Being a Student is Hard but Being Sustainable is Easy

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Being a Student is Hard but Being Sustainable is Easy

Going green isn’t just for Hulk or Shrek and Fiona! Let me show you how easy and affordable it is for you to be green too. 

1. Avoid single-use plastic products

It is no secret that plastic pollution is a major contributor. Here is a factsheet to remind you exactly why this is.

Firstly, carry reusable bags with you at all times. They fit into small bags or a pockets really easily. Don’t get rid of your plastic bags, just repurpose them!

On average, UK adults use about 150 single-use plastic water bottles every year. Mounting up to over £100 a year, this could easily be avoided through reusable water bottles. 

Refill London encourages businesses to offer free tap water – the best part is you don’t even have to be a customer! This service can be accessed through the ‘Refill’ sticker on participating businesses’ windows, or through a Refill station, located on their app. 


Recycling illustration
Illustration credited to Tanjin Huda.

Endless assignments keep you up late at night? Endless 9ams keeping you away from your bed? Just treat yourself to a warm, reusable cup of hot drink! Even if the café offers paper cups, they’re not usually recyclable. They’re often lined with a type of plastic called polythene or wax to prevent liquid from leaking or soaking through the paper. Using a reusable cup will also save you money on your hot drink orders.

Another food-related single-use plastic use you could avoid is cutlery. From reusable straws to zero waste cutlery kit, they’re all small enough for you to carry all the time. You could also bring your eco-friendly lunch box or container to eat your canteen food in it.

Also, consider using reusable silicone sandwich ziplock bags instead of single-use plastic pouches.  You can also use reusable wax wraps instead of cling film for your containers or foods.

Something a lot of people don’t think about is that you can swap parchment paper for reusable silicone baking mats. In this way your baking session not only will be fun but sustainable too.

A final note on the food front – consider buying loose tea leaves and a tea strainer, instead of tea bags wrapped in plastic packaging.

Other quick ways you can stop single-use plastic

Use fabric wrapping instead of wrapping papers when you are giving something to someone you love. Alternatively, you can use brown wrapping paper which is recyclable, more stylish and it can be easily personalised too!

How about rechargeable batteries, did you know they were a thing? Well, they are and they’re great! They are obviously a cheaper option too.

To live as plastic-free, and therefore as sustainably possible, I recommend buying from plastic-free stores like Package Free Shop. Their products have sustainable, minimal packaging if any at all. On top of that, their shipping is also completely plastic-free!

Reduce packaging waste further and save more money by buying in bulk.There are many products you can purchase in bulk. Dry goods such as rice, nuts, cereals can be bought by bringing your own container and pay for them by weight. You can also buy toiletries and other household products in bulk and it can all be done both in the heart and the outskirts of London.

2. Have a waste-free hygiene routine!

Most hygiene products contain a lot of plastic packaging and the truth is we don’t really think about it. When we think of plastic, we think of plastic bags, cups and bottles. Other everyday products that we use don’t even cross our minds. But, everything from toothbrushes to flosses is made out of plastic. The good news is they all have their solutions: swap your plastic toothbrush for a biodegradable or bamboo toothbrush and plastic-packaged toothpaste for palm oil-free tooth tablets. Tooth powders or zero-waste packaged toothpaste, plastic floss for biodegradable floss, plastic-packaged shower gels and hand soap for soap bars.

Bamboo toothbrush
Picture credited to Laura Mitulla on Unsplash.

If you have a skincare routine, you probably end up using a lot of cotton buds. You can easily switch out plastic cotton buds with bamboo cotton buds or paper cotton buds. If you use toners or makeup removers you can try reusable cloth pads, which can be used over and over again so they will be a cheaper option too. Opt for using makeup or skincare product in sustainable packaging – The Ordinary’s affordable products are my personal favourites because they come in glass containers rather than plastic tubes. Another green skincare brand is Bioclarity, offering a full range of plant-based products.

3. Recycle

Recycling is a no-brainer when it comes to living sustainably. If you recycle, make sure you rinse out the contents. Did you know a vast majority of recycling finds its way back to a garbage bin? If you don’t recycle properly, the contents contaminate other recyclable materials around too, making them unusable in the recycling process.

Single use plastic illustrayion
Illustration credited to Tanjin Huda

4. Public transport

How many times have you gotten lazy and decided to ‘Uber it to University’? Probably, countless times. It’s easy and quick – I understand that. But don’t let it fool you into thinking it’s convenient. News flash! There is nothing convenient about car pollution leading to global warming, acid rain and harming our health. Consider walking, riding a bike or using public transportation when possible.

5. Use energy-saving bulbs!

Using energy-efficient light bulbs means that energy demand from power plants will reduce and therefore, greenhouse gas emissions will decrease. LED lights can be up to 80% efficient and if you invest, they can last up to 23 years! However, even cheaper LED lights will keep your room lit up for longer. LED lights also contain no toxic elements so it can be disposed of easily. They also have a better quality of light distribution so you’ll need fewer lights . 

Light bulb illustration
Illustration credited to Tanjin Huda

6. Save paper

We need trees! So, let’s stop cutting so many of them down. Opt for ways to use less paper such as borrowing a book from your local library or the university library, which also saves your money. Instead of making photocopies, scan pages and store them electronically or again, borrow the book from your library. If you already have a laptop, consider going completely paperless and take notes down electronically both during a lecture and in your own time.

7. Fashion

Never throw away clothes. Please either donate or try to re-sell them. Selling through apps like Depop, Vinted or Poshmark is a great way to do it. This way you’re also making a bit of money. Don’t forget you can also buy from these and other apps. Buying second-hand clothing is always sustainable as it prolongs a piece of clothing’s journey to a landfill site. Other options  include buying from thrift shops, charity shops and sustainable clothing brands.

8. Meal plan

I know going out to eat in polished and shiny plates is tempting but trust me, meal planning is the real Knight in Shining Armour, swooping in to save your wallet and our beloved planet. There are lots of resources regarding sustainable meal plans, just pick the one you love and follow it. Maybe you can also impress your family, friends or a date with some new-found cooking skills! Alternatively, you can go out and make an effort to buy from a greener and more ethical businesses. CoGo is a map app that shows you all the sustainable and ethical businesses around you and you can also personalise to show you businesses that tackle issues that you care about the most.

Pasta and Garlic
Picture credited to Laura Mitulla on Unsplash.

9. Plot more plants

We need more trees and plants, and every little contribution to more oxygen back into our atmosphere is much needed. So, add some colour in your life and liven up your room! Some plants help relieve stress and some also improve air quality so you can kiss goodbye to saving up for expensive air fresheners.

10. Decrease animal product consumption

Meat consumption is not just an environmental issue, it’s an ethical issue on many fronts. One-third of the grain is fed to the animals that people eat. This is not going to help world hunger as our population is increasing and is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Grass-fed meat contributes to more carbon dioxide emissions, not to mention most animal farming methods are highly unethical. Eating meat regularly isn’t sustainable for the future – so reduce your meat intake and make easy swaps from animal products to plants.

Picture credited to Anna Pelzer on Unsplash.

11. Waste-free period

Use reusable cotton menstrual pads and pantyliners instead. Some stores offer subscription purchase of these items for a discounted price on every order. Who doesn’t love subscription boxes? Receiving new products at your doorsteps every month without even lifting a finger after that first purchase.

The most sustainable solution, however, is to use Moon cups. Sanitary products are coated in chemicals that are not good for you, but moon cups are generally the healthiest option. They are good for ten years – so think about how much money you’d be saving.

How can you get involved with City’s sustainability projects?

As City students, there are numerous Sustainability projects you can join.  Some of these projects include Beekeeping at City (Yes,City houses its own beehives), Gardening at City (City will soon have its own vegetable garden), and there are also multiple volunteering opportunities on the volunteering hub at times. City also has a ‘Sustainability Leaders’ programme where students work together to deliver sustainability projects on campus and in the local community.

This year, one of their projects involves initiating an in-house Zero-waste bulk shop at the Pavilion. They are currently collecting responses for market research that you can contribute to by following this link. To get involved in any of these projects, contact the Sustainability Team or Jessica Lobo, our Sustainability Engagement Supervisor. You can also join one of the various NUS SOS campaigns as a University student in general. Lastly, make sure to VOTE for an Ethics and Environmental Officer in the upcoming Autumn Election and you can raise any changes you want to implement by contacting your elected officer!

See? Going green isn’t hard, just a few simple swaps in your lifestyle and you’re good to go!

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