How to Be a More Sustainable Student

Looking to improve your carbon footprint? Here's how to make some quick and easy sustainability changes 👇

Whether you're a mega sustainable student or you’re just getting started on your journey to being more eco-friendly, we can all do a little bit more to help the environment. 

Trust us, the temptation to cut corners is strong – but green living doesn’t have to be a chore. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel or dedicate your day to living more sustainably – even just a few changes in your daily routine can make all the difference.

With Global Recycling Day on 18th March, we thought we’d share some sustainability facts and simple recycling tips for you to keep in mind!

Start with the basics 🙌

When you’re living in a student house, keeping a handle on recycling isn’t always easy. With the amount of rubbish that builds up, a one-bin-for-everything approach requires the least amount of effort. And, when it comes to student recycling, no one wants to be the nagging flatmate. But hear us out...

Recycling just one single glass bottle can save enough energy to power your laptop for half an hour. If you recycle just one plastic bottle (although we recommend avoiding single-use plastic where possible), you’ll save enough energy to power a lightbulb for over three hours!

The thing that puts people off recycling is that it seems like more of a hassle than it really is. Using different bins in your kitchen will help you and your housemates resist the urge to chuck everything into the same bag. The easier you make it for yourself, the more it becomes routine.

Avoid paper towels 🧻

Paper towels are super practical for cleaning up those inevitable spillages, but they shouldn’t be a mainstay in your kitchen. Getting some reusable cloths for cleaning down surfaces can save an incredible amount of paper, and they come in all colours and styles. Just rinse them off in the sink between uses!

Be water wise 💧

We all love a long, hot shower – but let’s be honest, we could all spend less time pondering the fabric of the universe when we’re in there.

The average shower uses about 5 gallons of water per minute, so even just cutting your shower down by 2 minutes can save 10 whole gallons! The same goes for brushing your teeth. Apparently, leaving the water running wastes an average of 4 gallons!

Water is such a valuable resource, and one we are all guilty of taking for granted, but these little changes can amount to a huge reduction of waste in the long-term.

Donate it when you’re done with it 💰

Finished with a book you needed for that module last semester? If it’s collecting dust on your shelf and you’re doing a clear out, donate your books to your local charity shop (or even sell it on)!

Charity shops are able to reuse or recycle more than 90% of donated clothing, and 90% of donated books. So, next time you’re making space in your wardrobe, change the question from “keep or bin” to “keep or donate” – after all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

If you don’t eat it, freeze it 🧊

Eyes bigger than your stomach? It happens to the best of us. Before you start scraping your leftovers into the bin, grab a jar or container and pop your leftovers in the freezer for another time. Not everything can be frozen for re-heating, so it’s worth doing a quick Google search if you’re not sure.

Soups, smoothies, stews and curries will all be fine to freeze and de-frost at a later date. When the time comes and you’re too lazy to cook, you can thank your past self.

If you don’t freeze it, compost it 🌱

If you forgot to freeze your leftovers, don’t worry – they can still serve a purpose. Before it becomes a science experiment in your kitchen, take your food waste to the garden for composting. By simply burying your food waste underneath the garden soil, you help to nourish the earth and give it all the nutrients it needs to help your plants thrive!

Grow your own 🥗

On that note, there’s never been a better time to get into gardening and grow your own plants. Start small with a raised garden bed and plant some herbs like basil, chives, parsley and mint – these flavours can turn the most basic student meal into a flavoursome feast, and they’re fairly low maintenance.

Don't have a garden? Grab some herbs for your windowsill - these grow surprisingly quickly, and take your cooking to the next level.

Avoid passive electricity ⚡️

Other than your refrigerator, your electrical appliances should be switched off when they aren’t in use. Try to get into the habit of turning things off at the plug when you’re finished using them.

Your laptop and phone are great examples – when you’re batting away at an essay on an all-nighter, you might not notice that your laptop finished charging hours ago.

Similarly, when you wake up in the morning and disconnect your phone from the charger, how often do you check to make sure it’s off at the wall?

To go one step further, check your plugs whenever you leave the house – think of it like a keys-phone-wallet check for the environment. Plus, it'll help your wallet!

Air dry your laundry 🥼

Tumble-driers can be lifesavers when you need to wash an item of clothing and have it ready the same day. But sadly, tumble-driers are pretty wasteful. In fact, a household running a dryer 200 times a year could save nearly half a tonne of CO2 by switching to a clothes rack or washing line. It’s okay to use a dryer from time to time, but it’s best to rely on the trusty clothes horse for the everyday.

Stop with the single use plastic ♻️

While manufacturers of food and drink products are increasingly trying to move away from plastic packaging, it’s still everywhere. In the UK, we go through 15 million single use plastic bottles per day. Reusable water bottles are trendy for a reason – they’re literally saving the planet. If you haven’t bought yourself one already, make it a priority. You’ll might even find it helps you to drink more water, so it’s a win-win!

Shop local 🛍

Shopping locally is a simple way to cut down on the environmental impact of your food. Think about it this way: when you shop at the supermarket, some of the items you buy have travelled over 1500 miles to reach you.

Locally sourced food cuts that down considerably. There’s no need for shipping facilities, packing facilities and refrigeration, and it’s a great way to support your local community. We couldn’t be more grateful to all the independent grocery shops who kept our cupboards stocked when delivery slots with the big-name supermarkets were few and far between.

There are also more and more shops dedicated in reducing plastic waste. For example, Sheffield Students’ Union has its own sustainable shop on campus that sells dried food, household products, toiletries and kitchenware all free from plastic packaging. Just turn up with your own container and stock up!

Got any more tips on student sustainability? Share them with us on Instagram!

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