Living green on a college budget

“I wish I could buy all organic but I just don’t have the money for that.” It’s a common sentiment heard in my house when grocery shopping time rolls around. As college students, we just do not have the disposable income to spend on buying the most environmentally sustainable food.

Being a conscious shopper takes a lot of time, which we also do not have a lot of, as we are involved in a lot more activities than just classes such as RDG, Greek Life, work and other extracurricular activities.

So how can we live an environmentally conscious life while sticking to our tight budgets? While the answer to this question is by no means a simple one, this article compiles tips and recommendations in order to navigate this difficult problem.

Grocery shopping can be a difficult task, as you want to make sure not to produce excessive waste. With this, cooking three meals for yourself every day is even harder to manage because of how time consuming it can be.

However, students who cooked for themselves and rarely went out to eat were found to spend less money than students who had a meal plan, concluded a study done by Politics and Government Professor Dan Sherman in 2007.

Emily Smaldone, President of the Environmental Campus Outreach club, suggests buying food in bulk from Win-Co or the Tacoma Co-Op to eliminate cost and waste. If you go to either of these places you can bring your own containers and fill them up with pasta, beans, dried fruit and more. You pay per pound, which also allows you to save a lot of money.

Sherman suggests that if you live with housemates, finding common denominators such as eggs or certain vegetables that everyone likes is a good way to ensure that everything is eaten.

He has also done meal co-ops with other families around his neighborhood. For example, let’s say you have four families and each family has to cook one meal per week. That is three meals that you do not have to buy ingredients for and three meals you do not have to cook yourself. This could also be done with housemates as long as food preferences and restrictions work together.

Additionally, consuming fewer animal products, like meat and dairy, saves you money and also cuts down on production waste and energy costs. Try this once a week and participate in Meatless Mondays.

In terms of shopping for clothing or products; Smaldone recommends following a three-part process.

“Do I need to buy it? Can I buy it used? Prioritize: locally made, high quality?” Smaldone said.

By approaching shopping in this three-part process, you eliminate waste and cost. If you buy a jacket at a thrift store, you stimulate the local economy, spend less money than if the jacket were new, and cut down on material waste both in the manufacturing and disposal process.

Smaldone also suggests buying more high-quality products because they are less likely to be ruined, thereby reducing waste as opposed to buying a lot of a cheap products that you will have to replace frequently.

While it can be overwhelming and time consuming, it is important that we actively try to be conscious of how our actions and purchases affect the environment.

“It’s the little things you do here and there that count. No college student is going to be able to eat all organic, local food and live the zero-waste lifestyle, but you do what you can, when you can,” sophomore Rosa Brandt said.

These are tips that go beyond the college campus and can have tremendous positive effects on your life and the world. So next time you go grocery shopping stop and think a little more on your purchase and the implications it has on living a green life.