Plastic in the pudding: Tips to living an eco-friendly life in college


After shredding the cereal boxes, recycling the soup cans and using leftover biology notecards for bonfire kindling, many college students are still left with one eco-disaster cluttering their kitchens and dorm rooms: plastic.

Over 100 years after Leo Baekeland introduced the world to plastic, the miracle material continues to take industry by storm with an abundance of new derivatives.

Despite the product’s versatility, it creates some extreme consequences for health and the environment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, certain classifications of plastic, like Bisphenol A, BPA, have been linked to negative effects on neurological development and regular hormonal processes.

While safe in low amounts, BPAs are often found in plastics used to store food and beverages (like water bottles and ramen noodles containers).

In addition, not all plastic can be recycled.

According to the Financial Times, a recent 25 percent tariff placed on the Chinese export market made it difficult for the U.S. to buy recycling equipment.

This means that some yogurt containers—even when placed in the green container—will still sit in landfills for 450 years.

While these facts might be disheartening, there are still many ways that college students, whether on or off-campus, can decrease their overall use of plastic.

Here are a few easy tips to get started:

  1. Invest in reusable bags, water bottles and everything in between.

Start by spending some cash on two or three cloth grocery bags (or steal a couple from your parents’ house).

These bags tend to hold more than flimsy plastic and will cut down the amount of Hy-Vee bags you’re inevitably hoarding in your closet.

Many stores (Target, Hy-Vee, Aldi) also offer credit for bringing in reusable bags, meaning that you’ll eventually have enough cash saved up for an extra shot on tequila Tuesdays.

And, as always, take the leap and buy a reusable water bottle. Within a span of just a few weeks, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint.

  1. Buy local, buy bulk

Grab your new reusable bags and head to the Falls Park Farmers Market.

While it only runs through the end of October, local farmers offer loads of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers.

These goods come only with their natural packaging and have the added benefit of being grown just a few miles down the road.

In addition, stores like The Co-op Natural Foods and Hy-Vee offer bulk label foods that also come without added packaging.

Foods and grains like granola, coconut, popcorn, rice and more can be poured into your container of choice (produce bags!) and brought home.

  1. Get friendly with your yogurt container.

Always know what plastics are accepted by local recycling centers in your area.

When unclean, unacceptable materials are thrown in with the mix and can hinder the entire process.

Sioux Falls doesn’t specify what plastics are accepted, but those with a recycling logo and numerals 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be easily recycled, and are found on the bottom or side of containers.

After a few trips to the grocery store, these practices will easily become second nature and save you time, money and a few trips to the curbside.

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