10 Ways you can be more Environmentally Friendly as a Student

Maintaining a healthy life balance while at university can be an up-hill battle. Compounded by maintaining your grades, relationships and finances… not to mention the never-ending societal pressures to keep up to date with shifting trends… the last thing on your mind is your environmental footprint. Climate activism has been criticised for being directed only to the privileged and often costs more for the consumer making sustainability an elitist game. But, fear not! Here is a list of 10 simple ways you can lead a double life as a student and as a friend to the earth with easy changes and without a hit to your budget (assuming you already use a keep-cup and reusable drink bottle – drink more water!):



Now we’ve all heard of the four R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rihanna, but there’s an important new addition to the list: REFUSE. When making a purchase not only consider whether there are alternative options but consider whether you really need the item. Refusing to buy things you don’t need is something we all need to start doing more. Plus, stick it to the capitalist lords and keep that money in your bank.


Shopping ethically can be a nightmare, navigating what truly is and isn’t good for the planet on a shoe-string student budget. By choosing to buy locally, you are not only supporting the livelihoods of those around you but you’re also reducing the carbon emissions from importing which are dangerously accelerating the impact of climate change.


Single use plastic from shopping, especially at supermarkets, are causing havoc to our ecosystems and marine life. By carrying in your day-to-day bag either a tote bag or reusable shopping bag, you can make sure you aren’t caught off guard and ending up with more unnecessary plastic. There is really no excuse when they can pack down smaller than the average smart phone these days. For some scary facts about single-use plastics have a read of this factsheet.


If you are fortunate enough to have a garden, invest in a compost bin. They’re not only great at producing more rewarding, nutrient rich soil than can rival any products from a garden centre, but they also are an excellent way to reduce waste. If your garden has no use for the compost you produce, community gardens happily welcome donations!


If you are restricted and unable to have a compost bin for your food waste, it is imperative that you use council provided food waste bins. When organic matter ends up in landfill it will rot and release methane (worse than carbon dioxide!). For context, a head of lettuce which is 96% water, takes 25 years to decompose if it ends up in landfill. This also applies for paper, cardboard and hard plastic recycling too. Paper takes more than 15 years to breakdown in landfill but takes less than 15 seconds for you to recycle.


When buying new clothes, make a conscience effort to buy second hand or buy products that will last you more than one season before being thrown at the back of your wardrobe. Charity shops are an excellent place to start where you can find bargains, individual lewks and reduces the impact of CO2 emissions. Startlingly, one kilogram of cotton is created using an average of 10,000-20,000 litres of water… only time I want to hear that quantity of water is when you’re reminding your friends to stay hydrated! To face the facts about how much water is consumed by the clothing industry check out this blog.


Now student budgets can easily blow out, especially if your week started with a hangover due to the irresistible student night’s prices at your local… but buying from “zero waste” stores is an affordable way to reduce the plastic in your pantry. Investing in mason jars – or re-using pasta sauce jars – means when you shop for staples such as rice, pasta or oats at these stores, you bring your own container and voila you’ve completed a plastic free shop!


The argument for turning to a vegan or vegetarian diet has been supported by scientists as a sure way to reduce the impacts of climate change. The UN endorses this approach too but if a meat-free diet isn’t possible for you personally, the first step is to reduce your meat intake. A vegie diet will result in 2.5x less than the carbon emissions than a meat diet not to mention the atrocious evidence of torture and lawbreaking in abattoirs. So get that meat out your mouth, sis!


Flying is obviously the quickest way to get somewhere, but it certainly isn’t the cleanest. Opt for a train or coach when getting to your destination as the easiest way to reduce your personal carbon footprint. Instead of hiring a car, travel like a local and use public transport, bike or walk. There are many tips for keeping your travel green, but reducing the amount of time spent in the air is a fool-proof way to reduce carbon emissions and airport-anxiety.


If you make one change to your routine, make it this point. Education is more important than ever in a world of “fake news” and volatile politics. Do your own research to form opinions on what we can do as a society to reduce the existential crisis climate change presents. Now, I’m certainly not expecting students to go read scholarly dissertations on climate change, but there many media and sources of information you can use. Podcasts, documentaries, science reports and blogs (or even green Instagram pages) can be a time-efficient way to educate yourself.

For some recommendations of where to start, take a look at these podcasts, documentaries, science reports and blogs.


There is only so much an individual can do to combat climate change. Use your democratic privilege and register to vote. Voting for a political party who will hold the big polluters accountable, enact policies with effective carbon targets and take climate change seriously is more important than ever. We are facing unprecedented challenges. Voting is a privilege, not a chore and not a universal human right. Remember that.

Now use these ten (and a bit) tips, go forth eco-warrior/worrier and think to yourself; WWDD (What Would [Sir] David Do)?


This article is part of HC Bristol's Sustainability themed week.