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  • Lucy Bailey

Tips on Eating Sustainably as a College Student


We are seeing the devastating effects of climate change even sooner than expected and at an alarming rate. If we don’t change our ways soon, we will face disastrous consequences that affect our future and future generations. So where to start? I am here to provide some tips and tricks as a college student to be more mindful of how and what we are eating. Remember, there is no Planet B!

Art by Kyra Black

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we eat. During the early months in quarantine, bars and restaurants shut down and we were left to eat freezer burned chicken with sides of Kraft Mac and Cheese. But as time went on and we became more comfortable with life on lockdown, more people ordered takeout to get a break from mom's third night of pot roast, and to support our favorite small restaurants. Our dependence on UberEats, DoorDash, and other food services increased as touch free delivery became more enticing. In fact, consumer takeout increased by 33%.

The downside? While I myself had a fair share of takeout, I began to realize I had been using more plastic utensils, containers, sauce packets, and bags than ever before. I have always tried to eat sustainably, buying small and local (I come from a “Whole Foods household”), but if your food comes bagged in plastics, wrapped in plastics, and you have to eat it with plastic, it defeats the purpose of eating consciously. So there’s the question, how do we eat consciously? Sure, the things we eat are mostly chosen from convenience and saving money and time, but with a little more effort maybe we can make a difference in how and what we eat.

I knew when I headed back to college this fall that I would need to be more conscious of my eating because coronavirus continues to shape the way we live our lives. As any college student, I would love to eat burgers every day, drink from a fresh plastic water bottle every time I get thirsty, and not care about each single serving size chip bag I throw away. But as any young adult in society who chooses to be conscious of life outside themselves, I see the planet is crying for help, and how we respond is going to affect my future and future generations. We cannot continue to live a life that disregards how our actions affect climate change. So as the coronavirus continues to shape the way we live, let’s try to adapt in a way that is environmentally conscious of the foods we buy and eat and continue down this path. I hope these tips and tricks can help some people adopt this mentality so we, and the future generations to come, can enjoy living and eating on this beautiful planet.

Tip 1. Ditch the plastic utensils. Go to college with at least a real set of silverware!

According to Forbes, Americans alone waste 40 billion individual plastic utensils per year. If you’re ordering out, it only takes a couple seconds to ask for no utensils under the “notes” section, or kindly ask the person you’re speaking to when ordering on the phone to not put them in the bag. You will not only be able to eat your food in your dorm with a nice silver fork instead of a flimsy plastic one, but you’ll feel more guilt-free! On the same note, paper plates are much better than plastic ones if you are going to use single use food items.

Tip 2. Hydroflasks are not just for VSCO girls.

Photo by Scott Osborn on Unsplash.

Try to ditch the plastic cups and disposable water bottles. You will save more money purchasing a canteen than buying a couple water bottles each day. Also, with metal reusable water bottles, such as Hydroflasks or Sips, you will be able to keep your drinks cool or hot for much longer (Besides, who doesn’t love all of those colors?) For social events, paper cups are always a better option than Solo cups. Solo cups are made from No. 6 thermoplastic polystyrene, a cheap plastic that is easy to produce but much more difficult to recycle. Be aware that the next time you buy these cups; there are always alternatives!

Tip 3. Invest in reusable containers instead of Ziplock bags.

Photo by Vie Studio on Pexels.

Reusable containers are much nicer than plastic bags, and you won't use them once and then throw them away. They are also more versatile and can hold your food upright (nobody wants to put leftover soup in a plastic bag). Glass containers are the best - you can reheat your food directly inside of them and they even stack nicely in your fridge. The average American uses about 500 Ziplock bags a year. Buying singular containers will not only help in shaving this crazy number down; it will probably even save you money in the long run.

Tip 4. Try almond milk.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.

Producing a glass of dairy milk every day for a year requires 650 sq m (7,000 sq ft) of land, the equivalent of two tennis courts and more than 10 times as much as the same amount of oat milk. Try branching out to soy milk or nut milks; they are much better for the environment. They also come in a lot of great flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and even green tea.

Tip 5. If you have the financial capability to buy organic and local, that is best!

Photo by Graphic Note on Unsplash.

Trader Joe's has a lot of great options. Support local farmers, fresh meats, and fruits and vegetables that are less likely to contain chemicals and GMOS that will hurt your body in the long run. Remember, not only do these chemicals get into your body; they are also absorbed by the earth when farmed and washed into waterways.

Tip 6. Meatless Monday...and Tuesday?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

The amazing thing about college is that you can pick out all of your meals. You do not have to eat your dad’s dry meatloaf for the 4th day in a row. With this freedom comes the opportunity to become conscious of what you consume. According to PETA, it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Not only do cows produce lots of methane that contributes to the greenhouse effect, way more water is used to produce beef than other options, such as turkey, chicken, or tofu. While not everyone loves these alternatives, be mindful of how much you consume red meat. Could you cut down one extra day? When doing research on these types of environmental impacts, I am much more conscious of what kind of meat I eat and how often.

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