Zero Waste Student Activities on Earth Day

Written by
Iryna Komazova
April 20, 2022

Every 22 April since 1970, the world has celebrated Earth Day. Environmental activists shout from the rooftops about plastic pollution, climate change and resource depletion, using all opportunities they can to be heard. Read on to find out how students can help the cause and contribute to spreading awareness about ecological problems and solutions. 

Earth Day Activities for Students

It was the power of student activism that inspired Senator Nelson to launch the first Earth Day. And it could be you who forces your government to take urgent environmental action. Join a local rally or lead your own peaceful protest to show your position about the necessity of developing a waste management system that causes no harm to nature. Or if that’s not for you, there are plenty of other ways you can celebrate Earth Day during your studies. We’ve divided the activities according to how much effort you’ll need to carry them out.

Low effort:

  • Launch a snack–from-home day. Students’ brains are overloaded all day long. To keep your brain productive, you often feel the need for something sweet. That’s why students often have snacks between lectures: protein bars, chocolate, chips, etc. As their packaging is usually non-recyclable, taking healthy waste-free snacks in a lunchbox can reduce your daily waste production. It could be something you do by yourself, or you could ask your Dean to help promote the idea to other students in your department.
  • Organise a meeting with environmental activists. Hearing NGO experts talk passionately about their achievements can be very motivational. Through a personal meeting or an online conference, local and international activists can inspire students to help protect nature and join the worldwide movement.
  • Make signs about conscious consumption. Remind students and faculty to turn off the lights and water, use fewer paper towels, segregate waste, etc. When using posters, it is important to place the posters exactly where the action takes place. Try to make your signs sound friendly and catchy, so people feel happy to do what you’re asking of them.

If Americans used only one paper towel each time they dried their hands, they would save over 571 million pounds of paper towels each year.

Medium effort:

  • Advocate for green solutions on campus. Apply to the university board to make changes that will reduce waste production exponentially. For example, request to install water bottle refilling stations, and motivate students to use them instead of buying plastic bottles all the time. Another big and worthwhile change you can initiate is composting on campus. Canteen staff and students put their organic leftovers inside, then the free fertiliser can be used to boost the university garden or indoor plants. You’ll need to show that you are not the only one who demands these changes, so get signatures from other students to support the applications.
  • Host zero waste workshops. Look for some students who could lead an upcycling workshop, or invite someone with the skills from outside your university. For example, students could learn how to weave baskets out of newspapers or to knit rugs out of old t-shirts. And as recycling equipment can be quite small and mobile these days, it’s even possible to arrange a recycling workshop in which students can turn their used plastic materials (e.g. bottle tops, HDPE bottles) into useful items, such as recycled plastic bowls. Such entertainment provokes participants to think about the value of the resources we use and throw away instead of giving them a second chance.
  • Organise a swap or a garage sale. It is easy to find similar interests and needs among students, so such an event will be popular. As well of course, as having a positive impact on the environment, as the life of the items will be prolonged. Set rules in order not to let it become too chaotic: define what kind of goods students can bring (clothes, accessories, etc.) and decide if the items will be swapped or sold. Donate unclaimed items to raise money for local nonprofits that stand for environmental justice or rescue animals. Don’t forget to notify the relevant university staff about your plans.
Swap clothes instead of throwing them away

High effort:

  • Start a recycling point in your student accommodation. Usually, people tend to recycle more at home than they do at work or in public spaces. As your student accommodation is now your home for a few years, make it resource-effective! Discuss all the possibilities with the management: recycling bins on all floors, containers outside the buildings, or a recycling station that is open on set days. You should consider who will be in charge of the project, how the promotional campaign will be carried out, how the recyclable materials will get to the recycling company, etc. Your efforts will pay off with the results!
  • Start a campus garden. Like the others in this section, this activity cannot be finished in one day. But it will be a huge step toward a zero waste campus if you succeed. You can grow fruit and vegetables, berries, and herbs for the university canteen. No packaging and no transport emissions! Students will get super fresh vitamins for lunch and food-growing experience. First make sure the area you have in mind is safe for food-growing, and then go to the relevant university board. Earth Day is a wonderful time to start planning such an impactful project!
  • Collect small electronics on campus. E-waste consists of hazardous chemicals such as mercury, lead and cadmium. These substances can leak into the ground from items such as disposed TVs, smartphones or microwaves, and pollute the environment. Because of its toxicity, e-waste should be recycled separately according to safety rules, and cannot be disposed of in landfills. You could organise a collection event for small electronics (after discussing the details with the university, and checking you’re meeting your local e-waste laws). Gather a team of co-thinkers and sort electronic items after the event. Repair the broken items and give them to people in need, as well as the ones that still work well. Recycle electronic items that cannot be repaired. If there is no free recycling option, you can ask for donations from students or try to find sponsors.
A landfill is no place for electronics!

How to Celebrate Earth Day Independently

If you don’t want to run or participate in big events, you can take positive action on a personal level. Try out the following ideas at home alone or together with your family:

  • Make sustainable dinner: use ingredients that need using up, buy local groceries without packaging, and compost leftovers.
  • Urge politicians to act for our planet: get your government representatives to tackle the rising problem of plastic pollution and transform waste management in your country or region.
  • Go plogging: go for a run, pick up litter along the route, and recycle whatever you can.
Keep yourself fit and your city clean!

Finally, no matter how big or small your action, tell your friends about it on your social media. Don’t feel like it’s bragging. By sharing what you’re doing, you’re not saying “Look at me, look how good I am”, but sending a message that “If I can become more eco-friendly, then you can too! Every action for planet earth matters”. 

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Students, celebrate Earth Day zero waste style! Choose an activity to do for the environment on 22 April, whether at university or at home.
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