By Romy Shoam, The Plant

The zero waste lifestyle along with eco-friendly products are often associated with high priced tags.

So, I’ve come up with some accessible and affordable low waste alternatives to common student habits. Whether you’re new to the low-waste lifestyle, the next Lauren Singer (the one who keeps her garbage in a mason jar), or anywhere in between, here are some tips that you can easily adopt. And remember, you don’t have to be Greta Thunberg to make a difference.

1. Pack a lunch… in containers! Ditch those plastic Ziplocs and aluminum foil that are
thrown away after every use, and cannot be recycled. Instead, opt for packing your snacks in old yogurt containers, that tub of hummus that someone finished without leaving you any, or a mason jar that was used for jam. Of course, you can also buy containers – glass and metal ones are best.

P.S. – if you’re feeling lazy on a Tuesday night, fear not! Every Wednesday, Dawson Dinin’ will give you a free vegan lunch if you drop off your container in Conrods before 12 p.m.

2. Compost, compost, compost! Even if you don’t compost at home, take advantage of
Dawson’s compost bins that are literally at every corner. Don’t know what goes in the compost?

If it’s from the earth (so, any food, or soiled napkins), it can be returned to it. Also, anything that could be recycled but has food on it can be composted. Oh, and (not so) fun fact – gum can’t be composted, since it’s made out of plastic!

3. Reduce, reuse, and recycle… but only if you rinse it out! Rinse out any Tim Hortons
ice cap cup because the stickiness and remnants of your afternoon pick-me-up will contaminate the whole recycling bag. If you’re not sure it can be recycled… trash it!

4. Okay, this is a big one. Disposable coffee cups at Dawson are the enemy. If you learn nothing else from this article, please remember this – do not compost or recycle coffee cups!

They’re lined with plastic, and the plastic is too thin to separate and recycle, even if they’re rinsed out. Try opting for one of the reusable mugs the Tim Hortons in the upper atrium offers if you’re buying a hot drink – you borrow it for the day, and return it to the bin outside the entrance near the stairs once you’re finished.

5. My final tip is to do some research. Once I understood how important it is for each of us, at an individual level, to make a change, I pursued such change in my own life. I was inspired by sustainability advocates like founder of Package Free Lauren Singer, producer and news host Lucy Biggers, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If we show the corporations,institutions, and government that we want to take part in sustainable initiatives, there will be a demand for such projects, which will encourage places like Dawson to fund more of them.


Dawson College is proud to highlight the work of our students. This article is published in the Feb. 13, 2020 edition of The Plant, the student-run newspaper of Dawson College since 1969. Pick up your print copy of The Plant in the Upper Atrium on Thursday, Feb. 13. The newspaper is also released digitally at https://www.theplantnews.com/

Last Modified: February 13, 2020