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Your Plastic-Free College Guide - 5 tips

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Plastic permeating your college shopping list? We get it, it’s hard to go plastic-free. But try not to agonize over every piece of plastic you accumulate—you’ve got enough on your plate as a college student. Instead, focus on making a few meaningful swaps to minimize your overall plastic consumption this school year. After all, a few steps in the right direction are better than none at all.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:


Dorm living requires more than a little creativity for fitting all of your belongings into a small space that you now share with a roommate. Chances are you’ll need more than a few storage bins to tuck away items and minimize clutter. But before you run out the door for several big plastic bins, try choosing one made out of a natural material instead, like canvas or cloth. And while you’re at it, swap out the plastic hangers for wooden ones, too.

Target is a great source for finding eco-friendly, affordable storage bins, like this Short Fabric Bin ($9), that can easily slide under your bed. Or, if you’re in need of a larger under-bed storage solution, check out the Canvas Under Bed Storage Bag by The Laundress ($63).

Green Washing (the right way)

It’s time to take laundry into your own hands this year, and we mean that in more ways than one. Since it’s now on you to wash all of your clothes—no more relying on mom and dad—why not take it a step further to make sure your laundry is as clean as possible? And we don’t just mean your clothes. By shopping Ingredients Matter, you’ll ensure that each load is clean and green.

Ingredients Matter produces a full line of laundry products, focusing on laundry soap, which is proven to be better than the name-brand detergents for your skin, your clothes, and the planet. And of course, we love that they’ve replaced the ubiquitous big plastic jug with packaging that is fully recyclable and biodegradable. Their Fresh Start Bundle ($52.99) features everything you’ll need for a plastic-free laundry experience, including a box of laundry soap powder in your choice of scents, stain stick, canvas laundry bag, and three wool dryer balls. (Your parents are gonna be so proud.)

School Supplies

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Wisdom Supply Co. is your best bet for plastic-free school supplies. We love this company because they share our passion for eliminating single-use plastics, and they channel their energy into creating zero-waste, plastic-free school supplies.

For college students, their Zero-Waste School Supply Kit ($78) covers all of your classroom essentials this year. Highlights include a zero-waste binder kit with pockets and dividers, 2 recyclable folders, 4 no-waste notebooks, a pencil tin, box of pencils, highlighter, eraser, and sharpener. And of course, a zero-waste academic planner that is 100% recyclable and recycled.

Hydrate, Party, Repeat

Hydration is important, and we’re certain you’ll hydrate in more ways than one as a college student. We have a few ideas that will allow you to stay hydrated across all the campus hot spots but without the plastic.

Every college student needs a reusable water bottle that they can refill across campus. Our partners at MiiR (From $17.95) offer myriad options, with something for everyone. Similarly, Mananalu’s (From $19.20) aluminum-packaged, resealable cans are a great option when hosting friends or on the go. Refillable and infinitely recyclable, we can ship these directly to you, so you never have to worry about going thirsty this school year. And when you’re ready to ditch the books for the weekend and gather with friends, make sure you’re also ditching those plastic party cups. Our partners at Ball offer a great aluminum alternative ($19.99).

Look Good, Do Good

The personal care industry has a plastic problem, to the tune of 120 billion units of packaging each year. And many of these will tragically end up in our oceans or on our beaches. While we know it’s difficult to swap every single item in your daily routine, we suggest starting with a few at a time and growing from there. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Shampoo & Conditioner: Swap the plastic bottle for a solid bar

  • Deodorant: Look for an option in a metal tin

  • Combs & Brushes: Replace with wooden alternatives

  • Toothbrush: Opt for bamboo

  • Toothpaste: Ditch the plastic tube for a glass jar

The great news is that most of these are easy to find at your local pharmacy, grocery store, or eco-friendly shop. But if all else fails, check out Life Without Plastic, which is a great destination for outfitting your new plastic-free school year!


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