Many of us has seen the massive increase in awareness around climate issues in recent months. With Extinction Rebellion taking Norwich by storm, and students planning to walk out on 15 March for #youthstrike4climate, it is clear massive action needs to be taken. But all that is futile if we don’t all do our part. Many people are confused about how they can do better for the environment. Between the bombardment of scientific terms and the price tag that always seems to be attached, many students are scared off. But there are some easy and simple ways you can improve your eco-footprint, even with a tiny student loan!

  1. Coffee cups. Probably the most obvious, and for good reason. Unio and Campus Kitchen have been selling their coffee cups at an alarming rate, and if you’re not already in the club, you should join. Aside from the 20p savings on most drinks (what student doesn’t like a bargain), they are easier to use, and they look pretty good too. While investing in a reliable brand like Chilly’s is ideal, you can find decent quality cups pretty much anywhere. With designs to suit everyone, why not use the planet as an excuse to have a cute cup to carry around. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of coffee cups are not recycled with cardboard, if at all, due to their plastic lining. They need to be recycled at a specific place, meaning you can’t just dump them in the recycling bin on your way past, or if you do, you contaminate everything in that bin, meaning none of it will be recycled.  
  1. Water bottles. Again, obvious. Why would you buy water when the university has plenty of water machines, and if you can’t find one, the cafés will refill for free. There’s very little excuse here other than laziness. Buy a pretty water bottle that doesn’t leak, reap the rewards and the planet will too.
  1. Recycling. We all know we should recycle, but not so many of us actually know what that means. Many plastics and foil-based products, i.e. Walker’s crisp packets, can’t be put in your kerbside recycling, but can be taken at a Terracycle collection point, for example in most big supermarkets. When you have five almost-adults living in a house, there’s little reason that you can find to not bring a bag of plastic with you to the supermarket. Plus, if you really want to up your recycling game, having pretty bins for all the different waste types is an easy way to jazz up the kitchen, in Wilko you can find cool wastebaskets for as little as £2.  
  1. Shopping bags. Most people have wised up to reusable shopping bag since the 5p levy was introduced in 2015, nevertheless a lot of us are still lazy, forgetting to put one of the many free totes we’ve collected in our backpacks. If you walked round a Freshers’ Fayre, you most likely have at least ten. Roll them up and put them in the side pockets of your bags. And put them back when you’ve used them!
  1. Bypass the fast fashion. We’re not saying never walk down a high street again but think twice before you go to Primark for every little thing you think you need.  Buying second hand is surprisingly nicer than you would think. Apps like eBay and Depop have an abundance of most brands, often lightly worn, at much cheaper prices. While it may take a little more time and persistence to find the item you want, this gives you extra time to consider if you even need to spend the money in the first place. A win-win if you ask me. Charity shops can be a bit hit and miss, but you can get a steal sometimes, and an afternoon of charity shop trawling makes for a fun outing!
  1. Eat less meat. Now I’m not going to tell you to go vegan, but eating less meat is cheaper and better for the environment. You don’t have to go full veggie to have a few veggie recipes in your repertoire.
  1. Support better brands. I know I said to bypass the fast fashion, but that’s not always going to work out, sometimes it’s just not practical. But if you are thinking about making a few purchases, go for quality over quantity. By buying better, you’re saving yourself from replacement next year as well as reducing waste. This goes for cosmetics too; while a Lush shampoo is a bit pricier, it’ll probably last you double if not triple the time. Fashion brands such as Weekday, Monki and Zara are great places to start.  
  1. Digitalise your notes. While it’s not always practical, a lot of lecture notes can be easily taken on your laptop, saving the paper. And if you are one of the people who learns by highlighting, there’s no harm in typing your notes out and them printing a condensed version at the end of the module to highlight and annotate, saving the paper from all the less useful side anecdotes lecturers tend to have.  
  1. Bring your own. Bringing your own Tupperware when you know you’ll be getting takeaway food is a great way to save plastic. UEA Sustainability Society are currently working on getting a Tupperware discount in Campus Kitchen, meaning this could soon be budget friendly too!
  1. Use your freezer. Most students have no idea quite how much of their food can be frozen. A little bit of research into what can be frozen just before it goes off will save a ton of food waste (literally!) and save you money on food too. Anything from chopped onions to cheese can be stored in the freezer, if you know how.  

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