Two words I don't usually see together are 'sustainable' and 'affordable'. Beyond cost, we weigh up whether we can afford to spend time, effort, energy, and convenience on converting to an eco-friendly lifestyle. Especially as a student, striking that balance is hard. Can we afford to spend our money on the latest sustainable alternative, can we afford travel a little further to the local farmhouse instead of the supermarket, can we afford to take an extra 30 minutes to use public transport instead of driving everywhere? While many of us want to make sustainable choices in our life, it is easy to fall back on these habits.
Simple changes that even a student can make…
Only buying what you need:
I believe every student has learnt this the hard way. It seems so much easier to buy all of your groceries at once, saving you time and effort of travelling back and forth to the shops. But, when not planned correctly, this can lead to waste as items are forgotten about, pushed to the back of your fridge or cupboard. It is much less wasteful to plan your meals and ensure you use ingredients before they go off. (Top tip is putting all of your ingredients that need using into a big pot of pasta sauce).
Shop from independent businesses:
I am fortunate enough to live in Jesmond, Newcastle, where there is a weekly food market on Saturdays. Here I can not only pick up organic produce- much better than purchasing from supermarkets- but support independent businesses. (Plus, it means I can try tasty new foods!)
Second-hand shopping and sustainable businesses:
I'm sure everyone knows this tip by now but it is one of my favourites so I had to include. Not only is it a great alternative to fast fashion, but it is such good fun once you get into it! Finding unique gems, one-of-a-kind pieces and incredible craftsmanship is all part of the fun. You can even go with friends and make a day out of it.
Walk or use public transport:
This one is self-explanatory. Many students must do this as it's their only option, myself included. Despite it seeming like an inconvenience, I have realised that taking the extra 30 minutes to walk to campus has become one of my favourite times of day. Plus, it allows me to get my daily exercise and fresh air in without jeopardising my busy student schedule.
Giving a little extra consideration to how you dispose of your waste:
In first year, our shared flat’s divided bins quickly became a swarm of mixed rubbish thrown into any bag that had space. While it may seem more convenient to throw all waste into one bin, it is important to divide your rubbish correctly so that it can be disposed of as effectively as possible.
Obviously emails are more sustainable than sending letters and a much faster and more reliable form of communication ((imagine having to write a letter to your tutor asking a question regarding a very important assignment and having to wait for days to get a letter back?) But did you know that the countless emails you have gathered in your inbox are actually consuming energy? According to one study, if every single person in France deleted 50 emails, the energy savings would be equivalent to turning the Eiffel Tower’s lights off for 42 years. So, I recommend making a habit of clearing your email when you can (don't forget the junk folder!).
Eating less meat:
While many go veggie or vegan for the environmental benefits, the complete change in diet can seem daunting for many, including myself. Instead, I find it more manageable to cut down the amount of meat and dairy in my diet. I do this by only having meat twice a week and substituting cow’s milk for oat or almond in my protein shakes… speaking of, I recently switched to a plant-based protein powder!
Only charge my phone when necessary:
I recently made the decision that I am no longer going to charge my phone overnight when I sleep. It is a convenient time, but a phone doesn't take 8hrs to charge… instead, I plug it in as soon as I wake up and let it charge while I am going about my morning routine. It is always ready by the time I need to leave the house.
Switch from single use to cloths- cotton pads, face cloth:
Revolutionary!! And saves a fortune on single use wipes too. They are easily one of the easiest switches I have made and they are great for removing makeup or applying skincare.
Reusable water bottle and coffee cup:
Another amazing purchase! Not only do they eliminate single-use plastic, but they are super handy for keeping drinks the right temperate when trapped in day long lectures and library sessions.
Recycled material notebooks:
They are better for the environment AND quirky and fun. A very handy switch for taking study notes.
We are all guilty of nipping to the shops and forgetting to bring a bag…. I recommend these foldable bags, you can keep in your handbag or coat pocket just in case you make a quick purchase while you are out.
We hope that if you use some of these tips, you see the benefit of making more sustainable switches in your lifestyle and feel the positivity of making conscious changes.
By Elise Waters