How to be an Eco-Friendly Student

We’re in the final weeks of the uni holidays, and while I feel sad that I have to get back to the ol’ routine and stress of university, I’m also excited to see what new things I’ll learn about this semester! I’ve been preparing myself for the coming months of study by organising my books, understanding my assessment tasks, and reading over the lecture schedule. All this got me thinking – what am I doing to be an eco-friendly student? I pride myself at being aware of the impacts I have on the environment – from what I eat, to the clothes I buy and the energy I use at home. While I’m certainly not perfect, I’m still on this journey and its all a learning process, so I definitely don’t expect anyone else to be perfect! Every step is a step forward, and every improvement brings us closer to sustainability. So, here is my guide to how to bring sustainability onto the campus:

Come Prepared

When I say this, I don’t just mean to bring your laptop and your textbooks. I mean to always have your reusables on you – your coffee cup, water bottle, shopping bag, cutlery and/or straw, depending on what you own. I use a paintbrush holder to carry around my cutlery, and it works like a charm! If you know you’ll be buying take-away, I would even advise you to bring a re-usable container so you can ask them to put your food in it (Although I’m not going to pretend that they don’t look at you like some sort of idiot when you do!). Unfortunately, you may find that you can’t be content with a handbag or those tiny backpacks anymore (all that stuff require a lot of room!). I carry around a nice-looking but large and hardy tote bag, which fits everything i need on a day-to-day basis. At uni, I use a backpack which has mesh pockets at the side for my bottle/cup, and everything else fits fine.

Pack your Lunch

This point is great for so many reasons – you will save a ton of money, skip the queues, and not have to worry about takeaway packaging. You might even end up eating healthier, but two-minute noodles is totally fine if that’s what what you can afford as a student. Packing your own lunch is also great if you want to cut down on environmentally-damaging animal products. Don’t be fooled by the alternative meats in the freezer isle, many vegan meals are surprisingly cheap. Try a bean burrito for lunch, or fried rice with peas and spring onions. Making up a big soup or stew at the start of the week is also a very cheap way to prep your lunches. Use canned tomatoes, canned mixed beans, some short pasta (try macaroni or shell pasta) and some powdered vegetable stock and you have a hearty poor-man’s minestrone, cheap as chips. Cutting down animal products is not just good for the environment, its also good for your body and your conscience.

Catch public transport

This won’t be news to a lot of uni students, but it still stands – public transport consumes less resources than driving. It can also come out a lot cheaper, considering the price of university parking permits. I travel about an hour and forty five minutes on the train to uni, and that time has become invaluable for studying (and sleeping).

Use a digital textbook

Okay – if it’s available to you this one is a no-brainer. They’re cheaper, you don’t have to lug them around and they don’t use up paper. Besides… has anyone ever even used a textbook? 😉

Resist temptation

Yes, that vanilla Coke does look refreshing. Yes, that <insert food with plastic packaging> does look delicious. But… once I enjoy that food or drink, the plastic will probably end up in landfill or the ocean, break down into micro-plastic and get eaten by a fish… oops.

Part of breaking free of our dependence of pre-packaged foods is embracing step 1. and 2. If we make sure we also have the tools to not use plastic, and we have food and drink so that we don’t have to buy them, the rest is breaking eye-contact and forgetting about that unhealthy snack. Your wallet and the ocean will be thanking you.

Reuse old exercise books

If you have old exercise books with empty pages, rip out the used ones and recycle them. Hey presto! New notebook! Okay, its not that magical, but sustainability isn’t just the pretty jars and minimalist decor on Instagram; its also using things society has made out to be ugly or trash, and that’s okay. In this line of thought, I encourage you to use up all the pens and books you have before buying new ones!

If you need new books and have the money, how about checking out some recycled notebooks or pencils? The Decomposition books are absolutely beautiful and made from 100% post-consumer waste and soy ink. They’re sold of the Co-op Shop and also here at BiomeSprout pencils are adorable; they’re made from sustainable wood and when they’re sharpened down to the nub, the dissolvable end can be planted and a herb or flower will grow! You might also consider buying a refillable pen, so that you never have to buy a new one. This one is made from bamboo.

Join a Sustainability Society

Or otherwise, keep tabs on what they’re up to. The “Sustainability Squad” at my university is always organising talks and activities. Earlier this year they organised a wonderful clothes swap – a great way to update your wardrobe without buying into fast fashion. I personally haven’t become involved because the travel home is too far for me to be involved in evening meetings and early morning event organising. If you like the commitment, join one. If there isn’t one, how about creating one yourself? You could make a big difference in the campus community just like our Sustainability Squad does.

Be conscious of your energy consumption

Turn down the brightness on your laptop and phone. This will save energy (making them last longer through the day) and may reduce headaches and eye-aches after those long days. Unplug electronics and appliances from the wall when not in use, because some can continue sucking up electricity even when they are switched off. Taking shorter showers will reduce energy consumption and water usage. These are things we can do whether we live on campus or at home!

Thrift away

Lets be honest, sometimes uni can feel a bit like a fashion show. Other people are content to show up in their trackies (especially if they live in a dorm nearby). However you feel about clothes, buying them from second-hand stores is rewarding. You will save lots of money and reduce your impact on the environment! Considering that trends are always circling around to the past, you might find some real treasures. Fast fashion is so harmful (and thrifting is so great) that I wrote a whole article about it here! If you’re living in a dorm and need furniture, you can also buy it second-hand (and save a sh*t load of $$$).

Well, those are my tips. Did you find any of these helpful? What tips do you have? Thanks for reading 🙂

 

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2 comments on “How to be an Eco-Friendly Student

  1. It’s a lovely post, Claire. Most of us do what we can as individuals these days. We are more aware than we used to be of our responsibilities to the environment. But as a cynic of a certain age, I have to tell you how ironic I find it that it’s happening at a time when we’re so reliant on our electronic gadgets. We’re not about to give up our laptops in favour of paper and pen. And even the most conscientious of us aren’t about to give up plane travel. We want to save our limited resources but no one talks about overpopulation.
    Its your world and your future. I urge you to campaign on the big things.

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    • Hi marymtf. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      I agree that we must campaign on the big things. As a student of the environmental humanities and ecology, my mind is always swirling, often in anger, about the way humanity has found itself on Earth. It is certainly due to many factors, especially those caused by capitalism and consumerism, that the planetary boundaries (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_boundaries) are being breached and the global ecosystem is collapsing. Overpopulation is a big problem, however, the over-consumption of only a small fraction of the human population (those living in Western and “developed” countries) is responsible for much more environmental devastation than overpopulation is. The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies has an informative article about it here: https://e360.yale.edu/features/consumption_dwarfs_population_as_main_environmental_threat

      As for technology, I think there is quite a bit of debate around whether paper or screens are more sustainable. It isn’t really true that my generation is glued to our screens because we are ignorant and narcissistic – unfortunately we have been brought up in that world. The entire structure of my education is made so that I can’t complete my degree without daily access to a computer and internet (I wish I could use a pen and paper). On the positive side, technology has allowed the spread of so much learning, the connection of global communities and the spread of social movements (even the environmental movement). On the other hand, I would gladly trade in my smart phone for a yard and the resources with which to have a vegetable garden.

      I am very vocal about environmental issues with those in my life. I enjoy volunteering doing conservation on the local sand dunes. I try to awaken those in my life with both sobering facts and future optimism. There are many people my age campaigning both to the public and the government (check out the Australian Youth Climate Coalition!) However, I know through experience that some people simply do not respond well to the overwhelmingly sad facts and figures of our current trends; they will just give up and believe all is lost, assuming that they can’t make an impact. I made this blog with the goal of creating a space where those who might not (yet) be completely sold the idea of sustainability can find inspiration to include it in their lives – easily and affordably. Perhaps if they can see how easy it is to start making changes, they will be more drawn to the environmental movement… And there is always room for more 🙂

      Best Wishes

      – Miss Leafy Green

      Like

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