7 Easy Ways To Bring Sustainability To College Campuses

Without a doubt, college students are the future of our country. Who better, then, to get involved when it comes to saving the planet? Earth Day is the perfect time to motivate students, and these seven approaches make it a breeze.


May 21 2019, Updated 4:08 p.m. ET

No matter your age, it's likely we all know someone who is in college, if we're not in school ourselves. Colleges host the future of our world: Bright minds that have the potential to literally change the direction our society moves towards. That's why it's so important that college students become passionate and informed about our environment and sustainability. Of course, depending on a student's individual interests, these might not seem like the most exciting topics. 

So, how do we get college students excited about taking care of our planet? Check out the seven tips below, and consider integrating them into your college student's life. 

And if you're a student yourself, remember: You have a legitimate voice on your campus, so you should advocate to see the changes you want to be made actually happen. Reaching out to your student government is a great way to do this, as is connecting with professors and faculty at your university. If you lead, other students are bound to follow.

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1. Make recycling a dorm-wide competition.

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Just like the rest of us, college students can accrue a lot of waste, fast. Considering that college students often need to print reading materials and assignments for class, paper in particular can add up. The same goes for bottles, plastic, and even cardboard boxes. While some campuses already offer recycling bins in the dorms and classrooms, many schools aren't quite up to date on making recycling easy and accessible. Making recycling fun is an easy way to get students to stick with it long-term,  and what's more fun than a competition? 

Organizing in a dorm, for example, allows students to compete with other floors or buildings to see who can recycle the most. Doing this around Earth Day is great for awareness, but it could also be great to do each semester, especially when students are getting ready to move in and out of their rooms and have plenty of boxes to spare.

2. Encourage professors to get in on the action.

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Professors often play a key role in mentoring college students. One way to help engrain the importance of our planet is to work with faculty to help them reflect eco-friendly goals in the classroom. For example, encouraging students to print double-sided reduces the paper waste by a literal half, each and every time. Encouraging students to print one copy per group, or to use their screens to follow along with the material, are other easy ways professors can set the tone in the classroom.

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3. Host a farmer's market on campus.

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Hosting a farmer's market on a college campus is a fantastic way to not only get students involved, but to forge connections with the local community. Farmer's markets also encourage students to make healthy and diverse choices with their food. It also saves students a trip to the grocery store and makes eating healthy an affordable choice.

4. Network with green companies for internships and job opportunities.

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No matter what their major is, college students are always looking to gain new work experience. Connecting with local companies that have a sustainable, eco-friendly focus is an excellent way to help students narrow down where they might want to work, volunteer, or intern. 

While many companies and non-profits have an explicit green bend, plenty of organizations practice sustainability and incorporate environmental issues into their mission, even if it's not their core focus. Helping students with diverse majors work in green environments helps them bring those values into whatever path they pursue down the road.

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5. Integrate greener options into the campus bookstore.

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Ah, the college bookstore. No matter where you went to school, you've definitely walked into your on-campus bookstore to buy books, sweatshirts, and basic office supplies for your desk. Due to convenience, students and faculty alike find themselves relying on the bookstore to meet their needs on a regular basis. That's why it has the potential to be so influential. 

Working with your school's bookstore to sell eco-friendly brands and materials encourages students to purchase those in place of daily basics that may harm the environment. It's also a great opportunity to work with local or small businesses in that area that have a sustainable focus.

6. Encourage students and staff to ride their bikes.

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Whether most students live on campus or commute in from home, everyone has to get somewhere. While some people carpool or use public transit, the fact of the matter is that most of us rely on our cars for everything, just for the convenience factor. But if we can encourage people to use bikes in place of cars, we can see a huge difference in the amount of pollution we're putting into our air. 

Biking, or taking long walks, is also a great way to relax and a wonderful source of exercise. Encouraging not only students, but also professors and administrators, to replace cars with bikes can have a huge impact on how we consider the environment in our day to day life.

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7. Host yoga and mindfulness activities on campus.

While yoga and other wellness activities, such as guided meditation or tai kwon do, are not explicitly eco-focused, they are often fun, relaxing activities one can do in nature. Offering guided opportunities for students to connect with nature can help them actively value the outdoors, which then helps people care about the world around them and what may become of it. 

Yoga and similar exercises are also particularly appealing to college students, as they are often stressed and overworked. 


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