Despite busy schedules, these UT students prioritize zero-waste

Bonny Chu

Students often don’t have the time or energy to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills due to busy schedules full of academics, internships and jobs. However, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Certain students, such as art history junior Jordan Ritter, have been attempting to live a zero-waste lifestyle anyway.

“I’m just really concerned with the environment,” said Ritter, who went zero-waste six months ago. “I don’t think we need to be occupying the amount of space that we do. I think of myself as being in this circle, a kind where we should all be working together to have a sustainable community.”

Zero-waste students utilize a range of different methods to reduce waste. For instance, they compost food scraps, carry their own containers to restaurants, make three-ingredient toothpaste and even gift holiday presents with coconut shells instead of wrapping paper.

Tristine Lam, a student who went zero-waste over one year ago, said going green is not only better for the environment but teaches discipline as well.

“It has to do with refusing,” marketing senior Lam said. “So you refuse a lot of consumerism that comes with everyday lives. I try not to order anything online to reduce carbon emissions, and not buying pre-packaged junk food is just good for your health.”

Ritter said she agrees with Lam that zero-waste living benefits both the environment and the person participating.

“A lot of commercial products like soap are full of toxins,” Ritter said. “You shouldn’t use these products because your body adapts to it and becomes more dependent on it, too.”

While Ritter and Lam are already accustomed to a zero-waste routine, Lam said society has to be more accepting and accommodating to sustainable practices.

“We have to start normalizing concepts like bringing your own containers to ice cream parlors so others are encouraged to do the same,” Lam said. “It’s also not as accessible as it should be. There’s not enough restaurants that have caught on to being more sustainable.”

Elizabeth Schasel, a Plan II and marking senior who went zero-waste nine months ago, said reducing waste is not as difficult or time consuming as people think.

“It’s just a matter of swapping routines,” Schasel said. “It’s nothing that I have to change my daily habits so much as switch the products that I use.”

However, Ritter said some people have difficulty pursuing this lifestyle, especially during the transitional period.

“It can be super sad,” Ritter said. “It’s really easy to get down on yourself for not doing enough or doing it right. We’re taught and conditioned all of our lives to live a certain way.”

But if people try to go zero-waste, Ritter said they shouldn’t be discouraged because sometimes there is no better option and people make mistakes.

“The thing I really like about the zero-waste community is that everyone’s pretty nice and everyone realizes that we’re not all perfect,” Ritter said. “Taking the time and being kind to yourself as you’re transitioning into this new way of life is important. You can start one thing at a time.”