I just started my first year of college, and my new apartment space is very different than the bigger areas I’m used to living in. I didn’t know if leaving my parents’ house to live with a roommate in a one-bedroom apartment would mean sacrificing the things I love to do for a sustainable lifestyle, but luckily this hasn’t been the case! I have been pleasantly surprised at how many opportunities are around me to live in a way that’s consistent with my values, despite being limited in space. Here are some ways I have learned to live sustainably while in college.
When shopping for furniture and things for my new living space, I picked up not one, not two, not three, but four trash cans. I got one big can and three smaller ones. I made labels that said ‘trash’, ‘cardboard’, ‘aluminum’, and ‘glass’, and taped them to the wall next to their respective trash cans. My roommate and I take turns taking them out to the recycling and putting them in the correct trash bins when they get full. We have the Heavy-Duty Can Crusher to make this process even easier. This is a super basic but important way to remain environmentally conscious when living in a small space. If you’re very limited in square feet, using large reusable grocery store bags and hanging them on the wall with labels for what goes in them is a convenient way to save space. This vertical strategy keeps trash cans off your floor and makes it easier to take out the trash when the time comes.
Unfortunately I moved into this new place when the season for gardening was long past, but I have big plans for next spring! We only have a small patio attached to our apartment, but it is plenty of space for a container garden! Lehman’s raised garden beds are perfect for fitting a lot of greenery in a little bit of room. Using tresses, we can make our plants grow upward instead of to the sides, which will keep our patio mostly clear. If your smaller space has a balcony instead of a patio, you can still grow your favorite treats! Find garden plots that attach to the balcony railing to really save room or use a VegTrug elevated garden bed to grow a ton in a small amount of space. I plan to grow herbs for cooking, and lots of vegetables for us to eat.
Campus life has a lot of opportunities to live according to your values. At my school, Kent State University, there is a club I plan to join that is dedicated to raising awareness about the mistreatment of animals. Another I want to get involved with visits local animal shelters each week to volunteer! There are also several environmental activism groups on campus that welcome anyone to join their fights to save the planet. It is not hard to get involved and become surrounded by like-minded individuals that are passionate about the same things you are!
Using energy saving products in our apartment has not only helped us remain living sustainably but has kept our electric bills down too! We keep our lighting bill small by lighting our lanterns and oil lamps often to create comfy warm lighting instead of the harsh electrical glow. We almost never use our dryer on sunny days, and instead opt for a clothesline and drying rack to dry our clothes. Our small patio has no problem fitting a few lines of clothes, and the rack fits nicely in one of the bedrooms. I love avoiding the energy it takes to use a dryer, and how the fresh air leaves our clothes smelling so nice.
My parents made sure I had energy-saving light bulbs in every light, energy efficient windows, and that our appliances were efficient. My roommate and I also practice everyday behaviors to keep our place Earth-conscious. We try to use little hot water, and always keep the heating and air conditioning inside, by closing doors behind us. We hope to continue to find ways to help our planet and lead a sustainable lifestyle while in college!
Allison Ervin, granddaughter of company founder Jay Lehman, is passionate about the powerless – children, animals and anyone in need. A freshman at Kent State majoring in international business with a minor in non-profit management, she has served in Indonesia and Central America, teaching English in daycare centers and orphanages. A committed vegetarian, when not studying or cat-cuddling, Allison enjoys painting, listening to the latest music, and thrifting (shopping at thrift and vintage stores).