Sustainable living can seem like a daunting prospect but, to put it simply, it boils down to “making choices that aim to reduce our individual and collective environmental impact”. For students, this is something which can easily be pushed aside, considered too expensive and time consuming. However, as easily as it can be to discard it, sustainable habits can be built into a student life, without breaking your bank or taking all of your time.
With anything related to protecting the environment, big advancements can come from taking lots of little steps. So, when thinking about how to build sustainable habits, it can be useful to break down the parts of your life you want to tackle and start by building new, small changes into each section. As time goes on, you can keep adding more and more changes, until you find a rhythm that works for you.
Food Shopping: Shopping bags, bread bags and every container in between
The first thing to do is to invest in one or two shopping bags you can use every week. Plastic waste provides a huge environmental challenge, so if you were to count the number of bags you use each week, times this by 30 (for each week you go shopping at university) and then the number of Warwick students going food shopping – suddenly a small change can have a big impact.
Fresh produce is another area in which you can start to make a difference. With just over a third of all greenhouse gas emissions coming from food production, a vegetarian diet can help reduce gas emissions. You may be a meat lover but considering doing one vegetarian meal a week could be a conceivable goal that would help the environment, and your wallet.
Other things to consider may be using refillable shampoo bottles, keeping hold of your bread bags for storage, and putting any food waste you create into the correct bin.
Making most of the facilities in halls and on campus
Food waste bins can be found in all of Warwick halls, so it is easy to make a new habit of using them. If you find it hard to separate your waste, consider putting a bowl out when you cook, which you can throw any food waste into, so it’s easy just to chuck in the correct bin when you’re done.
Another tip is to keep an eye out on campus for reusable cups, if you don’t already have your own. If nothing else, using the Warwick Cup, or your own reusable one will save you a bit of money when you buy drinks on campus and save you a few trips to the bin.
With the trips to the bin you’ll save with your reusable cup, a quick trip to the light switch won’t be a problem. Leaving lights on in halls and student houses seems to be an eternal problem. It’s again, easy to forget, but equally easy to fix.
So, once you’ve turned the lights off, you can continue being sustainable on your trip out!
Going out green!
Buses are a great mode of transport to help with this. They may seem hot, long and a bit of a chore but they are an effective way to reduce fuel emissions. One person alone has the ability to ‘reduce his or her carbon emissions by more than 4,800 pounds in a year’ on a 20mile round commute, which is roughly the round trip from Warwick to Leamington.
But if you’re really not convinced by the bus, a bike is another great option. Cycling around the local area is easy and hugely rewarding. The weather likes to make it a challenge but if nothing else cycling to campus in the winter has meant I’ve had some great conversation starters when I’ve turned up to lectures looking like a slightly wind-swept Michelin man in all of my winter layers!
Lectures and studying
Lectures again can offer more steps for you to take. Considering paper waste, handouts can be a death trap. I am a lover of handwriting so I thought that there was no other way than to accept the paper waste I’d create. But if you’ve got a tablet or touchscreen laptop, try writing your notes on there. This can help to reduce the amount of left-over hand-outs and notes you’ll have at the end of the year and save you a small fortune in printer credits.
It is hard to suggest other specific tips for how to study sustainably as everyone works differently, but if you can break down how you study into habits, once you have integrated other sustainable practices into your life, more ideas will soon start to pop into your head to adapt your routine and become an enviably sustainable student!