The World is Ending, So You Should Probably Start Buying Zero-Waste Products

By Francesca Furey, REFINE Senior Editor

Climate change and pollution are the ultimate threats to the planet, but we don’t really act like it’s that big of a deal. Ever since the demand for the next best thing became a popular cultural norm, the health of the planet began to decrease immensely. What we think makes our lives much easier, in fact creates a harder time for the earth to keep on keepin’ on. As time goes on and more daunting data is released, our devastating actions become more apparent. Sure, one can say that there’s a lot of things humans do that hurt the world, yet one main action always comes to the top: waste production. Every person does it. Whether they realize it or not, the more waste you accumulate, the more the ocean, wildlife, and the air suffers. Did you know that every piece of plastic ever made still exists on Earth?

Image Source:  Trash is for Tossers

Image Source: Trash is for Tossers

What sucks is that college students—despite being a fraction that cares most for fighting climate change—are more likely to rely on single-use plastics and items. When it comes to the choice of buying tons of different ingredients for a homemade meal to just grabbing a prepackaged one from Fresh Grocer… most would go with the latter. In regards to nutrition and basic necessities, convenience and price triumph a zero-waste lifestyle. That’s where these relatively affordable and eco-friendly products come in. I know you can’t just start to follow a zero-waste lifestyle cold turkey, especially in college, but, if you slowly add these easily-found products to your life, you’ll make a huge difference. Little by little. Check out these essential items that will help out your mom—Mother Earth that is.

1. Reusable Water Bottles

Honestly, the fact that people still drink from plastic water bottles baffles me. There are so many benefits when it comes to adding a reusable bottle to your life. Yes, you can save money from avoiding packs of Poland Spring, but that should be the least of your concerns. Single-use plastic bottles are bad for your health and shouldn’t be reused. Plus, plastic bottles take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. Yes, you can technically recycle these items, but in the U.S., only nine percent of all plastics are actually recycled. They end up in oceans or remain in trash heaps forever. Often times, workers who dispose of recycling bins don’t even make sure they’re sent to a recycling plant. That’s why I definitely recommend grabbing a reusable bottle—whether you join the Klean Kanteen gang (AKA me) or the Hydro Flask cult. They don’t have to be another boring part of your household appliances, either. Water bottles are super easy to personalize. Find a color that you really love—like how I love my olive green Kanteen—and then plaster that bad boy in stickers! From ones that you pick up in everyday life to ones you buy on Redbubble, litter them around your bottle so you can add more sustainability and hydration to your life.

2. Reusable Shopping Bags

When someone mentions the horrible things waste does to wildlife, you definitely think about plastic bags. Those photos of animals from National Geographic might pop into your head and cause some tears. These single-use deathtraps float around in oceans and rivers, and the sidewalks in your nearest city, too. Plastic bags are Public Enemy No. 1—an estimated 500 billion to one trillion are used yearly worldwide. That needs to stop. Grab reusable bags (whether from a market, or a brand you like) to hold your items when you go to a grocery store or even hit up your local thrift store. It’ll save you some cash along the way; some stores deduct your total if you use reusable bags. Plus, some stores add to your total if you use the single-use plastic bags. Think about it: what’s a win-win situation? Saving the earth and spending less money (duh). You can even purchase smaller, cloth grocery bags for your produce. Want to be even more of a zero-waste boss? Start incorporating reusable sandwich bags, too!

3. Wool Dryer Balls

It haunts you in your dreams. It haunts you in reality. It is the boogieman of the mundane: dirty laundry. Every time I look at my overflowing hamper in the corner, I wince. Doing laundry in college is super annoying… especially when you have tons of things to do. Do we ever think of the overcapacity landfills that are scattered across the country, though? Dryer sheets are one of the biggest proponents of household waste, as it’s used once and then thrown out after just one load. Instead of buying those pesky dryer sheets, buy super cheap wool dryer balls instead. These balls have a six-month lifespan and can be reused over and over again. I got my mom a half dozen for $8 and she loves them. You don’t have to search through your clothes for those lost sheets and throw them out either. The balls are easy to store and don’t add any clutter. Plus, did you know you can add essential oils to them? Grab your favorite scents (I recommend lavender or eucalyptus) and drop it into the wool, which will add some cozy smells to your clean clothes. You can’t do that with dryer sheets!

4. Reusable Utensils

Takeout is a college student’s best friend. Whether it be from Tai’s Vietnamese on The Wall, one of Temple’s amazing food trucks, or Wawa macaroni and cheese, it’s delicious. What isn’t so delicious is the single-use utensils that come with it. 40 billion plastic utensils are used in the U.S. annually…and usually only for one meal or a quick bite in between errands. Look into reusable utensils instead—and woah, there are a ton to choose from. You can grab repurposed plastic, stainless steel, or even wooden sets. They can be collapsible or full size, and even include chopsticks! The reusable utensil world is your oyster. All you have to do is pop them in your backpack and whenever you head to Honeygrow or any other location, impress your pals by pulling out these bad boys. You might inspire them to purchase some, too!

5. Reusable Straws

Straws are big talk in the sustainability world right now. They make up one of the largest percentages of items wasted—about 500 million per day, or 182.5 billion per year in the U.S.—but it shouldn’t be the only thing that is tackled when fighting pollution. There is more to combatting the addictive reliance on single-use plastics than ditching straws. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t not have them in your zero-waste arsenal. Whether you purchase stainless steel, silicone, or BPA-free plastic packs, you’re doing some good. You can even get ones that range in purpose, from bubble tea straws to ones that bend at the end. Some are even collapsible! And, if you ever forget them at home, simply ordering your drink without a straw wouldn’t kill you.

And if you want to take your eco-friendly efforts to the next step: start cutting out meat and animal by-products from your diet. Even ditching ground beef for tofu once a week makes a difference.