How I'm Starting A Zero-Waste Lifestyle As A College Dormer
One of the things I’ve noticed about my living habits as a dormer is the alarming amount of waste I produce. My roommates and I can’t go more than four days without our waste bin overflowing with papers, disposable cups, product packaging, and so on. With the new semester just around the corner, I thought it might be a great time to start rethinking my dorm lifestyle in terms of reducing my personal waste, and so I listed down personal tips to get me started on my eco-mission:
First of all, it’s important to remember that you can’t go zero-waste in a snap. As a college student who’s always in a rush and on a budget, I know that the change involved isn’t always affordable, accessible, or convenient. And even for many who practice the lifestyle, “zero-waste” doesn’t always mean totally ZERO, and that’s okay. Start small, list down the activities you do that produce the most waste, and work from there. Do a lot of shopping? Use one of your totes as a reusable shopping bag. Take a lot of school notes? See if you have old notebooks you can reuse or try exploring digital options if they work for you. Assess your resources and know that you don’t need to make drastic changes right away.
Save up for zero-waste swaps (that you actually need).
With the whole eco-consciousness movement on the rise, it’s easy to find shops that sell sustainable alternatives for your day-to-day items. From toiletries like bamboo toothbrushes and bar soaps, to school supplies like plantable pencils, the possibilities are endless.
But let’s face it, swapping your stuff all at once might get pricey, and you don’t always need all of them. When buying these zero-waste alternatives, it’s important to consider: Will this be something I’ll regularly use? Do I already have a similar item lying around than I can use instead? When moving into your dorm, bring as many reusable things as you can from home like a tumbler, lunchbox, and utensils, so that you won’t have to get brand new ones (no matter how cute they look online).
Try to be consistent.
One of my personal challenges with maintaining a zero-waste lifestyle is sticking to a habit. I always end up leaving my metal straw and shopping bag home thinking that I won’t need it (until a friend invites me on a sudden coffee date or I end up needing to do a quick grocery run). As a college student, we’ve always got a lot on our plates, so it may help to set personal goals ahead and find a self-reminder system that works for you. Whether it’s putting your reusable tote near your toiletry rack so you’ll always remember to bring it, or sticking a giant “Don’t forget your tumbler” sign on your corkboard, these simple practices, when done consistently, end up being worth a lot.
Going back to the idea of being realistic, I know that there are a lot of zero-waste practices I won’t be able to do routinely, like buying unpackaged food, composting all my food waste, or going paperless. As a college dormer, my instinct’s first considerations always end up being convenience and affordability. But someone recently introduced to me the concept of “trade-offs.” If you can’t do one thing, make up for it by doing something else. If you have a class that requires you to print all your readings physically, switch to full-on digital notes with two other classes that allow it. If you ended up with too much waste from all your fast food deliveries over the weekend, spend the next week getting food from the school caf where they have reusable plates and utensils. It’s all about the little things, like donating your old clothes instead of throwing them away or asking the cashier not to put the school supplies you bought in a plastic.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Many college students have started to subscribe to a zero-waste lifestyle, and some have been consistently practicing it successfully. There are so many people you can ask help or advice from, and sometimes they can give such insightful tips that you’ll never find on any online zero-waste article. Don’t be afraid to ask people about their sustainable practices or where they bought the eco-friendly stuff they use, because these people will always be happy to help those who want to be more environmentally-conscious. Branch out to fellow students or even dormers who live in the same situation as you, in order to get the appropriate and applicable zero-waste advice you may need.
I’ll admit, starting this lifestyle may seem daunting at first, especially when you’ve become so accustomed to your existing habits and convenient living practices. But knowing yourself and your lifestyle well, and the realistic ways in which you can start the change, is already a great place to start. After all, as Kathryn Kellogg—founder of the Going Zero Waste online platform—always says, “It’s not about perfection, it’s about making better choices.”
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The most thrilling and delightful moment of any school day is opening up your baon during breaks. There is always so much excitement in unveiling your homemade meal and snacks housed inside matching heat-insulating containers. Because preparing packed meals is an age-old tradition of showing parental love, loved ones pour effort into curating a nutritious meal accompanied by a selection of side dishes, desserts, and beverages daily; it reminds us that we are being taken care of, even from far away.
Baon plays a significant role in a Filipino childhood. Almost every Filipino child comes to school with baon made especially for them by their parents or household helpers. Even Filipinos in the labor force continue to bring baon for varying reasons: to save money, recycle leftovers, cater to personal taste, or attend to special needs. Nonetheless, eating your baon is a heart-warming experience that allows Filipinos to bring a piece of home along with them wherever they go.
Even other cultures practice making packed lunch. In Japan, mothers create bento--Japanese meals in partitioned boxes. Because of the popularity of bento, trends have emerged, such as the Kyaraben, or character-themed bento. Naturally, Japanese parents and students began competing for who had the cutest and tastiest bento, and this is similar to what I have witnessed in my own childhood. I remember seeing my classmates sharing their snacks and lunches. They would compare and boast about their parents' or yayas’ cooking. In my case, I never had the chance to join in the competition or indulge in homemade cooking. Up until this day, I have never brought any baon to school.
For a long time, I envied others. As trivial or petty as it may seem, not having baon became a problem for my grade school self. During that time, I had to sit in a separate cafeteria away from my friends because the kids who bought food were assigned to sit elsewhere. You could consider me spoiled, but I wanted to experience something most kids did. I had food at home, so what made it so hard to bring some with me to school?
Now that I am on my final year in high school I have come to realize the benefits of purchasing my own food. Since I spent on food everyday, I learned to budget my allowance at a young age. Over the years, I learned to practice self-control whenever I wanted to eat more greasy fries and drink sweetened beverages. I have tasted the strangest viands at the school cafeterias, and I have repeatedly satiated myself over my latest delicious discoveries. Despite the struggles, I am thankful that I have never had baon because of what I have learned. Not to mention, I never had to experience eating cold food.
Literally to begin with, I am writing with little shaky hands because this is the last time I went for a vacation like most of us must have and can’t plan any for now. The coronavirus outbreak has compelled us to stay at home for our safety and others in the vicinity.
I remember how I penned down my year 2020 to be the most remarkable year of my life in the hope of doing everything I desired for a long time and overcoming few obstacles. Whilst planning things ahead, I forgot to truly value all of things in the present.
I remember being chipper and grateful for my last summer vacation but now I feel I should’ve valued each and every moment. Considering the current gnarly situation, I want each one us to motivate ourselves to look for a positive side and to make the most of our time no matter the situation.
Make a promise to yourself that you won’t give up in these circumstances and reckon that there are a lot of good things for us in the store. We’ll have the most amazing season of our life post pandemic. Let’s accept for the change and become the change. Propagate love and only love.
Danielle Flestado @artdkf.ph | June 19, 2020
"While I was reading my devotional book yesterday, this part hit me: rejoicing together is more difficult to do than grieving with each other. And so, I thought of reminding myself that I should be happy for the success of others. After all, we are part of one family and every one of us is striving to accomplish our own goals in this world. Let us be happy for each other."
Choosing between dreams and practicality is never easy. My CETs season just ended with the release of the UPCAT results. Anxious as I logged on the website, I started to think about what would happen if I didn't pass UP. Ever since I was six years old, I fixated on the idea that I will become an iska, serving the country and studying at my dream school, which is UP. I strived and studied hard for the UPCAT, sacrificing a lot of things like hang-outs and gala weekends for reviews.
Throughout my CETs journey, I started seeing myself studying only in UP, and while there were no results yet, my friends and I already started planning our lives around the fact that we're gonna study in UP. It was a big deal for me, my friends and my family that I get the chance to study in UP since it's so far from my hometown which is Benguet, and better yet, it's a very well known university.
January 2020 came and universities started releasing CETs results. I was expecting my DCAT and ACET results that month. I passed DCAT but brushed it off because even though I liked the school, I never really saw myself studying there. Same thoughts with Ateneo, since it never really crossed my mind that I might study in ADMU. In fact, Ateneo was never really a choice for me, I only took it just to have another choice in case I failed the UPCAT. I also applied for financial aid not because I was really planning on studying there, but more of "para lang sure na may college ako". I know it's a bad thing but they were just my back-up schools because my main goal was really UP.
One Friday afternoon, ACET results came out. I passed, managed to get a scholarship, and in that moment, my plans just started to crumble.
Seeing that I got a 100% tuition and fees discount, free dorm fees, and an additional book allowance got me into considering studying to Ateneo. Suddenly, I got torn between UP, my dream school, and Ateneo, which offers so much more.
As the months passed, and after talking to my parents, my plans and decisions got more jumbled and messy. I still wanted to go to UP even if there were no results yet but Ateneo offering so much would mean a lesser burden to my parents in terms of finances.
Even though my parents told me that they'll support me no matter where I choose to go, the practicality that Ateneo offers in terms of finances was not an easy thing to waive. Sometimes I would laugh at the fact that I'd spend less on a private school than on a state university. Talking to my friends helped somehow, but they also have various opinions about the two universities. I managed to tell myself to hold off the problem until UPCAT results get released, and so I did.
UP released the UPCAT results and seeing that I passed made me scream and cry, literally. At that moment, all I was thinking was that I passed my dream school and I'm officially a QC college student.
My parents were so proud of me even though they got scared because I screamed, but ultimately, they were happy for me. The next day, I sat down, stared at my UPCAT and ACET results, and told myself that I needed to decide. This was the hardest part. I tried deciding using the pros and cons method but it didn't really work. Talking to my parents also didn't help because they'd support me either way, so their judgement was not a factor at all. I also had the same course in both schools so that wasn't a big help. I was 99% close to letting go of my dream university and decide to go to Ateneo.
I weighed options and Ateneo was the cheaper and more practical option. I also started to see myself studying as a blue eagle, roaming around the campus etc. And financially, I didn't need to worry much except for food. At that point, I started to really like the idea of going to Ateneo more than studying in UP. But then, as the weeks went by, the Ateneo Plan started to lose my interest.
I realized that studying in Ateneo would be a great opportunity, but not something that will really make me happy. The finances and all would be so much better but I wouldn't be happy and content, and I felt that Ateneo couldn't give me everything that I wanted and needed. Then a light bulb lit up.
As I was imagining myself at UP, I ultimately felt that happiness and content that I didn't feel with Ateneo. I realized that, if I didn't study in UP, I know later in my life, I would regret it. I would regret not choosing my dream university because I didn't choose what would make me happy.
In short, I chose my dream over practicality. I know that I would be successful in both tracks, but I simply chose my dream because it is where I'm happier and more content. Besides, we can make our dreams practical but not all the time can the practical choice equate to our dreams. So to those having a hard time choosing between dreams and practicality, weigh it out and always remember to put yourself and your happiness first. And of course, choose the choice that you know you'll not regret later on.