As a student, you are probably worried about the environment and want to do your bit to prevent climate change. But, being a student is expensive and this lack of money can make it feel like it is not possible to be sustainable and buy, often expensive, eco friendly products. As a recent graduate myself, I have put together 50 tips for eco friendly living as a student, many of which do not require you to spend any money and some will even save you money in the long run! If you are looking for an affordable pack of all the sustainable products you will need as a student, check out our Sustainable University Student Starter Pack.
Sustainable Student Studies:
1. Instead of bringing a notebook to lectures, reduce the paper you use and take a laptop to type up your notes instead. Lecturers often publish the PowerPoint in advance so you can just add notes to the PowerPoint slides, rather than frantically trying to scribble everything in your notebook.
2. When printing at the library is so cheap, it can be easy to photocopy or print whole chapters of books before realising the chapter isn’t relevant after all. A massive 40% of wood which is harvested is used for paper so try to only print off documents that you really need.
3. Sometimes though making notes on paper is really helpful, particularly if doing mind maps to organise your thoughts or working out equations. If you do need a notebook consider using a recycled paper notebook and write on both sides of the paper, to reduce the negative environmental impact. Shop Sustainable Stationery.
4. At the start of the year, there is often a long list of textbooks that you are required to purchase for all of your courses. Instead of rushing out to spend £££ on brand new books, look online or at bookshops to see if you can find the textbooks second hand. Buying second hand textbooks will benefit the environment and also save you money (seriously, textbooks are EXPENSIVE). If you can’t find your textbook second hand, at the end of the year many student book shops offer a buyback option where they will pay for the textbook and then sell it second hand in their shop.
5. Alternatively, sometimes lecturers recommend you buy textbooks that you only need for 2 or 3 lectures. If the textbook isn’t used very often consider just borrowing from the library instead of purchasing your own copy.
6. Install Ecosia as the default search engine on your laptop and phone. If you haven’t heard of Ecosia, it is a search engine similar to Google except for they donate much of their profits to reforestation projects. So you can literally help to plant trees whilst browsing the internet.
Eco Friendly Student Food Shopping Tips:
7. Ditch the plastic packaged takeaways and eat out instead! Eating out is a much nicer experience for your date night or meal with friends so visit a local restaurant to enjoy a tasty and plastic free treat.
8. Take a packed lunch with you for long days on the university campus rather than picking up lunch. Pre-packaged lunch meals often come wrapped in plastic packaging which cannot be recycled. If you make your own lunch, you can make it exactly how you like and reduce plastic by wrapping your sandwich in a beeswax wrap (reusable alternative to clingfilm). Or, pop a salad or pasta into tupperware and take bamboo cutlery so that you do not have to pick up any disposables. Taking your own lunch will also save you so much money in the long run (all those £3 meal deals add up!). Shop packed lunch essentials, with beeswax wraps and bamboo cutlery cases included in our Sustainable University Student Starter Pack.
9. Try to plan your meals and make a list before going food shopping, this will help you buy only what you need to reduce food waste. Another top tip is to go shopping after you have eaten - if you go when you are hungry, you are more likely to deviate from the list and buy items you don’t need.
10. By seasonal fruit and vegetables grown in Scotland and the UK as much as possible, this will reduce the carbon emissions released into the air transporting the food to the supermarket. Local shops or refilleries tend to offer a larger range of seasonal produce.
11. Shop plastic free as much as possible. Supermarkets are getting better at offering unpackaged fruit and vegetables and these items can sometimes be cheaper than the plastic packaged alternatives.
12. Visit refilleries (local shops which sell unpackaged food and drink items) to do your food shopping where possible. If you find refilleries expensive, do as much of your plastic free shopping at the supermarket and then use refilleries to pick up the items you cannot get plastic free at chain supermarkets.
13. Buy food from the reduced section of the supermarket. Although this food may be packaged in plastic, it has been reduced because today is the last day that it can be sold. Buying food from the reduced section will therefore help to reduce food waste and the food is perfectly fine.
14. If visiting local bakers or sandwich shops, take your own tub or bag to put your sandwich or cake in, so that the shop doesn’t need to give you single-use plastic packaging.
Sustainable student cooking tips:
15. Instead of buying plastic packaged ready meals, try cooking from scratch! There are loads of student cookbooks that include easy to follow recipes which don’t use loads of ingredients. Cooking from scratch will also be healthier than ready meals which tend to be high in salt and you can alter the recipe to suit your taste.
16. If food comes packaged in plastic tubs, clean and keep the tubs to reuse. Tubs such as ice cream and butter containers are ideal for freezing portions of food or for transporting your lunch or snacks to the library.
17. Batch cook. When following a recipe that serves 4, cook all 4 portions and then freeze the extra portions in tupperware tubs to save for another night. These frozen meals will be a convenient meal for another night and will save you buying a ready meal or takeaway.
18. Use up vegetables that are going off to make a stew - a really easy and nutritious meal and perfect for freezing extra portions.
19. If you have fruit that is beginning to look sad, whip up a quick smoothie. Add oats and peanut butter to soft fruits, a banana, milk (dairy or plant-based) and fruit juice then blend. A smoothie is a nutritious breakfast that you can pop into a bottle and take to lectures, whilst simultaneously reducing your food waste.
20. Otherwise, utilise your freezer and freeze fruit and vegetables that are going off. Your fruit and vegetables will still be fine to cook or add to a smoothie and this will reduce food waste and save you money.
21. A plant-based diet can massively benefit the environment, but if going vegan or vegetarian isn’t for you, try reducing your meat consumption instead. Regularly participating in Meat Free Mondays can make reducing your meat consumption part of your routine. According to Oxfam, adopting a plant-based diet once a week could reduce your yearly carbon emissions by the same amount of carbon used to drive 1,160 miles.
22. Check your teabags! Many of the leading tea bag brands that you will find in the supermarket contain plastic, so the teabags cannot be composted. Try to find a plastic free tea bag e.g. Pukka, or else consider buying loose leaf tea.
23. Take your own bags! Not only do plastic bags cost 5p in shops now, they also do not compose for up to 1000 years. You can get fold up bags which are convenient to pop in your pocket or handbag before heading to the shops.
Sustainable Student Clothes Shopping:
24. Put on another jumper instead of turning the heating on. Put off turning the heating on for as long as possible by wearing extra layers when you are home. As well as being good for the environment, heating costs soon add up so putting off turning on the heating will also save you money.
25. Upcycle clothes you currently have instead of buying new items of clothing. There are loaaads of tutorials and tips for upcycling clothes online and for many you don’t even need to be able to sew. Upcycling can also be a fun activity and a great way to save some of that student loan.
26. If you need an outfit for a ball or party, why not swap clothes with your friends? You will still get the excitement of wearing something new that nobody has seen you in before, without the expense of buying a new outfit and contributing to the throwaway fashion culture.
27. On average, items of clothes are worn just 7 times. Before you go shopping, take a look at the items you already have to see if you REALLY need to buy anything new. Make a list to ensure you only buy clothing items you actually need.
28. Before hitting the fast fashion retailers, try looking online on marketplaces such as Depop or Ebay for second hand clothes or visit a charity shop. Still the same new clothes feeling, but without the environmental damage caused by fast fashion.
29. If you no longer wear an item of clothes, try selling it on Ebay or Depop, which will also bring in some extra cash. Or drop off at a charity shop, instead of putting in the bin.
30. Check how your online purchases are packaged and try to buy from companies who use reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging to lessen the environmental impact of your purchase.
31. Hang clothes out to dry instead of using the tumble dryer. Although not technically about shopping, this clothes drying tip will help reduce your energy bill and benefit the environment.
Eco friendly product swaps for students:
32. Swapping bottled soap for soap bars is one of the easiest ways to reduce the single use plastic you use. Shop 2 in 1 shampoo and soap bars as part of our boxes of sustainable swaps.
33. One of my top tips is to have a reusable water bottle that you take with you when you go out. Having your own bottle will prevent you getting unexpectedly thirsty whilst out and picking up a bottle of juice or water.
34. Similarly, reusable coffee cups are great for rushed mornings, so you can take your coffee with you to classes. Additionally, you can use your cup when picking up a latte (or coffee of your choice) from local coffee shops, and some cafes will even give you a discount for bringing your own cup.
35. Although straws are not essential, it can be nice to drink with a straw, particularly when wearing lipstick to prevent it from smudging. If you enjoy using a straw, swap to a reusable bamboo straw to help prevent single use plastic straws ending up in the ocean.
36. Clingfilm is another single use plastic which can be easily cut out of your life by swapping to beeswax wraps. Beeswax wraps are like clingfilm and can be moulded to cover plates or wrap sandwiches and cake. Unlike clingfilm, beeswax wraps can be rinsed in cold water and reused over and over again for up to a year. Beeswax wraps are included in all of our boxes of eco friendly product swaps.
37. Next time you need to buy a new razor, buy a metal razor with blades that can be recycled, rather than a single use plastic razor.
38. Instead of cotton pads, purchase reusable makeup wipes or pads. Although more expensive initially, reusable wipes are an investment and will save you money over time as you do not need to re-purchase, as you would with cotton pads.
39. In the kitchen, use a dishcloth to wipe up spills rather than single use kitchen roll.
40. Candles definitely will not be your first thought when trying to be more eco friendly, but every student bedroom needs a candle (or 5). But scented candles tend to be made from paraffin wax which releases harmful toxins when burned. Instead purchase candles made from natural materials such as soy or beeswax, which will not release the same toxins.
41. Ditch the wipes, whether you use them for wiping down surfaces, to clean your hands or wipe off your makeup, do you really need them? Wipes contain plastic and can take up to 100 years to decompose, so ditch the wipes if you can.
Extra Eco Friendly Student Tips:
42. Recycling may seem like an obvious tip, but it is a free way to help the environment. Make sure you check what can and cannot be recycled in your local area, so that you are putting the right items in the correct bins.
43. Like candles, houseplants are another student flat necessity. Instead of buying plastic plant pots, plant seeds or small plants in recycled jars and tins for a cute rustic look. Top tip - put stones at the bottom of your jar/ tin for drainage and then fill with soil.
44. Instead of driving or getting an Uber, walk or cycle! This is a great way of exercising too and will save you buying an expensive gym membership.
45. When travelling far, use public transport as much as possible - this will also be cheaper than an Uber or taxi.
46. Did you know you can regrow some fruit and vegetables from their scraps? Regrowing works especially well for lettuce. Leaving around 4cm at the bottom of the lettuce, cut off the remaining leaves. Then place in a bowl with around 1 cm of water in, place in the sun and change the water everyday. Within a couple of weeks, you should have lettuce leaves growing and within a month, you will have a whole lettuce in your bowl. Cabbage can be regrown following the same method, as can spring onions. For spring onions, place the bottom 3cm of a few spring onions in a cup with 2cm of water and add more water when required.
47. Charity shopping is not just for clothes! Charity shops can be treasure troves full of hidden gems, so try the charity shops when looking for homeware or shoes as well as clothes, before visiting local shops.
48. Shop locally. Shopping locally is a great way of supporting your local community as well as reducing the carbon emissions produced by shipping your purchase.
49. Consider spending more on high quality items which will last longer and save you money in the long run. Shop affordable eco friendly products!
50. Refuse the freshers freebies unless you need them. One of the many perks of being a student is the freebies, but these items are often plastic or key-rings and stationery items you do not need. I love a freebie as much as the next person and although tempting, refuse freebies that you aren’t going to use and will end up binning anyway.
Have you got any other affordable eco friendly living tips for students that you would like to add? Let me know in the comments and I will update the post to include your suggestion! If you are looking for an affordable pack of sustainable alternatives to student essentials, take a look at our Sustainable University Student Starter Pack.