As September rolls around, thousands of students around the UK will be heading off to university! For many, this will involve moving away from home for the first time, marking the start of greater independence. This new journey is incredible exciting, and allows many students to start making choices that better reflect their beliefs. Over 80% of young people are eager to take action to help the environment, and this new-found freedom will allow thousands of students to create a sustainable life for themselves. Living away from home can be difficult, taking care of everything for yourself is new and daunting. But we have some quick and easy tips to help you live an eco-conscious life whilst you study...
Speaking as an English Literature graduate, I understand the stress when it comes to purchasing your required reading! Reading lists can be long and expensive, with many of the texts not being available in your average high street book shop. Be sure to read your reading list carefully, some texts may be recommended but that doesn't mean they are required. Try to avoid purchasing books new, as this creates a lot of waste as well as emissions from shipping. If you do need to purchase new books, make sure to donate or resell them when you've finished with them. My university hosted second-hand book sales at the start of term where 2nd and 3rd year students would sell their used books at a reduced price for 1st years. This is not only a great way to save money, it also cuts down on waste. If your university doesn't already have a scheme like this - why not set one up? You could advertise with posters on campus & meet some likeminded people who are passionate about sustainability too. University libraries are also well equipped with the texts you might need, just be sure not to rely on this too heavily in case the book you need has already been checked out! There are also digital copies of most texts available, sometimes even for free, so be sure to look into this option too. You can also look online for second-hand books on websites like Book Depository, AbeBooks, Bookfinder & eBay.
Carry Your Reusables With You
Most of us have made the swap to more sustainable options such as a reusable water bottle, the main thing is remembering to take them with you! At university, you generally have a lot more free time in between classes than at school or college, and you'll often find yourself going for impromptu coffee dates or lunch with friends. We recommend putting together a little sustainable essentials kit that you can keep with you, prepared for whatever the day might bring. Depending on your lifestyle, some of the key things we'd keep with you are;
A tote bag. Keeping a reusable tote with you is always a great idea. Whether you need it to carry extra library books, food shopping or anything else, it's a great way to avoid plastic bags. Choose something sturdy, like this bag here.
A reusable water bottle. Choose one that works best for you! Whether that's a collapsible bottle that takes up less space, or a double-walled bottle to keep your drinks chilled. Most campuses will have lots of water fountains for you to refill for free throughout the day.
A reusable coffee cup. Again, there's a huge amount of choice when it comes to reusable coffee cups, so finding one that is right for you is key. My university cafes also gave you a 50p discount if you had your own cup!
Reusable cutlery & straw. This is such a simple swap that you'll get use out of straight away! During freshers week you'll be enjoying plenty of free food, why not do so guilt free with your reusable cutlery? This set is lightweight yet hardwearing, perfect for daily use.
Think About What You Eat
University is often the first opportunity many of us have to truly control our eating habits. One of the best things you can do whilst at university is to try and eat more plant-based meals. I was vegetarian when I started university, and went vegan during my first year there. Even if you can't commit to going fully vegan or vegetarian, try eating more plant-based meals throughout the week to reduce your impact on the environment. If you need some vegan inspo, click here. Most fruit and vegetables are available loose, eliminating the unnecessary plastic packaging which is a great way to be more sustainable. Look for zero waste & refill shops in your area as this will also help you to cut down on packaging. Be mindful about the food you buy and try not to waste it. Pre-planning your meals can be really helpful as can batch cooking, freeze any extra portions to reduce waste (plus you'll always have healthy meals on hand!) Many students use apps like OLIO and Too Good To Go, these apps connect you with local business who need to get rid of unsold food. A lot of the food on here is free, or at a heavily reduced price, helping you to save money too!
University is a great chance to meet like-minded people and really get stuck into the things your passionate about. There are lots of different university societies focused around sustainability where people will share the same beliefs and values as you do. Some of the societies at my university included the vegetarian society & the vegan society which were both great for learning new recipes, sharing food and inspiring one another. There was also the zero waste society who would meet weekly to discuss tips and tricks for living a low waste lifestyle. You will also find groups of climate activists who are involved in protesting and creating change. The great thing with joining a society is that you can get involved as much or as little as you like. Don't have a lot of free time? Focus your efforts on sharing petitions or pop by to trade some delicious plant-based food. Sometimes you will even have a chance to be involved in larger campaigns within your local area, implementing changes such as introducing recycling bins and other positive progress for the community.
Wishing everyone who is off to university the best of luck!