Tietz: How to be a sustainable college student

A DI writer shares some of her tips to promote a sustainable & cheap lifestyle as a college student in Iowa City.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Lily

The University of Iowa Office of Sustainability is pictured in the Old Capitol Mall on Clinton St. UISG voted on a bill to allocate $1,738 this year for a Renewable Energy Educational Development trip, each semester. (The Daily Iowan/Ben Smith)

Caely Tietz , Opinions Columnist

After Earth Day on April 22 and constantly seeing headlines about climate change, I’ve thought about how my lifestyle as a college student can positively or negatively affect the environment — and my own wallet.

As a college student, many of my lifestyle choices seem out of my control, fueled by desperation as a result of a busy schedule and little disposable income. However, there are some simple alternatives I have taken to live a sustainable lifestyle while keeping it easy and budget-friendly. I decided to share some tips with my fellow college students in hopes that we can spark some change on the UI campus. 

The first one may be obvious, but from what I’ve seen around campus, there are plenty of people who still need to hear this: use reusable water bottles. Not only does this save each person from using hundreds of plastic water bottles a year, but it also saves you from spending money to regularly buy water bottles. Another new sustainability trend is reusable straws. You can find these in stores everywhere, many coming with their own cleaning kits. Use them in your water bottle, your favorite coffee drinks, or even bring them to the bars. Personally, I tend to stay more hydrated when I mindlessly sip through a straw, so these are beneficial in many ways. On a similar note, many coffee shops in Iowa City encourage customers to bring their own mug or thermoses instead of using plastic and cardboard to-go cups. Some, such as Java House, even offer a discount for doing so.

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Another way to be sustainable college students is to shop locally. Iowa City is home to hundreds of small businesses and local shops that support sustainability efforts and offer the same everyday products. Shopping locally reduces air and water pollution, supports the local economy, and sustains outdoor shopping centers. As miraculous as Amazon’s two-day shipping features are, the company is known for excessive and unsustainable packaging of its products. It is much better to buy your college necessities from local stores while also getting the full Iowa City experience.

My favorite way of living sustainably while in college is to shop at thrift stores. Iowa City offers a plethora of thrift stores, including but not limited to Revival, Crowded Closet, Plato’s Closet, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army. In a city whose population constantly turns over, there are always people looking to clean out their closets and donate or sell their trendy clothing. By being thrifty, college students can shop the same brands and styles they love for a low cost without resorting to the fast fashion industry. Some of my closet favorites are my proudest thrift-shop finds.

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These days, climate change remains a rather political topic, which can make it too easy to turn away from the root of the issue. Regardless of the policies up for debate, it is important to make smart and environmentally friendly decisions to reduce your own carbon footprint. It does not take much to live a more sustainable lifestyle, even in college. Incremental changes within your own community can have a large impact.

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