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Residential Life

How to be sustainable at uni

By Adrian 16 Nov 2023

As a student, there are so many simple ways to help the environment and save some money.

You might be thinking that living sustainably is time-consuming, takes a lot of effort, and costs a fortune. But there are so many simple and lasting ways you can make a difference whilst saving some extra cash at university. 

1. Stop wasting your water

It's so easy to waste a huge amount of water without even realising it, from leaving the tap running while you brush your teeth to taking an extra long shower after a tiring day at uni. Most of the time this isn't necessary and you can save a lot by shortening your showers, not leaving the tap running whilst washing the dishes and always putting a full load in the washing machine and dishwasher.

It might save you some money on your bills too - it's a win-win situation. 

a close up of a running tap

2. Second-hand shopping

No doubt you'll want to invest in some new uni outfits before and during university, and swapping fast fashion for second-hand shopping is a great way to be sustainable and find a good bargain. Instead of forking out on designer brands, you can visit charity shops and websites like Facebook Marketplace, Depop and Vinted to give clothes a second life (there's always a hidden gem amongst the racks somewhere). 

If you find some of your clothes are gathering dust in your wardrobe, you can always donate them to a local charity, hand them down to family members or drop them off at the nearest clothing bank on your way to uni. You're likely to damage a few items too as a student, so it's a good idea to learn how to mend your own clothes to stop you from spending more, this way you can easily patch over holes and sew on new buttons to look good as new. 

3. Co-ordinate your wardrobe with the weather

In winter, radiators become a student's best friend but with bills on the rise and increasing concerns about the environment it's best to avoid having your heating on constantly. Instead, think about wearing some extra layers, pop on some slippers or have a hot water bottle nearby. 

It's a good idea to make the most of the daylight too so you can use the natural light instead of leaving your lights on all day and night. Any electrical equipment should only be plugged in and turned on when you're using it, so if you nip out make sure you turn everything off. 

4. Say no to single-use plastics

Recycling is a great way to help the planet, but did you know that not all plastics can be recycled? That's why you should try to avoid as many single-use plastics where you can. Don't worry, there's plenty of alternatives that are much more eco-friendly and won't empty your pockets. 

The Ecoegg is a brilliant reusable product designed to replace laundry detergent and fabric conditioner. Not only can you use it for up to 70 washes before the need to refill, it can also save up to 40 bottles of plastic each year! You also might want to think about swapping liquid shower gels for block soaps in cardboard packaging and using flannels instead of disposable wipes.

Some other little items that can make a big change are wooden or bamboo toothbrushes, metal straws and reusable grocery bags, coffee cups and water bottles. Most universities have water dispensers scattered across campus and some cafes even offer discount if you use your own cup, so they'll definitely come in handy. Remember, you can always get crafty and recycle your own materials to make something new. 

eco-friendly bags and products

5. Think before you travel

In the habit of taking the bus or catching a taxi to university? If your campus is in walking distance from your accommodation, it would be a lot cheaper to set off slightly earlier and head there on foot. Public transport can also be unreliable sometimes, so you might find it less stressful if you plan your own route (you don't want to risk walking into a full lecture theatre). 

Cycling is another eco-friendly and active way of getting around your uni city and can even be faster than public transport on busy days. Don't panic if you don't have a bike, you can usually hire one from the university or from bike stations across the city. So next time you're about to pay for another weekly bus pass, consider walking or cycling instead. 

These are just some small changes that can not only save the environment, but also save you some money at uni too. Little changes can make a big impact! 

Adrian profile picture

Adrian is a medical doctor, the Student Health & Wellbeing Manager at the University of London and the Warden of Connaught Hall, where he has lived for more than 25 years.
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