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10 Ways to be More Sustainable at University

By Georgina Crowther

We are all aware of the urgency of climate change, and how our actions can have a huge impact on the environment. However, being environmentally friendly at university can often seem like a bit of a hassle when there’re friends, grades, cooking and societies to keep on top of. Besides, any student trying to be more sustainable inevitably becomes aware of how green alternatives to everyday products can often be much more expensive. Fortunately, there is a multitude of ways to be more sustainable at university that are free or that can even save you money.

1. Buying bars of soap and solid face wash rather than shower gel

Most shower gels come in single-use plastic bottles and shower gel is something we can get through very quickly. Try substituting your plastic-heavy bottle of shower gel for a bar of soap, which will not only last much longer and use significantly less plastic but will save you money too.

Another idea is to replace your bottle of face wash or scrub with a solid version. With these becoming more popular there is a range available, and much like the shower gel, a solid, plastic-free face wash will last longer than the liquid alternative and can therefore save you money over time.

2. Carrying a reusable bottle/coffee cup

You will have all heard this advice before. Using a reusable water bottle or coffee cup is, of course, going to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that gets disposed of every day. However, getting into the habit of taking a water bottle or coffee cup everywhere with you is a different matter, and with pens, paper, laptops, chargers and everything else a student needs, it can often get sacrificed to fit something else in your backpack. However, next time you pack your bag in the morning, think about how much money you could save over time not buying bottled drinks.

3. Remembering to bring a reusable bag to the supermarket

Another firm favourite with anyone instructing you how to live a more sustainable life. However, it is inevitable that once in a while we get to the checkout and realise that we have forgotten the all-important reusable bag. Then we think, ‘it’s only 10p’ and ‘it’s only one bag, what difference can that make?’ But, of course, it all adds up, in terms of both money and plastic production.

4. Waiting until you have a full load of laundry to wash

This may seem essential if you’re paying to do laundry in uni halls, but once you move out and are lucky enough to have your own washing machine it can be easy to start becoming more relaxed with this one. Washing machines use both water and energy, so washing full loads but less frequently is definitely the more sustainable option. Try using a shorter cycle and lower temperatures too to save energy.

5. Buying second-hand clothes

A study by Oxfam found that new clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times! Also, they found that over half of British adults aren’t aware of the impact of fast fashion on the environment. The easiest way to reduce your fashion’s impact on the environment is to reduce the amount of clothing that you purchase. In addition, try vintage shops, charity shops, Depop, eBay, and ethical clothing stores before you turn to the popular fast fashion brands. Buying clothes from slow fashion alternatives may appear to be more expensive, as manufacturing products more ethically inevitably costs more. However, if you take the time to consider the impact your shopping habits have on the environment and reduce the amount that you buy, you may find yourself saving money over time.

6. Cooking from scratch

Pre-cooked food and ready meals often come in single-use plastic packaging. Cooking from scratch and cutting out shop-bought products for homemade alternatives can go a long way in reducing our plastic usage. Try making your own bread or stock, and ensure you use up the leftovers in your fridge to not only reduce food waste and plastic usage but to save yourself money too.

7. Turn the heating down

Without your parents over your shoulder telling you to turn the heating down, it can be tempting to turn your uni house into the local sauna, especially if your bills are included in your rent. However, next time you are thinking about turning the thermostat up, think about how that one tiny movement can impact the amount of energy your house uses, especially over a long period, and the impact of that decision on the environment.

8. Drying your clothes on a line or clothes horse

Once again, this may seem obvious for those of you in uni halls faced with the high costs of using a tumble dryer. However, if you’re lucky enough to have access to a dryer, consider whether your clothes could be dried on a line or clothes horse instead. You could also try using a high spin speed on your washing machine to reduce the need for tumble drying.

9. Eating less meat

Meat consumption is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. If taking the step to becoming a vegetarian seems too daunting, just try reducing your overall meat intake bit by bit, and you may realise that not only is vegetarian cooking delicious and better for the environment, but it can save you money too.

10. Spread the word

Finally, no matter how much effort you put in, one person can only make so much difference. Encourage your friends and other students to follow these easy tips and bit by bit you can make your university a more sustainable place.


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