How To Be A Zero Waste College Student

It’s officially back to school season! For many incoming college students, it means packing up to live on their own for the first time as they head to campus dorms and apartments. Whether you are a freshman or heading back for another fun-filled year, moving into a college dorm is the perfect time to start implementing zero waste habits into your lifestyle. To help you get started, here are a few tips to live a zero waste lifestyle in your dorm!

Waste Less, Save More

While packing for college, think about what you already have! You probably own most of the items on your packing list. Start by packing your favorite blankets and pillows from home; this will help if you get homesick. Most campuses and residential communities have online, “Buy and Sell” Facebook groups where students can purchase used furniture, clothes, and books. Whether you are moving in or out of your dorm or apartment, make sure to check out these resources to reduce curb waste and save money. If you are unable to sell your furniture, donate it to a second-hand store instead of discarding it.

Bar soap and package-free shampoo are not always ideal options. However, metal tins (like these from Lush) are the perfect solution! These containers will help keep your soap clean in communal showers and reduce your plastic consumption. Also, consider purchasing multi-use products to reduce the amount of rigid plastic in your bathroom caddy. For example, coconut oil can be used as a conditioner, body lotion, and lip balm. Make sure to skip out on purchasing plastic loofas. Plastic loofas accumulate tons of bacteria and end up in landfills. Instead, DIY your own body scrub using natural alternatives! Lastly, make sure to switch out your plastic toothbrush for a biodegradable bamboo one!

Go from Fast Fashion to Sustainably Stylish

It’s a new year! Maybe your style changed, or maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Before shopping at fast-fashion retailers, think about the 26 trillion pounds of clothing and textiles that end up in landfills each year. Instead of falling victim to this growing trend, check out flea markets and thrift shops to maintain your zero-waste lifestyle.You can even plan a clothing swap party with your hometown friends before moving out! This is a great way to repurpose items that would have ended up in a landfill. While packing for college, make time to go through your entire wardrobe. Determine what clothes you wear regularly, and donate the rest. On your way to orientation, drop off old clothes at a second-hand store!

Remember college can be messy, so don’t invest in clothing you wouldn’t mind getting dirty. Also, don’t forget that you can share clothes with your roommate(s) (just make sure to ask before borrowing)! Lastly, bring a few old t-shirts! Instead of using paper towels, use old t-shirts as rags to wipe down your desk or clean windows.

Pass on the Plastics

What is every college student’s best friend? COFFEE. Unfortunately, most disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic, making them hard to recycle. Investing in a reusable bottle, such as a HydroFlask, is a great way to reduce this type of waste and save money! Most on-campus coffee shops will even give students discounts for bringing their own mugs.

Cooking in college can be a struggle. If you do not have access to a full kitchen, see if you can bring reusable containers to the dining halls. This way, you can avoid Styrofoam and plastic packaging, while saving money and helping the environment! If you like to snack while studying, try making these no-bake granola bites. These granola bites are not only the perfect study snack, but they are also healthy and waste free!

Rethink How You Write

We continue to live in an increasingly digital world. Instead of buying new notebooks, try going paperless next semester! Taking notes on a laptop can make studying and collaborating with your classmates easier. However, if you learn better by handwriting your notes, consider investing in a Rocketbook. These notebooks can digitally transcribe text.

College textbooks can be crazy expensive. One easy way to save money and reduce your waste is to purchase used textbooks, borrow old textbooks from your friends, or use an e-book. Another tip is to ask your professors if you can reuse blue books that still have blank pages in them!

Take Action!

Remember, in college, people won’t make fun of different lifestyle habits. Instead, they will want to ask questions, learn more, and educate themselves on zero waste habits! Meet friends starting their zero waste journey by joining clubs or volunteering at your campus’ sustainability center.

Unfortunately, not all college lifestyle habits can be easily translated into zero waste practices. For example, cheap ramen will normally be packaged in plastic (however, there are meal prep options when you are further along in your zero waste journey). What is important is that you are taking steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle and contributing to a healthier and greener future!

For more inspiration on how to find zero waste ideas, resources, and other waste reduction techniques, our one-stop database WasteFreeSD or calling our staff at 1-800-237-BLUE (1-800-237-2583) for incorporated residents or 1-877-R-1-EARTH (1-877-713-2784) for unincorporated residents will help answer any of your questions.

Zero Waste Gift Ideas

Gifting a zero-waste gift is easier than you think! We’ve compiled and tested out some great strategies for zero-waste gift-giving to make your spirits bright while incorporating zero-waste habits.


Cute wrapping paper and fancy bows are often all too tempting at the store. However, going more sustainable with your wrapping can help you personalize your gifts and save money. These are just a few alternative materials that you can use during the holidays to replace single-use wrapping:

  • Fabric Scraps. For smaller gifts, use fabric scraps from an old sewing project like t-shirts, tablecloths, sheets, or curtains, and turn them into something useful. All you need to do is simply cut a square piece, gather it at the top of the box and tie it together.
  • Newspaper. Newspapers make wonderful wrapping paper. Comic pages are especially fun for kids (and adults)!
  • Paper bags (for those times you forget your reusable grocery bags). Many people reuse their paper bags as book covers or trash bags but they also make for great gift-wrapping material. You can get creative and draw on them for an added look!
  • Reusable bags. Utilize a reusable bag to wrap your gift. Many reusable bags are sold at grocery stores or thrift stores. Wrapping only lasts a few days but reusable bags can last a lifetime!
  • Cloth, scarf, or handkerchief. Wrap your gift in a vintage handkerchief, cloth napkin, or scarf for two gifts in one!
  • Reused gift bags or gift wrap. Keep all gift bags you receive and reuse them when needed!
  • Or just skip the wrapping! What matters is on the inside, right? 😉 

Be sure to decorate and personalize your gifts once they’re wrapped. Use twine instead of bows and make your own cards or tags out of scratch paper, old tags, scraps, or business cards. You can even add leaves and pine cones that you pick up on your walks!

For more zero-waste gift wrap ideas, check out our past blog on Sustainable Gift Wrap Solutions.


Zero Waste Gift Ideas

There are many directions you can go to incorporate zero-waste practices into your gift-giving and bring even more meaning to your gifts. In general, look for gifts with minimal or no packaging and figure out what your family and friends really want and need. Sometimes the best zero-waste gift is the one that the recipient will enjoy for years to come!

  • Eco-friendly items. Help friends and family be more sustainable with gifts like reusable cups, stainless steel straws, or travel utensil sets.
  • Shop local. Buy locally roasted coffee, find unique gifts at farmers’ markets and support local boutiques. Often, local companies are more sustainable with packaging and materials.
  • Purchase repurposed items such as glass cups made from beer bottles.
  • Shop at thrift or second-hand stores. Games, books, and kitchen items are great categories to find secondhand to prevent consumer waste and save some money.
  • Support a nonprofit. Give a gift to an organization making a difference in your community on behalf of a friend or family member.
  • Make DIY Gifts such as beeswax candles, bird feeders, scarves, or make your own handmade soap.
  • Invest in an experience. Purchase a cooking lesson, schedule a tour pass to discover a new part of San Diego, or book tickets for a theater show. Giving the gift of an experience can also be a great way to share time together!
  • Share your Favorite Food. Share your latest baking creation! Make cake pops, truffles, or gummy bears. Be sure to think of zero-waste-friendly packaging options such as cloth napkins, beeswax saran wrap, Mason jars, or reusable tins.
  • Buy a membership. Art lover? Give them a museum membership. Surfer? Purchase a membership for an organization like Surfrider Foundation. Foodie? Get a membership that supports an organization AND gives discounts to local restaurants like Slow Food Urban San Diego.

The best gifts are always the ones well thought out. Although the holidays are challenging to be zero waste, it gives an extra push to get creative and find environmentally friendly items that will truly be used by the person receiving the gift. We hope you consider these zero-waste practices when finding gifts for your special ones this holiday.

38th Annual Coastal Cleanup Day

38th Annual Coastal Cleanup Day

Free online registration opens on September 1, 2022.

Join hundreds of thousands of volunteers all over the world by participating in the 38th Annual Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, September 17th, 2022. Register to be a part of the largest single day environmental action event in San Diego County by removing polluting litter and debris from your community.

By joining forces with I Love A Clean San Diego and getting out in your local community to remove trash, you can support your neighborhood and protect our San Diego watersheds. Volunteers of all ages are invited to grab buckets and work gloves and join one of our 75+ site locations across San Diego County. No matter where you live in the county, every gutter, street, parking lot, park, canyon and beach is in one of the county’s 11 watersheds. The health of these systems means healthier creeks and ocean for all of us!

Registration opens Thursday, September 1 at

Officially sign up on September 1, 2022 and get ready to clean up San Diego County on September 17th. Registered volunteers will receive important safety and site resources and information to have a successful cleanup. Contact the Volunteer Coordinator, Kristin Banks, to register by phone if you do not have internet access: (619)787.4448 Throughout the month of September, we will share event updates and more to prepare you for the big day. Learn more about Troop patches, community service verification, and more at

FIX-IT! Repair & Reuse Workshop | Spring Valley

I Love A Clean San Diego is hosting a two-hour FIX-IT! Repair & Reuse Workshop that will teach you how turn an old t-shirt into a reusable tote-bag!

Do you own a t-shirt that you really love but is now too old to be worn in public? Do you want to learn a new skill to upcycle your clothes and give them a second life? Join this workshop to learn the sustainable and skills of sewing, embroidery, and up-cycling.

This event is happening on June 16, 2022 from 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM and is FREE to all registered attendees.

RSVP is required.

Get ready to get crafty!
We ask all attendees to bring a t-shirt of your choice and a reusable mug to enjoy some tea. All other materials will be provided. See you then!
Thank you to the Mateando Embroidery Club for facilitating this skills sharing portion of this workshop.
Thank you to the County of San Diego for partnering on this event.

Zero Waste BBQ

Zero Waste BBQ

Zero Waste BBQ

Summer means longer days, warmer weather, and spending more time outside. For San Diegans, this leads to beach days, barbecues and other outdoor events! It can also lead to a lot of waste – every summer, I Love A Clean San Diego collects thousands of pounds of litter from our local beaches. For your gatherings this this season, consider going zero waste! I Love A Clean San Diego wants to help you host a low waste barbecue so you can spend less time worrying about trash, and more time focused on fun!

Ditch the Disposables

When there are large groups involved, it can be easy to reach for paper plates and plastic cutlery. However, one plastic water bottle requires 1.85 gallons of water to make. When we throw single use items away, we’re throwing away our natural resources as well. It’s best for the environment to use reusable tableware instead. If you’re concerned about being left with a ton of dishes at the end of the night, ask your guests to BYOP – bring your own plate! Let everyone know you are going for a plastic-free event, and people will be excited to help out. Try cloth napkins instead of paper, or glasses and mugs instead of paper cups. You can even find metal skewers for roasting marshmallows, rather than disposable ones.

Here in San Diego, we are lucky to have so many breweries and wineries close by. Try filling a few growlers instead of opting for bottles and cans, and look for wineries that will refill or reuse their wine bottles.

Forgo Food Waste

In the United States, the average person throws about 3.5 pounds of wasted food per week. In planning your menu for your summer BBQ, look for recipes that have ingredients you can buy in bulk. Reducing packaging during your grocery trip can cut down on your overall waste from the event. You can also do your best to use every part of the ingredient – instead of throwing away your potato peels, bake them into chips!

Try out the recipes below for your next event.

For each, you can use up what you have, or easily find ingredients in bulk or recyclable packaging.

Other ideas include…

  • Making sangria or flavored water with leftover fruit
  • Roasting any wilting veggies on the grill
  • Using the last of that loaf of bread in bread pudding

Set it Up for Success

A key component to any zero waste event is making sure your guests know where and how to dispose of things at the end of the night. Make sure it’s clear which bin is for recycling, where they can put compost, and what they should do with anything that might need to go in the trash. Clearly labelling your bins ensures your guests feel confident enough to sort their waste on their own.

Some quick disposal tips…

  • Glass, metal, paper, and plastic containers can all be recycled
  • Food soiled paper and food scraps from produce can be composted
  • Bottle caps are too small to go into the recycling on their own. Collect these throughout the night and place them in an empty metal can to be recycled.

We know it can be hard to make these adjustments in the whirlwind of party planning but try a few small adjustments and see how easily habits can change. The best part is you might inspire friends and family to think differently about their waste habits as well! Let us know how your zero waste barbecue goes by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @ILoveACleanSD!

Pick up more tips and knowledge by attending our Celebrate Sustainably: Summer Fun webinar on July 28th! Register here. For more information on how to adopt a waste-free lifestyle visit For more information about our educational programs, contact

6th Annual Zero Waste Fair

Zero Waste Fair

6th Annual Zero Waste Fair

I Love A Clean San Diego County and the City of Encinitas invite San Diego County residents to celebrate and learn about all things zero waste! Whether you are curious about what exactly zero waste means, or are actively working towards a low waste lifestyle, this unique event touches on a variety of topics and issues related to sustainability.

Although this year will be presented in a virtual format, special guests will join I Love A Clean San Diego and expand on helpful information delivered in many of our traditional workshops and webinars. We will dig deeper into common topics, explore new themes, and bring in local voices to further develop the discussion. Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, I Love A Clean San Diego’s Environmental Educators will guide attendees through half hour and quarter hour live segments. Join us for the 6th Annual Zero Waste Fair on Saturday, June 12th, from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM for a series of mini-segments covering everything from sustainable fashion to current environmental justice concerns.

No matter where you are on your sustainability journey, log on for the topics that inspire you. There is no need to commit to the full four-hour event. You are welcome to hop on and off at any time.

This Year’s Topics

  • Low-Waste Living
  • Composting
  • Recycling
  • Environmental Justice
  • Food Systems
  • New Technology for Organic Waste

Event Schedule

9:00 AM: I Love A Clean San Diego: Kick-Off

9:15 AM: City of Encinitas: Environmental Initiatives

9:30 AM: San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition: Environmental Justice in San Diego

10:00 AM: EDCO: Organics Recycling Through Anaerobic Digestion

10:30 AM: Solana Center: Feeding the Soil by Composting

11:00 AM: San Diego Food Systems Alliance: Solutions to Reducing Food Waste

11:30 AM: WasteFreeSD: Recycling, E-Waste, and Hazardous Waste Guidelines

12:00 PM: Acteevism: Sustainable Fashion Q&A

12:25 PM: The Zero Waste Family: Low Waste Living Q&A

Segments cover a range of topics and dive into local updates and complex issues. Stay up to date on the event by registering today.

A Zoom link will be provided with registration confirmation email. Attendees will also have the opportunity to discover local resources and win sustainable prizes! Can’t wait to see you there!

The Right Way to Recycle Curbside

Recycle Curbside

The Right Way to Recycle Curbside

Recycling Curbside

What you can recycle curbside is subject to your residential location. Each jurisdiction might have different rules according to the hauler responsible, which can be either EDCO, Waste Management, Republic or City of San Diego Environmental Services Department.

If you live in the Unincorporated County of San Diego, please refer to the Recycle Right campaign for general directions on what can be recycled in your blue bin, and contact your respective waste haulers for items that you are unsure of.

Recycling Right means your items are:

  • EMPTY. No or very little food residue remaining.
  • DRY. No liquids remaining. Liquids can ruin paper, cardboard and other materials in the recycle bin, making them unrecyclable.
  • LOOSE. Do not bag your recyclables; place them loose in the recycling bin.

Once you find out who your hauler is, click on the company name and you will be able to find their respective recyclability guidelines and what you can put in your blue bin:

EDCO Recycle GuideEDCO Recycle Curbside

 Waste Management Recycle Guide

Recycle Curbside Waste Management

 Republic Services Recycle Guide

Recycle Curbside Republic Services

City of San Diego Environmental Services Department Recycle Guide

Recycle Curbside ESD

Unacceptable Items

Regardless of where you reside or who your hauler is, remember to keep these items OUT of your blue bin:

  • Plastic bags/film (do not bag your recyclables)
    • Click here to find out more about plastic bag/film recycling or visit
  • Mixed material packaging such as chip bags or juice pouches
  • Polystyrene packing peanuts
  • Tangling items such as garden hoses, chains, clothing hangers and rope
  • Universal wastes such as batteries, fluorescent light bulbs and electronics
    • Click here to find out where you can recycle your batteries or visit
  • Hazardous wastes such as automotive fluids, cleaners and paint
    • Visit to find out where you can take your hazardous wastes

Recycling and Buyback Centers

Many items can still be recycled, even if they don’t go in your curbside Blue Bin. Examples include packing peanuts, metal scrap and Universal Waste. To find out where your closest recycling and buyback center is located, look up your item on

Recycled Crafts: Toilet Paper Tube Binoculars

Recycle Crafts

Recycled Crafts: Toilet Paper Tube Binoculars

Wondering how to teach your kids about Zero Waste? Recycled crafts are a great place to start! Creating crafts from materials you already have at home is the perfect way to help teach your children about the importance of resource conservation and upcycling.

Here in San Diego County, we create a lot of waste. Residents create an average of 5.6 pounds of waste per person per day. This adds up to 2,044 pounds of waste per year, weighing more than a giraffe! After we throw our trash away, it never really goes “away,” but rather ends up in our landfills. With the current rate our waste is entering our landfills, they are expected to close a lot sooner than we realize. Regionally, our landfills in San Diego County are estimated to close in 2052. In order to avoid going out into our environment and building a new landfill, it is important to see how we can reduce the amount we are throwing away and slow the rate at which our landfills are filling up.

Get Creative and Reuse!

So, how can we throw less away?

Recycling is a great place to start! By sorting our metal, paper and cartons, glass and plastic containers into our recycling bin, we are helping to put these resources back into our economy and produce new products!

Looking to take it one step further? Reuse! Reusing is one amazing way to reduce what we throw away and help our environment thrive. By reusing an item, you are using something again or in a completely new way, giving the item a whole new life. There are many ways to reuse items, but one clever way to get kids involved is to make toys from “trash!” Creating recycled crafts is a great way to get creative with your children and simultaneously teach them about why it’s important to reduce what we throw away.

Start off by taking a look at the items you have at home: toilet paper or paper towel tubes, soda bottles, newspapers, magazines and plenty more! There are so many crafts you can create with traditionally recycled materials. Crafting with repurposed materials helps children think outside the box, while developing fine motor skills and expressing themselves in unique ways; let your child’s imagination take the lead!

Getting Crafty

Don’t toss your toilet paper tubes! They’re great tools to see the world. Simply follow the below instructions and build your very own binoculars.

With a few supplies from around your home, you’ll have everything you need for an afternoon of creativity and science! Follow along to learn how to make Toilet Paper Tube Binoculars.

How to Create –  Toilet Paper Tube Binoculars

Step by Step Instructions


  • Two (2) toilet paper rolls
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • String, ribbon, yarn, or wire
  • Scrap paper or photos
  • Markers, paint, or crayons
  • Hole punch or pen

Follow these steps:

1. Gather supplies. Create your own drawing, gather photos from magazines and newspapers, or use wrapping paper to create your own designs to decorate the binoculars.

Recycled Crafts

2. Cut your picture, designs or photos to the same length as the toilet paper roll. Place glue on the back of the photo or picture.

Recycled Crafts

3. Roll the paper around each tube. Let it dry. Punch a hole in each side of the toilet paper roll with a pen or hole punch.  You may want to ask for help with this step.

Recycled Crafts

4. Glue the two rolls together. Tie a string on the side of each roll for a neck strap. Once dry, your binoculars are ready to see new things and explore your world.

Recycle Crafts


Visit I Love A Clean San Diego’s YouTube channel to view the video on How to Make Your Toilet Paper Tube Binoculars!

Backyard Science

Once you’re finished making your binoculars, let your budding scientist take inspiration from the outdoors and explore their living landscape! Take a walk around your neighborhood, backyard, park, or playground to see what they can find.

Scavenger Hunt Idea – What can you spot with your binoculars?

Observe what’s around you. Have your child make a list of what they spot. Have them record what they see, draw a picture or describe what the item looks like, noting any specific characteristics.

Keep an eye out for any local San Diego County species:

☐ Animal      ☐ Mineral      ☐ Vegetable      ☐ Wood      ☐ Metal

☐ Plastic      ☐ Glass         ☐ Paper            ☐ Insect

A Practical Path to Sustainable Parenting

Making trash is an inevitable part of raising kids, right? It doesn’t have to be! Register today for I Love A Clean San Diego’s upcoming free webinar, A Practical Path to Sustainable Parenting, on Tuesday, March 16th, from 8-9 p.m. From infants to teens, we’ll share how to integrate low-waste habits into daily routines in achievable ways, including toys, snacks, birthday parties, and school supplies, and how to effectively teach your children about environmental issues. Please register to receive the Zoom link. Thank you to the City of San Diego for sponsoring this event.

5th Annual Zero Waste Fair

Zero Waste Fair

Join us for a unique celebration of all things zero waste!

I Love A Clean San Diego, in partnership with the City of Encinitas, is hosting the fifth annual Zero Waste Fair on Saturday, August 15th, from 9AM-1PM.

Register here to attend!

This year, the Zero Waste Fair is going virtual to bring you a variety of informative and fun presentations, demonstrations, and Q&A sessions. This one-of-a-kind opportunity will highlight low-waste living, composting, recycling, environmental justice, and more. Attendees will also have the opportunity to try eco-friendly crafting, make personal zero waste goals, and win sustainable prizes!

Highlighted topics include:
Living zero waste with the EcoGoddess
Guided tour of a refill store
Climate action planning at the city of Encinitas
Composting at home
Recycling right
Environmental justice from the University of San Diego
Crafting with repurposed materials to send a message

Schedule of Speakers

Zero Waste Fair 2020 Schedule