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How to be Green on a Student Budget

September 08, 2008 By: Category: Campus Life

Kermit the Frog had it right when he said “It’s not easy being green.” And it’s not just because he’s a frog. Today the green movement is taking over the world, and even though many people would like to go completely organic or build a sustainable home, their budget might not let them.

This is especially true for college students, who struggle every semester to get by on their student budget. A near-empty wallet makes it much easier to choose between ninety-nine cent ramen noodles or $2.99 organic pasta.

But there are some cheap, affordable ways that students can go green and still maintain their finances. Here are a few that are either completely free or very cheap to do:


 Photo by Dan is Awesome

Be a user
You were always taught not to use other people for selfish motives. But nothing was ever said about not using the things of other people. What I mean is that when you get to college you don’t need to go on an all-day shopping spree to get brand new items for your room. That’s just more junk for you to throw away later.

You can re-use other people’s textbooks and let them use yours for free on sites such as SwapTree, and, which are both great places for finding used books. All you have to pay for is shipping.

Turn Off the Water
Leaving the faucet running while brushing your teeth can waste up to 5 liters of water. Instead of wasting the water while scrubbing your teeth and rinsing out your mouth, just turn the water off.

Reuse Paper
Before you throw away that halfway printed page or that paper covered in editing marks, how about using the other side for scrap paper? Post-It Notes actually cost money, so you can make your own by cutting up pieces of already used paper. Or you can just use the other blank side to take notes in class.

Download a free energy-saving application for your computer
To reduce the energy consumption of your computer when you’re not using it, download an energy-saving application like the one from Local Cooling or CO2 Saver. Or you can just turn it off.

Be Thrifty
Instead of spending your paycheck on an expensive new outfit or gadget, you can save some cash and help out the environment by shopping at a thrift store.

Thrift store shopping is just another form of recycling and regulating CO2 emissions. Not only do you get to reuse a unique or vintage item, but you also stop factories from making more items and creating pollution, and that greatly reduces your carbon footprint.

Spend Less Time in the Shower
Just by reducing your shower time by about 2 minutes, you can save up to 1,000 pounds of CO2 from being emitted into the air. This is because you are using less electricity to heat the water, but you’re also conserving water at the same time.

Go Paperless
You probably have a student bank account or credit card and receive a monthly statement for them in the mail. Instead of wasting paper, go online and switch to paperless mailing. This can save a lot of trees from being cut down.

Try Reusable Shopping Bags
Instead of cluttering up your dorm or apartment with tons of plastic bags from the local Wal-Mart or Target, purchase a couple reusable shopping bags.
I purchased four of the ACME Lightweight Recycled Cotton Totes from, and I use them for everything, from grocery shopping to carrying my lunch. Students can even use them to carry books or a laptop.

Recycle Your Old Cell Phone
Features like text messaging and email on cell phones keep students connected just as much as computers. Plus, with new advanced cell phones coming out each year, students always want to upgrade. So they usually end up throwing away their old cell phones.
That’s why you should do your part to help out the environment by recycling your old cell phones. You can find a cell phone recycling center near your school at the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation website.

Consolidate Your Hair Care Products
Do you really need to spend double the money on buying shampoo and conditioner, whose containers produce double the waste? Not really. You can buy 2-in-1 shampoo plus conditioner and then throw away just one container, or check the bottom and see if it can be recycled.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water
Even if you may not own the washing machine you are using, you can still help out the environment by washing your clothes in cold water. This not only causes less heat damage to your clothing, but it also uses less electricity, which in return produces less CO2.

See, you can go green without even swiping a credit card or completely draining your checking account! It’s all about how much effort you want to put into living an eco-lifestyle, and since students live pretty busy lifestyles, all of these steps can easily be incorporated into your everyday activities.

About the Author:

Trish Smith is a copywriter for Green Student U, a blog-style site  that introduces today’s students to a wide variety of global environmental issues by recognizing college campus green initiatives and personal success stories, as well as how the world is being shaped by environmental reform.

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