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Residential Life

10 ways to live sustainably in halls

By 22 Sep 2019

Welcome to your new home at the University of London!

The first few weeks of the academic year are an exciting time, but it’s not all about flat parties and nights out. Now is also the perfect time to start thinking about your environmental impact, and the simple steps you can take to live sustainably this year.

Reduce the Juice, the University of London’s sustainability campaign, have put together our TOP 10 tips for being a sustainable student. Reducing your impact on the environment doesn’t have to be difficult – making small changes in day-to-day life can have a big impact on our planet, and there are plenty of ways to have fun with it too! 

1. Re-use, re-use, re-use.

Every time we throw away a single-use item like a coffee cup or a plastic bottle, we waste all the resources and energy that went into making that product. Plastic waste also pollutes our oceans and other important natural habitats. Be part of the solution – switch to reusable products like this coffee cup, this water bottle, these food wrappers, and these organic cloths.

2. Become a recycling pro – it's easier than you think!

If you can’t re-use it, recycle it! In your Hall of Residence, you can recycle all plastics, cardboard, paper, glass, food tins and drinks cans, cartons and coffee cups. All of these go into the recycling bin with the red bag, in your bedroom and kitchen. They are then taken to a recycling centre and segregated and are eventually transformed into new products. Visit the London Recycles website and enter your postcode to find a recycling point for these items in your area. 

3. Join the second-hand revolution.

Mainstream fashion is one of the most environmentally harmful industries, and shopping second-hand is a great way to reduce your impact on the planet. When it comes to being sustainable without sacrificing style, London is the place to be! Timeout has a handy guide to vintage shopping and charity shopping, to help you find your new ethical shopping hotspot. Download the Depop app, to find second-hand clothes for any occasion without even leaving the house - it’s also a great way to make some extra cash by selling the stuff you don’t need anymore. 

a person wearing a costume

4. Discover the power of a plant-based diet.

Reducing meat and dairy consumption are some of the most effective actions we can take as individuals to fight climate change. Having a few meat-free meals per week, and cutting down on red meat, in particular, makes a positive difference. Choose the vegetarian option in your Hall canteen, and when you’re out and about, use the HappyCow app to find vegan and vegetarian-friendly cafes and restaurants near you. There are also tons of resources online to help you make tasty, budget-friendly, plant-based meals. Check out these simple recipes from The Happy Foodie and BBC Good Food to get started.

a tray of food

5. Don’t let great food go to waste.

Did you know that every day some of your favourite restaurants, like Yo Sushi and Planet Organic, offer meals for a fraction of the usual cost? It sounds too good to be true, but it’s all possible thanks to the “Too Good To Go” app. Free to download, the app allows restaurants to redistribute unsold food at the end of service. Simply check the app to find out what delicious deals are being offered near you. When food goes to landfill it produces methane gasses that contribute to climate change, so by using “Too Good To Go”, you’ll also be protecting the planet. 

6. Get to know your freezer.

On average, students waste £200 per year by throwing away food which could have been eaten. The food we buy often goes off before we have time to use it up, but putting food in the freezer to use at a later date offers a simple solution that will save you money, benefit the environment, and make life easier too! Far more things can be frozen than you might expect, including bread, fresh vegetables, and milk. Check out Love Food Hate Waste’s guide to how to freeze and defrost food safely, to make sure you get the most out of your ingredients. 

a bowl of fruit and vegetables

7. Think global, eat local.

A really effective way of reducing your carbon footprint is to buy local produce. Buying direct from the producer helps support the local economy too. That might sound tricky when you live in the middle of London, but there are plenty of options for fresh, delicious food that hasn’t travelled far. Bloomsbury Farmers’ Market takes place every Thursday from 9am to 2pm in Torrington Square, a stone’s throw away from SOAS and UCL campuses. Head to the Wild Country Organics and Fiveways Fruit Farm stalls, and stock up on mouthwatering fruit and veggies for the week ahead. Don’t forget to bring your own bags! 

 8. Love the planet, love your laundry.

Laundry is one of the most energy-intensive household activities. Luckily, there are lots of small changes you can make to keep the environmental impact of washing your clothes as low as possible. Firstly, ask yourself whether you really need to wash certain items so frequently. When it comes to things like jeans, jumpers and jackets, check if the item is actually dirty before you throw it in the wash. Make sure the washing machine is as full as possible to reduce the number of washes you need to do, and wash at 30c or below, on a short cycle. Skipping the tumble-dryer, or only using it for a short time and then hanging your clothes out to dry, is also a great way to save energy. You can also opt for an eco-friendly, palm-oil free laundry detergent such as Bio-D or Faith in Nature.  

 9. Be water-savvy.

In a densely-populated city like London, and with droughts becoming increasingly frequent as global temperatures rise, water is a precious natural resource. Why not time your showers using a playlist, and set yourself the challenge of only staying in the shower for the length of one song? Another simple change you can make is to always turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth. This saves up to 9 litres of water per minute!

10. Get cosy and conserve heat.

In your Hall of Residence, central heating for the whole building is controlled by the managers. They turn on the heating based on the air temperature, with a heating season typically lasting from October to March, and heaters being switched on in the mornings, late afternoons and evenings. However, everyone has an important role to play in making sure that the heating is as environmentally efficient as possible. Keep windows closed when the heaters are on, and if you’re still a bit chilly, wrap up warmly in a thick jumper or a cosy blanket.

a cup of coffee on a table

What are your top tips for being sustainable? Let us know! Tweet us at @Reduce_Juice, and look out for the Reduce the Juice team in receptions and dining areas in Halls throughout the year. 

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