Whilst you’re swamped by student loans and coursework, living ethically can seem ambitious – something to leave until you’re a proper adult with a job. But anything you can do to look after the world is an improvement, so here are 10 easy ways you can live a bit kinder without bankrupting yourself or adding to your stress:
1. Eat less meat
Being veggie or vegan is obviously a great option here, but it’s not for everyone (I personally am way too attached to cheese). Meat production produces a huge amount of greenhouse gases and isn’t good for the environment, but if everyone gave up meat even just one day a week it would make a huge difference. It’s also worth considering that meat is super expensive – I’ve been eating meat once a week for about a year now and my weekly shop is much more student-friendly.
2. Use public transport, cycle or walk
This one is pretty achievable thanks to our £1 bus journeys, and by getting the bus instead of driving you’ll be reducing the amount of vehicles on the road. Cycling is brilliant because it has no harmful effects and it’s great exercise, but I admit the hills in Falmouth are pretty daunting. This year I moved to a house between Falmouth and campus and set myself the goal of walking everywhere as often as possible. Yes I have to get up a bit earlier and it’s annoying to see the bus drive past as I’m puffing up a hill, but it’s an easy way to stay active and I’ve got mega calf muscles.
3. Educate yourself
I know you’re doing a lot of this already, but try and take time to stay on top of what’s going on in the world. Read the news (from various sources and viewpoints if you can), watch films, read books, discuss current affairs with your friends – do anything you can to inform yourself, whether it’s about politics, sexuality, the environment or the current state of a different country. You might learn some new tips from speaking to other people who are also trying to live ethically.
4. Take a water bottle to uni
It’s easy to rush out to a lecture and realise you have nothing to drink, but bottled water is ridiculous. Buy a reusable bottle and pack it before you go to bed if you’re forgetful in the morning; there are lots of fountains on campus and you’ll save yourself money in the long run as well as reducing the amount of plastic you throw away.
5. Plan your food shop
I don’t mean you have to have an exact weekly meal plan, but have an idea of what you’re likely to use so you only buy what you need. If, for example, you want a couple of carrots for one of your meals, buy them loose instead of getting a whole bag so you don’t have several left to go mushy in the fridge. Make a list if you’re an impulse buyer and don’t be swayed by offers on things you don’t actually need. If you’re making something like chilli, make a double batch and freeze the rest for a day you can’t be bothered to cook.
6. Wear a jumper!
If you’re on campus then you might have no choice but to have your room boiling hot all year round, but if you rent a house consider reducing the amount of heating you use. Not only is it horribly expensive but it’s also using energy which could have been saved. Stick on a warm jumper and some socks before you consider turning your radiator on, or turn it down a notch if you can’t do without it. Remember to turn it off when you leave the house and when you go to bed.
7. Buy cruelty-free
Lots of cosmetic products are tested on animals or contain ingredients that have been. Since 2013 it has been illegal in Europe to sell cosmetics that have been tested on animals, but companies which also sell their products in countries without restrictions may still be carrying out testing. Next time your shampoo or lipstick runs out, consider replacing it with something cruelty free. Superdrug’s B. range is entirely vegan and cruelty free without a huge price tag, and at Boots you’re good to go with Collection, No7, Soap and Glory, Barry M and Seventeen. Beauty Without Cruelty is available online as well as in some health shops and pharmacies, and I personally swear by the online mineral makeup brand Lily Lolo (which also does great shades for pale people, hooray!). Lush is a good source of bath products if you’re willing to splash out a bit more, but Boots Essentials have got your back if you’re on a budget. Here’s a full list of brands on sale at Boots and whether they’re on the nice list or the naughty list and one for Superdrug.
Washing out tins can seem like a faff at the time, but recycling is more important than ever now that factories are churning out insane amounts of packaging. Taking a few minutes to put rubbish in the right bins can really make a difference. Another way of recycling is to reuse things, so take a shopping bag back next time you go to the supermarket rather than buying a new one each time. Consider raiding the charity shops next time you need new clothes – you might be surprised by the bargains you can pick up (I recently got a beautiful Phase Eight evening dress for a few pounds). When you’ve had enough of some of your own clothes, donate them so they end up in a new home instead of the ground.
9. Buy local
If you want to be sure of a product’s source and reduce your food miles, buy local where possible. There’s a farmers market on Saturdays in Truro, and Tuesdays in Falmouth with things like fish, bread and honey – this can be more expensive than the supermarkets but it’ll all really good quality. If you’re buying fruit and there are several options, have a look at where each has come from and whether it’s in-season. If you can get to a local farm shop, even better. Buying local might not be realistic for you now, but get into the habit of noting where food has come from and it’ll be easier when you actually have money to spend.
10. Buy Fairtrade.
Fairtrade products provide a fair wage to the people who produced them – this is hugely important when there are still countries which don’t pay their workers enough to live on. By buying Fairtrade you can be happy in the knowledge that you’re supporting workers in a developing country, ensuring that their costs are properly covered and that they receive fair trade deals. It’s not hard to include a few Fairtrade products into your weekly shop – bananas and KitKats carry the badge and Fairtrade tea and coffee can be found in supermarkets for a sensible price. As we’re in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight, keep an eye out for the logo next time you go shopping.