How to Reduce Waste During Online School

Blog Contributor: Mikellena Nettos

Waste reduction is difficult and becomes increasingly more difficult when paired with a global pandemic. Being home all day without routine can bring out old and unsustainable habits. Therefore, here are five tips on how to reduce waste during online school or even working from home. Keep in mind these are only suggestions, and it’s okay if you are unable to follow them. Don’t be too hard on yourself, everyone is only doing what they can in hard times like these.  

Invest in reusables  

If you don’t already have one, invest in a coffee maker instead of ordering delivery Starbucks delivery every day. This will not only save you money long term, you can help reduce the amount of non-reusable coffee cups that go into the landfill because they can be difficult to recycle. 

 Did you know that it takes 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water to make one ton of paper towels?. Instead of buying paper towels, buy reusable/washable cloths. Since you are home more often, you might use more paper towels than you used to. However, since you have the extra time why not invest in cloths that you can wash instead?! If you want to go the extra mile, just you can make cloths out of old tattered clothing, or if you don’t want to do the extra laundry, try to only buy paper towel made from 100% recycled paper!   

Try and reduce food waste  

Bulking buying can save money, but it can also waste money if the food isn’t eaten before it expires. A way to combat this is to buy more non-perishables or freezer items; examples are canned foods, dried meats, or grains. Additionally, you can put the food that is close to expiry at the front of your fridge to remind yourself to eat it first! Another food saving tip is learning how to properly store fresh produce. Also, don’t forget to compost when you are done with food scraps! 


Leaving your phone or laptop chargers plugged in all the time can end up using a lot of energy over time. Additionally, it can be a safety hazard in the case of power surges. A quick solution to this is a power-bar with an on/off switch if you don’t want to go through the trouble of unplugging all the time.  

Additionally, not only does unplugging save energy, it can also increase mental health. Instead of watching Netflix or mindlessly scrolling through social media between classes, go on a walk or bike ride! Research shows that exercise (especially exercise within/around nature) increases perceived mental well-being, so don’t skip the walk!  

Go for walks instead of drives 

As previously mentioned, walks outside can significantly increase mental well-being. So, when you need a change of scenery from being stuck in your house, opt for a walk instead of aimlessly driving around. It’s better for your body and the planet because walks thankfully don’t require the combustion of greenhouse gases.  

Make food with loved ones instead of ordering take-out 

Making food can be particularly hard as a student, especially if you share the kitchen with multiple people. Instead of all creating individual meals, or all ordering takeout, try and cook meals together. This can increase well-being because you are spending quality time with roommates or family and creating a dish for you all to share. Eating together can also reduce the sense of isolation that some can feel due to this new virtual world. If you do order takeout, remember to opt out of receiving plastic cutlery, and use utensils from home instead!  

Don’t forget little changes go a long way! We hope everyone if adjusting well and staying safe during this difficult time.  


Canadian Produce Marketing Association. (2020, June 30). How to Store Fruits and Veggies. Half Your Plate. 

Kender, D. U. T. (2020, January 29). Myth vs. fact: Unplugging devices when you leave the house. USA TODAY. 

Hasselberger, L. (2015, January 6). 13 Facts about Home Paper Products that May Inspire You to Hug a Tree. DrGreene.Com. 

Maas, J. (2006). Green space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation? Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health60(7), 587–592. 

Reducing Waste: What You Can Do. (2020, September 4). US EPA.