The one closest to my heart was the Zero Waste challenge. I've spent this past year transitioning into a more zero-waste lifestyle, reducing and minimizing what I don't need. I have realized that for me less is truly more. It hasn't been terribly hard for me and I have learned to plan ahead. I don't view it as limiting - I view it as lighting your step and being kind to the environment. Which leads me to this post!
I believe you can make conscious choices anytime, anywhere. It's never too early or late to start and your actions certainly matter no matter how big or "small'. Intended to be a Back to College Guide, these are my staples for both university & work. Everything can be recycled or reused and falls within the realm of zero-waste! They would also make great gifts for someone in your life whether they are a student, or have office work (like me!) - or both.
ECoffee Bamboo Cup | I saw this on Lauren Singer (Trash Is For Tossers) and was able to find the company that sells it. I was very hesitant on getting a reusable coffee cup for hot drinks (so I mostly avoided them) because most are made of plastic or glass I wanted to find safer alternative that would contain hot liquids that wouldn't burn you or break that anyone could use. Their cups are made from organic bamboo fiber and non-GMO corn starch as well as BPA and phthalate free. They are pretty neat because it has an attachable "stopper" that prevents liquid from spilling out on the go. I'm pretty reckless and have used it in my small tote bag and didn't have any spilling/coffee leaking. These are also available on Amazon (be sure to use Amazon Smile!)
Ukonserve Insulated Coffee Cup | Made out of double walled stainless steel and comes with a silicone coffee lid, this is an excellent sought after alternative for getting iced/blended coffees, teas, as well as the hot versions of them. Because I imbibe coffee on the regular this has been a lifesaver and I hope to see more of these in lieu of the standard coffee cups that are generally not recyclable. The majority of communities in the United States aren't equipped with recycling technology capable of dealing with these types of cups. this is because of the way that the cups are made: most paper cups are coated with a plastic resin (i.e., polyethylene) for durability and convenience, therefore making both their composting and recycling uncommon and raising the specter of carcinogenic chemical leeching. When we consider the numbers, about 60 billion paper cups in the U.S. end up in landfills every year because they can't be recycled. Personally the best way for consumers to go is getting a reusable coffee cup, many coffee drinkers tend to get their orders on-the-go - even if coffee companies offered a recyclable option, which they should, it would require effort on the consumer to find a composting or recycle bin to properly dispose of the cup.
UKonserve Travel Utensil | This is a double side utensil made of sustainably harvested bamboo. Read why bamboo is a preferable option to plastic here ! It comes with a mesh bag that is made of polyester but you can hand wash it as well
SipWell Stainless Steel Drinking Straws | These come with four straws and a cleaning brush, I got them in June and only wish they had come with a mini-bag of sorts to transport them. Overall these are quite impressive: they haven't rusted, are easy to clean, and they fit in my Ukonserve cup. Plastic straws are just as bad as single use coffee cups - most can't be recycled and for those that can, how many actually are? With roughly 500 million straws being used in the US each day, they don't just go to landfill but unfortunately into the ecosystem of marine wildlife.
UKonserve Stainless Steel Mini Container | Simple and effective these containers are ideal for a small meal or snack, the measurement is 2" x 1.5" but they have several other options and sizes for customizing
Zebra Stainless Steel Ballpoint Retractable Pen | Pens & Office supplies are often way for litter to pile up. I invested in these pens that are professional-grade stainless steel from tip to clip, you can "refill them" with these ink cartridges. Although you'd need to purchase the ink after it runs out, this reduces the need for spare pens. I haven't purchases any other pens aside from the ones on this list.
Zebra Stainless Steel Mechanical Pencil | Self explanatory, a minimalistic alternative to the ubiquitous plastic lead pencils - this one won't break and grips onto the lead pretty well.
Pegasus Decomposition Book & Celestial Decomposition Book | These feature 80 lined pages made from 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper that was processed chlorine-free, soy ink colored , and you can recycle it when you no longer need it! Although these are more on the pricier side, they are an investment so perhaps you may not get it for office/school but as a journal instead.