Zero Waste Student

Since I started living a Zero Waste lifestyle while I was a student, one of the things I had to ask myself was: “How do I implement the changes of living a Zero Waste lifestyle when at uni”. As a student, I didn’t necessarily have the time and money to purchase all reusable items right away and was that even possible?

When in doubt of how to approach a new area of my Zero Waste life, I find it best to apply Bea Johnsons 5 Rs in order, which makes the process of change a little easier and organized.

As always, once I did the research and applied what I had learned, it actually cost me less money, less time, less stress and brought me more efficiency in my overall studying habits. But let me walk you through it, here are the things I did for a Zero Waste University experience.


When I started university, I was showered with gift bags here and gift bags there, containing free plastic pencils, notebooks, flyers, candy, red bull a plastic juice bottle and usually some kind of key chain. All of these items came in a plastic bag.

In the beginning, I was tempted to take them, thinking I could miss out on important information but very soon I found out that those bags were merely there for advertising certain brands and after careful inspection of everything in the bag, I decided that I didn’t need any of the items in it, so I gave it back.Throughout university,  I would get offers of freebies but now, I knew better than to take them. Instead, I focused on my next Zero Waste step, which was reducing what I needed.

Throughout university,  I would get offers of freebies but now, I knew better than to take them. Instead, I focused on my next Zero Waste step, which was reducing what I needed.


How many notebooks could I possibly need? How many pens and sticky notes were necessary? Could I do without highlighters?

I soon realized that, for me, it was way faster and way more organized to take notes on my computer. After, I would format everything, add pictures of the presentations I had taken with my phone and highlight with the bold shortcut on my computer. When I had small tests, I simply converted my notes into a pdf file and sent it to my eReader for easy access. For bigger exams, I printed out my conveniently organized notes on recycled paper and highlighted with my highlighter pens. I used my phone as a calendar, which I loved because it would remind me of classes and tasks. If I occasionally had to scribble something down, I had a journal that I used for everything and Lamy fountain pen with an ink converter.


The most expensive thing at my uni were the books that we were expected to purchase every semester. So to me, it was a no-brainer to try to find every book second-hand. For that, I  looked mostly in libraries, joined facebook second-hand book groups and found the rest on eBay. I am very proud to say that to this day I have not purchased a single new university book and saved hundreds of Euros along the way.

I already had enough folders from school, that I could reuse, however, I did personalize them with pictures cut out from old magazines and little drawings.

If you are looking to purchase a new folder, I’d suggest you opt for cardboard and if you need something more robust, I love this recycled aluminum folder.

Another thing I always had with me was a reusable coffee cup, as I never knew when I was too tired for the next class and needed a cappuccino from my favorite organic cafe close to my uni.


To fill my Lamy fountain pen, I purchased the ink in a glass bottle, which was easily recyclable after it was emptied. The other thing I recycled and repurposed was the paper I used to print my notes on. Part of it I used for gift wrapping, and – with the help of my homemade watercolors- upcycled it for decorations at dinner parties. Sometimes, mostly when I was procrastinating studying for an exam, I made homemade paper for cards and thank you notes and the rest went into my good ol’ recycling bin.


Besides my beloved Lamy fountain pen, I used neon colored pens to highlight and simply composted the pencil sharpener waste.


Shop the post



The “Shop the post” section is not there because I think you should purchase the suggested items, it is simply there to show you plastic free or sustainable items. I highly encourage you to find these items in your local second-hand store or via a second-hand online platform before purchasing them new. 


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