the Wash. U. Campus Store
I didn’t even know reusable plastic baggies existed until last semester. Since then, my Stasher reusable silicone bag has made my eating habits far more convenient and simple. Stashers come in a variety of sizes, just like disposable plastic bags: half gallon, sandwich, snack, pocket and stand-up. There’s very little a Stasher can’t do–it can hold any snack I toss its way, it can store fresh ingredients, it can be microwaved and it can be placed in the oven, freezer or fridge. Best of all, unlike many other types of reusable food containers, a Stasher is dishwasher safe. A Stasher pays for itself; you’ll drastically reduce your need for cling wrap and plastic bags. Prices vary based on size and bundle type.

Humble Brush Bamboo Toothbrush, available at Walgreens on Big Bend
Fun fact: Every plastic toothbrush you’ve ever used still exists on this planet. After this realization struck me, I decided to try a biodegradable toothbrush. In addition to offering zero-waste toothpaste tabs and plastic-free dental floss, the Humble Co. produces 100% bamboo toothbrushes that work as well and last just as long as an ordinary toothbrush. After a few months of use, I easily remove the nylon bristles to place in the trash and put the handle into one of the many compost bins around campus. Additionally, the company operates Humble Smile Foundation, a group of dental professionals and academics that work to promote dental health in children around the world. The Humble Co. products are available at Walgreens near campus or on Amazon at $15.96 per four-pack of brushes.

(Free) LED Light Bulb, available at the Office of Sustainability
Wash. U.’s Office of Sustainability is located on the second floor of Schnuck Pavilion and is open Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The Office of Sustainability is currently offering a lightbulb swap program. Anyone can bring in up to 10 working or non-working incandescent or CFL light bulbs, which last up to only 1,200 hours and 8,000 hours, respectively, to swap out for free LED light bulbs. The LED bulbs use 84% less energy and can last up to 25,000 hours. The Office of Sustainability also emphasizes that in this case, it is best to bring even gently used incandescent or CFL light bulbs in for a swap rather than waiting for them to burn out, considering the amount of energy they require.

Reusable cup for hot drinks, available at the Campus Store and Bear Necessities
It’s essentially impossible to survive on Wash. U.’s campus without a reusable water bottle. Single-use plastic water bottles are no longer sold anywhere on campus. However, most students and faculty still get their hot teas and coffees in single-use to-go cups. Whenever I anticipate needing caffeine, I pack a hot tea in my reusable, insulated tumbler. Not only does this keep my drink hotter for longer, but most campus eateries will gladly use your personal drink container to serve your coffee or tea. Even better, many off-campus cafes and restaurants across the country even offer a discount to customers who bring their own drink container. There are many different options for tumblers at the Campus Store, Bear Necessities and other shops near campus, so it can also serve as a fashion statement. Prices vary at both locations.

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