As September rolls around, many students will be leaving home for the first time and get a taste of independence by living in shared housing or university halls. From buying new bedspreads kitchenware essentials to deciding which pictures to put on your walls, there’s a few things to consider before leaving the nest.
One of those things is your carbon footprint, which you’ll now be solely responsible for. It’s critical to be aware of plastic pollution and global warming as you gain independence so you can play a vital part in improving the health of the planet. One way you can help make the world a better place is by living a zero-waste lifestyle.
You may be concerned about the environment, but you are a student with a limited budget. However, there are several ways to live a zero-waste lifestyle without breaking the bank.
What is a zero waste lifestyle?
Zero waste is a movement and cause that aims to reduce how much people consume and throw away to lead a more environmentally-friendly way of life.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you must be completely waste-free, as that would be nearly impossible, but rather that you make an effort to reduce the amount of waste you consume and discard.
What are the benefits of trying to be zero waste?
There are numerous advantages to reducing waste. Primarily, it aids in reducing our environmental impact and carbon footprint. You can help reduce emissions and save the environment by using less.
Being zero waste also plays a role in community building. Some organisations focus on zero waste solutions and recycling, as well as the development of new and exciting strategies that benefit the planet.
You might be concerned about the costs of reducing waste, but it can be affordable. In some cases, methods such as upcycling, recycling, and, composting can save you money!
How can I be zero waste as a student?
Just reading this is a great place to start. It shows that, even as a young student, you care enough about the environment to want to make a difference.
Here are some tips to help you be a more environmentally conscious student and create a sustainable living plan.
Food shop with your flatmates
On average, the UK wastes more than £10 billion worth of food each year. This staggering figure is a result of consumers buying more food than they need in one shop. Once the food goes off, it is then thrown into landfills where it emits methane gas, directly contributing to climate change.
It’s critical that we all attempt to reduce how much food we buy and throw away so less emissions are released into the atmosphere. That’s why it helps to pick up tips for reducing your food waste.
If you live with other students, consider doing a food shop together. Not only will this be a great way to save money, it will also give you chance to bond while cooking your favourite meals together.
By going to the shop together, you also reduce your carbon footprint by travelling in a single-vehicle rather than taking several separate cars.
Consider paper straws
For many students, drinking culture is a huge part of the experience. If you don’t drink alcohol, this advice still applies to your soft drinks!
Plastic waste is a major issue with any type of drinking, whether that be the water bottle you grab from the corner shop on your way into lectures or the large cider you plan to drink before going out. The plastic party cups and straws that are often laid out at house parties, for example, pollute the environment and contribute significantly to plastic pollution.
Make small changes in your drinking habits to reduce your plastic waste. Instead of plastic cups, use glasses that can be washed later and paper straws if possible. Paper straws can be recycled, and reusable glasses will save you money over time.
Cycle where you can
Riding your bike is a great way to get around, and it also keeps you fit. When you’re at university, cycling is definitely a better option than a crowded bus! By avoiding using your car or public transport, you are reducing your carbon footprint and eliminating the need for a large number of paper tickets.
Most universities will have bike racks and storage, but make sure you get a good bike lock to keep it safe.
Make easy swaps
Sometimes it’s the smallest of changes that make the biggest difference, so make simple swaps that don’t require much effort where possible. Here are some simple examples to get you started.
- Always use a reusable bag when you go shopping.
- Carry a reusable water bottle.
- Invest in a reusable coffee cup.
Shop sustainably for clothes
People spend a lot of money on new clothes for their wardrobes every year. In 2019, spending on clothing reached an all time high of 61.2 billion pounds. Often, old clothes are simply discarded, and the materials can take years to fully degrade.
When shopping for clothing, try to be environmentally conscious. There are many vintage shops in larger student cities, such as Leeds, where you can pick up some new fashion favourites. You could also browse the rails in charity shops; you never know what you’ll find.
Check to see if you can upcycle your clothes before selling, donating, or throwing them away. With a few stitches here and there, you might be able to transform an old top into a new fashionable piece.
Make packed lunches
As a student, it’s very easy to pick up a meal deal here and there or order fast food. You can significantly reduce lunch waste by packing your lunch in reusable Tupperware.
Preparing your lunch will not only save you time and help you be a little healthier, but it will also save you a lot of money and reduce food waste from your fridge at home.
Recycling is critical in turning climate change around and should be taken seriously in all student houses and halls – especially given how many beer bottles and cans there will be!
Make sure you have a separate recycling bin or area if possible. This means it will be much easier to separate your waste and recycle efficiently.
If you’re unsure about what you can and cannot recycle, look at the packaging; most recyclable items have a green arrow circular symbol.
Hire a skip if you need to
In some cases, you may be moving into a property that has a lot of waste from previous tenants, or you may be nearing the end of a tenancy and have a lot to get rid of.
In both of these cases, we would advise hiring a skip. This allows you to quickly collect all of your waste and have it removed and disposed of by licensed waste professionals.
What are the challenges of being zero waste as a student?
Trying to be an eco-conscious student can be challenging, especially if you have housemates that don’t want to contribute to a zero waste home.
The drinking culture and freebies that are often given out are things you can’t really avoid, but it is possible to encourage your fellow students to make small changes where possible. By educating others about environmental issues and trying quick or easy switches, you are certainly making a difference and helping the planet for the better.