Consumerism & Waste


Shopping is fun, but the more we buy, the more waste we produce. Understand how what you purchase leads to more pollution in our quiz below.

Need to know how to avoid debt and learn to save instead of spending your money? Check out the resources below.

Consumer Culture in the U.S.

Understand the shopping culture in our country and why its tough on the environment.


Use a recyclable, BPA-free bottle for water. It's well worth the money you'll spend for a quality bottle because you'll use it everyday.

If you want a soda or other kind of drink, do what you can to reduce waste -- buy liter bottles instead of a few smaller ones or cans. For tea or lemonade, use a mix in your reusable water bottle instead of buying individual servings.

And in a pinch, when you do buy something in an individual serving, make sure the packaging makes it into a recycle bin.

Find a list of picks for BPA-free water bottles here.


Choose batteries that can be recharged.

We all have gadgets that need powering up from time to time so instead of spending cash on new batteries every few weeks, invest in a set of rechargeable ones.

Wondering which ones you should buy? Find a list of suggestions here.


Check out what's on hand first.

At the beginning of the school year in particular, take stock of what you already have before you shop. Or, if you need something specific that you might not use every day, like graph paper, take a survey of your junk drawers and cabinets before you hit a store for something new.

Also, if it's something the whole class needs to buy, parter up with someone and split the package -- and the cost.

Find more tips for going green while shopping here.


Cover your books and avoid writing in them so they can be used by another student next year.

Obviously, text books will inevitably need to be replaced from time to time, but if you take care of the books you're given each year, the school will have to replace fewer copies between editions.

While the debate over electronic textbooks is ongoing, the fact is that 30 million trees are used each year to print books. Using a few less is good for everyone.


Take only what you need.

Many people are in the habit of grabbing a stack of napkins and a handful of ketchup in the cafeteria or at a fast food restaurant, but by taking an extra second to figure out how much you'll really use, you can save a lot.

While you're at it, why not bring your own, reusable utensils and make use of that water bottle in a restaurant? Check out more tips for creating less waste at fast food restaurants here. You can use most of this advice at the school cafeteria too.

Do you bring your lunch to school? Try making it waste-free with a reusable lunch bag and food containers and avoiding plastic bags and foil -- or reusing that stuff as much as possible.


Make the project you choose to work on about sustainability. There are literally dozens of specific projects you can choose that are good and green. You can get some ideas fromour guide by clicking here.

When you do pick a project, even if it's not focused entirely on sustainability, try to go into it with a green mind. For example, if you're doing construction work with Habitat for Humanity, find out if any building materials can be recycled. Or, if you're working at a soup kitchen, see if you can put some of what you learned about reducing fast food waste there.


Choose an evergreen theme so that any decorations you purchase can be reused the following year.

Or, keep the decorations neutral enough so that most of them can be re-purposed for another theme -- Casino night becomes James Bond, or Spring Fling becomes May Day.

Remember, this also means that you might have to spend a little more time taking everything down, but again, it might be worth it when you see how much money you saved on not buying new stuff.

This tip also applies to wrapping gifts -- don't be afraid to get creative!


Go vintage!

Not only will you save resources when you shop sustainably, you'll also be fashionable. It can be fun to find a great boutique that carries unique stuff and makes you look great -- not just like everyone else wearing stuff from the stores you can usually find in a mall.

When you do buy new, think about the choices you make and when you can, err on the side of the environment. For list of fabrics that are great for the planet, click here.

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