Sustainability doesn't have to mean going vegan and being able to fit all your trash from the last 5 years into a mason jar. There are more manageable changes you can make when shopping for, cooking and eating food that will still have a big impact and help the environment. 

1. Cut down on plastic straw use

beer, liquor, alcohol, stout
Alex Frank

This is something really easy you can do. Next time you are at McDonald’s for late night drunk food, all you need to do is refrain from reaching for a straw with your fountain drink – it’s that easy. 

Straws are small so it seems like they would be the least of our problems, but the thing with plastic is that it never completely composts . It breaks down into tiny pieces, but these pieces stay intact in water and can be ingested by aquatic animals. The shape and size of straws also means animals get caught in them, which can be very painful and detrimental to their health.

Straws are one of the easiest things to cut out because they are not necessary for drinking. If you really love sipping out of straws, you can get yourself a reusable one made of metal or glass to cut down on plastic in the ocean and help the environment! You can even buy reusable boba straws to bring on your next bubble tea adventure.

2. Compost

salad, broccoli, pepper, cabbage, tomato, cucumber, carrot, vegetable
Christin Urso

This one can be hard, as a lot of student housing buildings don’t support composting. If your city doesn't pick up compost outside your building, you can try to make your own compost. If you are a first-year student with a meal plan, you can try to push your dining hall to start composting if they don't already.

If composting isn't viable for you, you can simply try and cut down on the amount of food you need to discard of. A lot of food scraps can be used for other purposes. You'd be surprised by the meals you can conjure up with the food you were ready to toss in the trash.

This is a great habit to save money as a student, as you'll get the most bang for your buck while you help the environment.

3. Meatless Mondays

broccoli, rice, chicken
Sasha Kran

You don't have to go all out and adopt a vegan diet to help the planet. If you want to start by doing something small and maybe less intimidating, Meatless Mondays is a good start. All you have to do is stop eating meat one day a week. Think about it: if you usually eat meat twice a day, that cuts out two servings of meat per person per week, which adds up to 104 servings of meat per person a year.

The meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas production than the whole transportation industry. On top of that, feeding the animals we raise for food takes an enormous quantity of water. Eating meat just one less day a week would save the same amount of energy as taking a vehicle off the road for 320 miles. So even if you're only making this small change, it will still have a large impact.

If you need some motivation, the #MeatlessMondays hashtag on Twitter has a lot of people sharing their experiences and recipes

4. Buy sustainable storage and cooking tools

cookie, pastry, sprinkles, candy, sweet, cream, chocolate, cake
Hunter Siegrist

Things like cupcake wrappers, sandwich bags, coffee filters and disposable napkins can easily be substituted for a more eco-friendly version, whether that means they are reusable or just recyclable. 

I’m a big baker, and I use a lot of cupcake wrappers, so making a switch to more environmentally friendly wrappers has cut down on my waste. 

5. Bring your own bags to the grocery store

dairy product, milk, beer
Hannah Cather

One of the simplest things you can do is to buy some reusable grocery bags. Most grocery stores sell them at the cash so it’s super convenient. I got mine from IKEA, and they fold up into tiny pouches so they are easy to put in your backpack or purse and always have on you.

Even if you don’t do this one, another tip is to just avoid putting the produce you buy in plastic bags. If you’re buying an eggplant, it really isn’t necessary to put it one of those plastic bags in the produce section – you can put it in your cart solo and wash it when you get home. If you don’t want to do this you can even bring your own reusable mesh bags to put your fruits and veggies in.

6. Go to the grocery store with a plan

beer, pizza, coffee, wine
Maddie Lanier

Before you go to the grocery store, sit down and think about what you want to make for the week. 

This one definitely takes a little bit more time and effort, but it will pay off, I promise. If you know exactly what meals you want to make for the week, you’ll know exactly what you need to buy to make those meals. At the end of the week you won’t be throwing out tons of food you didn’t end up cooking with. The upside of this is it will also save you money!

One of my favourite ways to do this is to scroll through recipes on Pinterest until I find something I like. If the recipe requires a small amount of an ingredient you can only buy in larger quantities, I'll search Pinterest for other recipes I can make with that ingredient to make the most out of my shopping.  

As you can see, there are ways we can incorporate sustainability into our everyday routines that aren't too strenuous. Most of these habits will actually help you out in other ways (like saving you money), and you can feel good knowing you're doing what you can to help the environment.