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Zero Waste College Essentials

With only a month of summer holiday left to enjoy, it is prime time to start thinking about what you’re bringing with you to college. I’ve made it easier for you by compiling this list of zero waste college essentials!

These essentials will help reduce waste and will also save you money in the long run! 

Nobody wants to live off .25 cent packets of ramen noodles in college! By making small changes you will have money for nourishing food, a trip home or to reduce your debt!

You will also feel good about keeping the planet clean of waste and toxic ingredients.

What are you waiting for?

Check out these zero waste recommendations for studying, eating, personal hygiene, and on-the-go.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. For more information see the disclosure policy.


Zero Waste College Essentials


When I was in university I found out how to cut my textbook expenses in half! The secret was to buy them as e-books. Not only does it save money but it also lightens how much weight you have to lug around every day.

Kindle E-Reader – Manufactured by Amazon, has built-in dictionaries, highlighter, and wi-fi.
Recycled Newspaper Pencils – Made from recycled kraft paper
Water Bottle – Stay hydrated with a Klean Canteen
Noise Cancelling Ear Plugs – Reusable earbuds to block out any distractions
Plastic-Free Binder – Keep your notes and research organized in a plastic-free binder


Kindle E-Reader


A good way to cut costs in college is to cut out single-use items. Not only are they bad for your wallet, they are also polluting our oceans. Check out these items for a zero-waste college experience.

Stainless Steel Straws – Save on straw purchases and carry one on-the-go!
Cotton Sandwich Bags – Rather than use plastic cling wrap, carry your sandwich in this cotton bag.
Food Wrap – Reusable wax cloth wraps are a great alternative to plastic cling wrap.
Kettle – A college essential for tea and coffee! Use this one with your Chemex coffee maker.
Mason Jars – Versatile jars that can be used for anything – drinks, food storage, canning etc…
Chemex Coffee Maker – The perfect zero-waste coffee maker. Use with a long spout kettle and cotton filters!


Women holding a Chemex

Chemex Coffee Maker


Personal Hygiene

One of the best things about the zero waste movement is the availability of beauty and hygiene alternatives. As women, we use a lot of products – many of them are necessities! A good way to reduce your monthly expenses is to invest in items such as a menstrual cup. You will never have to see the tampon aisle ever again.

Handkerchief – Handkerchief may seem like part of the past but they are making a comeback!
Menstrual Cup – A zero waste essential that will save you a ton of money! How many boxes do you go through in a year?
Safety Razor – Also making a comeback, all you need to replace is the tiny razor which should cost you less than $10 a year!
Refillable Shampoo and Conditioner – Avoid creating plastic waste with Plaine Products refillables. Your roommate will be jealous.
Bamboo Toothbrush – Once they are worn out, reuse the handle as plant labels!
Reusable Cotton Rounds – Save money on single-use cotton rounds by switching to reusable ones. Great for removing makeup.
Drying Rack – Save money on laundry by drying your clothing naturally on a rack.


Safety razor

Safety Razor


College is a very busy and stressful time for most people. It can be difficult to balance your studies, social life and taking care of yourself. If your short on time, rather than eat take-out food on the go, plan ahead with these zero waste college essentials.

Lunch Bag – Don’t be left hungry, it will just lead to impulse purchases. Pack a lunch to go.
KeepCup – Use this reusable glass cup for take-out coffee. Most coffee shops offer a small discount for using your own cup!
Reusable Cutlery – Keep travel cutlery on you to help reduce single-use plastic cutlery.
Cotton Tote Bag – Great for carrying groceries home or any other need you may have. It even has a cute saying!
Water Bottle – Staying hydrated will keep you sharp throughout the day. Carry a reusable water bottle rather than buy a plastic bottle.
3-in-1 Green Lunch Bento Box – These stainless steel containers are great for carrying your food in your lunch bag.
Messenger Bag – Keep your laptop, water bottle and other essentials throughout the day in this handmade messenger bag.
Thermos – Especially handy in the winter months, pack stews and soups in this insulated thermos.

3-in-1 Green Lunch Bento Box


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  1. Alanna Koritzke says

    Absolutely LOVE this compilation! I wish I had this list before I went off to college. The lab I work in currently uses the Chemex coffee maker and it’s fantastic! And I use stainless steel straws every day. I’m trying to make as many little changes as I can 🙂

    • sarah.fournier says

      Same! I graduated a year ago and wish I had many of these items then. I only had my Kindle E-Reader, which saved me tons, but still. Making small steps is the best way to make lasting changes. Thanks for commenting!

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