Being a student is difficult with an endless amount of different tasks taking up time and attention.
Assessing your (often tight) budget, managing a strict seminar schedule, dealing with a part-time job and managing to pay for rent — it won’t be long before you realize adulting is tough.
If you’ve still got time to maintain a waste-free lifestyle, we’ve compiled a list of eight ways to live a student lifestyle, minus the waste. It’s important that as a university student you get to embrace the entire student experience without losing sight of your morals. So, here’s how to do it.
- Do it the Digital Way
There’s no doubt that you will have received a lifetime’s worth of recommended reading material when you joined your course. Before rushing to your nearest bookstore to buy the essential textbooks for your chosen discipline, consider purchasing the digital version or sites to make money doing homework.
Most eBooks are available via Amazon and cost considerably less than a hardback or paperback alternative. From a waste-free perspective, this will dramatically cut down your paper consumption as some textbooks can consist of more than 2,000 pages!
Need general information about a specific topic? Try finding the answers in a podcast or video format. Contrary to what your tutor might tell you, these are respected formats to reference in research papers (they can even be credited the Harvard way).
If you’re completely stuck when trying to find a specific text try typing the title or author into Google Scholar where you can often see a snippet of a book for free.
As a last resort, you can always check to see what’s available on buy and sell Facebook groups or marketplaces as it’s common for recent graduates to flog their books at a discounted price. Although this means purchasing a physical book, it is slightly more environmentally friendly than buying a brand new version.
- Contact Your Local Council and Don’t Stop There
Moving to university accommodation can be an overwhelming process with most students getting used to different surroundings, flatmates and often an entirely new zip code.
If waste-free living is at the top of your agenda, you should contact your local council regarding their specific recycling policies as each district, region, and state is different. There may even be particular rules and regulations for your university accommodation if the building is managed privately.
If you don’t receive the news you were hoping for, remember you shouldn’t stop at your local council. There’s plenty of independent companies and charities that offer responsible waste disposal services.
- Be an Advocate for Positive Change
Some would argue becoming an activist for positive change is all part of the university experience.
For centuries students have been known for their passion and enthusiasm when it comes to societal issues. By arranging peaceful protests, students have been able to harness the public’s attention. In the past students have challenged (and often changed) societies views of sensitive issues such as gun control and racial equality.
It is possible to live a waste-free life while being a student and also go one step further and promote it to others. Joining small communities such as a debating society will allow you to meet people with similar interests and values willing to organize campaigns for change.
- Do It the Danish Way — Sharing Is Caring
The Danes are known for their communal mentality and “sharing is caring” attitude towards their social circles.
It isn’t unheard of for residents of this country to host swapping parties where everyone brings unwanted items such as clothing and books to switch with another member of the group. This practice promotes the reduce, reuse, recycle system that helps to prevent waste.
Are you sick of wearing the same outfit to the student union or local bar? Switch it up with a peer instead of consuming more clutter.
- Build a Community or at Least Join One
As you might join the debate society to meet like-minded friends, you should also keep your eye on bulletin boards for waste-free advertisements.
As environmentalism becomes a bigger issue across the globe, universities are creating their own groups for waste-free advocates.
While you can take the tips in this blog post and lead a relatively waste-free student life, what’s better than meeting someone in the flesh who you can seek advice from? It’s always great to have a conversation with a fellow waste-free campaigner who might be able to give a straightforward tip that’s never occurred to you.
If the eco-friendly scene is dwindling at your particular university, you could always create your own advertisement or join online forums and blogs.
You can find an updated 2019 list of must-follow environmental blogs from Conserve Energy Future.
- Get Some Extra Cash for Your Waste-Free Efforts
If you’re going to work hard to maintain a waste-free lifestyle in the most reckless time of your life, you might as well get paid in return for it.
Plenty of local festivals and events will reward you for being either a freelance steward or collecting waste, discarded products or incentivized items. At the very least, if you don’t receive a cash payment for your hard work, volunteering will bag you a free ticket to the festival.
Check out The Guardian’s How to Volunteer at a Music Festival for a step-by-step guide to gain free entertainment.
- Act as the Head of the Household
If you’ve just arrived at your university dorm, the chances are that you’ll be sharing communal spaces in shared accommodation. Living waste-free can be made difficult by the actions of others, even if you’re committed to being on your best behavior.
The best way to maintain waste-free living is by taking the reins from the offset and acting as the head of the household.
It’s not uncommon for students to club together to buy communal items like dish soap, milk, and sugar. But how can this impact your carbon footprint?
Make sure that you become the purchaser of items by collecting money from the rest of the group and selecting products that have the right waste credentials. For example, skip the generic liquid dish soap (that’s more often than not packaged in plastic) for a traditional bar soap instead.
Contrary to what people often think, being waste-free doesn’t cost more money or force you to shop in high-end organic grocery stores. Dish soap is a good example of this as a bar of soap lasts longer than the liquid variety making it a better buy for the entire group and saving you money for student essentials like booze.
- Sack It All and Have a Takeaway (It Could Work out for the Best)
If trying to determine what’s waste-free and what isn’t ends up soaking up too much of your precious social time, your best bet might be to buy a takeaway. With plenty of city-center takeaway delivery systems using bicycles instead of cars to distribute orders, this method has already got the green seal of approval.
What’s more, as businesses become more environmentally aware, plenty of mindful takeaways are switching to sustainable packaging. This means your meal won’t be wrapped in single-use plastic (like plenty of supermarket products are). Instead, providers like Takeaway Packaging supply takeaways with environmental packaging products that are made from 100% recyclable, biodegradable and compostable materials such as Kraft board and paper.
Adam Middleton became the Business Development Manager for Takeaway Packaging after a varied career in PR, shipping and marketing within the packing industry. With a Bachelor’s degree in Human Geography and a Masters in International Marketing, Adam has a keen interest in the environmental impact of consumerism.