So, you want to be live a more sustainable student life but…you’re a student? Doing your bit for the planet at University can be tricky: going vegan in University Halls might be tricky (catered food isn’t that great to start off, and then adding tofu? Yuck), and the most popular sustainable swaps on google, such as alternative food wrapping or using a French Press instead of coffee filters aren’t really…applicable…to most students. Here, I’ve compiled a little list of super easy swaps you can make to make student living a little easier on Mother Nature. Picking even just a few can make a big difference to your carbon footprint and plastic usage, and who doesn’t love that?
Going plastic free is hard. Like, really hard. Especially as a student, when your beeswax-paper-wrapped sandwich needs effort and planning… vs. your Saino’s meal deal you pick up on the way to the library the day before a deadline (BLT, Diet Coke, and Sweet Chilli Sensations all the way).
Luckily, there are some super easy swaps that you might not have even thought about and are hassle-free after the first purchase! Like shampoo bottles – I swapped to shampoo bars a few months ago and loved them. Want a shampoo that smells amazing, works for your hair and is good for the environment? Look no further than Lush’s fab range of shampoo bars. According to their website, these bars do the job of three 250g bottles of shampoo, giving 80-100 washes. I don’t personally think mine lasted that long BUT I did keep it in a shower that I shared with two other girls with suspiciously good hair… Luckily, there is a £2.50 tin that you can store it in to keep it dry and safe in your grotty student flat!
- Can take it through airline security! More room in your one Ziploc bag for lip gloss!
- Works out cheaper than buying regular shampoo in the long run
- Loads of different options for different hair types and needs
- Housemates might steal it – it’s that good
- Have to go into Lush and end up spending all your money on bath bombs…again…
I remember the night well. Early December, a week before term ended, and my housemate Bedwyn and I are standing brushing our teeth together (as was our nightly ritual). Suddenly, disaster strikes! In a still-unknown turn of events (I was trying to put my toothbrush in its little T.K.Maxx holder on the windowsill while looking at Twitter) my poor, plastic toothbrush falls down the loo (I put a rubber glove on and fished it out instead of DIRECTLY contributing to our water pollution). Luckily, my boyfriend kept a spare in our bathroom so I used his until I went home for Christmas (sorry, Ben). A week or so later, I bought a bamboo toothbrush for me and my mother (toothbrushes make brilliant Christmas presents, right Mom?) and haven’t looked back since.
According to a 2018 article by The Independent, it’s estimated that, worldwide, we use 3.6 billion toothbrushes every year, with 80% of those ending up in the sea. Because of the length of time toothbrushes take to decompose (up to a thousand years!!), it’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more toothbrushes in the sea than fish. Here’s where the bamboo toothbrush comes in:
- Almost fully biodegradable
- Panda Friendly! Most eco-toothbrushes on the market use bamboo that can be grown quickly without artificial fertilisers, from areas not inhabited by pandas
- You have to take the bristles out before swapping toothbrushes and recycling the handle, but that’s not too big of a deal
- You…hate the ocean and want to see all the dolphins die?
I’m not going to lie. I’m not a coffee drinker. I am, however, a big fan of the odd Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate on a cold Winter’s day (trust me-you’ll thank me later). I sadly do not own a reusable mug yet and that’s on me. But if you’re a regular at your Library Café then there’s no excuse! While most people think of takeaway coffee cups as cardboard, there is a thin layer of plastic that complicates the recycle-ability of them, and so bringing your own, trendy, reusable mug is a big step in living a more sustainable life!
- Some big brands (Costa, Starbucks) have started to give a small discount to patrons that bring their own mugs (50p off at Pret?? Yes, please). If you’re a coffee addict, that adds up quickly. This calculator from reusaboo actually tells you how much you’ll save per year.
- Hides your Starbucks addiction from your housemates – no more endless coffee cups in the kitchen bin
- Washing dishes is the bane of student life. But a small price to pay for the good of our planet I’d say?
- It can be a pricey one-off investment (average price settles around £10-20 pounds) but it does pay itself off quickly.
Here’s one for those of us who experience ‘Shark Week’ (lucky us)! Apparently, periods aren’t that great for the environment (another reason they should be abolished, in my opinion). A whopping 90% of menstrual products contain plastic or other non-environmentally-friendly things, and many use bleached or non-organic cotton, which can contain pesticides and other carcinogenics. I know. Scary stuff. The average vagina will have ‘Auntie Flo Round For Tea’ approximately 2,280 days over its lifetime, so investing in something that you can clean and reuse seems pretty sensible. Now, not every product will work for every body/budget/situation, so please don’t feel pressured into changing something that works brilliantly for you! But, if you do feel like making a switch for the next time you find yourself in the middle of ‘Carrie’, I have compiled a little list of alternatives that may be worth looking into…
– ModiBodi/other Period Pants
– Moon Cups/Diva Cups
– DAME or other tampon subscriptions
– Simply not flushing tampons down the toilet!
As a general rule, bring your own!
Owning and re-using these really easy and super simple things can make a big difference:
– Water Bottles (good for the environment AND hangovers)
– Re-usable bags (cop that Fresher’s Fair tote)
– Lunch Box (hot tip: wash and keep your Chinese takeaway boxes!)
– Straw/Cutlery (just be sure to wash them)