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Sustainability as a Student

Ellie Foulds lists her top tips on how to live a more sustainable life, particularly as a student.

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Trying to shop ethically on a student budget isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and some sustainable influencers would have people believe that sustainability is an all or nothing game. However, there are plenty of small, affordable ways to follow a more ethical lifestyle that can fit into a student budget without going entirely zero plastic.

The first thing that you will see suggested on any list of how to live a more sustainable lifestyle is to swap to reusable water bottles, coffee mugs and shopping bags, and these are all good investments that can fit into a student budget. If you’re the kind of person that buys a bottle of water on campus everyday, swapping to a reusable water bottle and refilling it at the on campus water fountains will very quickly start to save you money. The same goes for coffee mugs, as most major coffee shops offer a discount if customers bring in their own mugs, so over time they pay for themselves, and 10p for a carrier bag might not seem a lot, but it adds up over time, and it’s much better to reuse the plastic bags you already have until they wear out, and then look to replace them with something more ethical and long-lasting, like cotton tote bags. If you already have these items, think about other disposable items you could find a more permanent alternative to: razors with replaceable heads, reusable cotton pads to replace makeup wipes (make your own with old cotton fabric and minimal sewing skills!) or beeswax wraps to replace cling film come to mind.

there are plenty of small, affordable ways to follow a more ethical lifestyle

When it comes to your weekly shop, looking for plastic-free, or low-plastic alternatives to your usual purchases can be easier than you think, especially in the fruit and veg aisle. A lot of fruits and vegetables are sold loose in supermarkets, and this is especially useful when you only cook for one: I always find myself throwing away left over carrots and potatoes if I buy a whole bag, whereas if I pick up a couple of loose ones I reduce my waste and despite it sometimes costing more per 100g to buy loose, I find myself saving money because I’m not paying for food I don’t eat.
Shopping around as well can often help you to reduce plastic waste when grocery shopping: greengrocers tend to have more local produce sold in less packaging, which is often a little more expensive, but a few bits here and there could fit into a student budget and reduce plastic waste, and a new zero waste bulk store, Zero, has opened in Exeter on Fore Street to sell things like pasta, rice, shampoo, lotion and other everyday essentials that tend to come packaged in plastic. These kinds of shops usually allow you to bring and fill your own container, or sell reusable containers, and only ask you to pay for the weight you take, so again, you don’t need to buy more than you need.

My final suggestion is a big culprit for students when it comes to creating waste and carbon emissions- that is online shopping. If you’re the housemate who always gets an ASOS delivery and ends up sending everything back, try to cut down. Not only do online orders come in excessive amounts of packaging, it also creates carbon emissions in delivering them to you, and returning them to the store if you do make returns. Where possible, shop in town instead, and try to cut down on the amount you purchase (save the planet and your bank account!), and look into capsule wardrobing, a current trend in the sustainable influencer world, and a method to pare down your wardrobe while still offering variety in outfits.

a new zero waste bulk store, Zero, has opened in Exeter

Shopping for sustainable clothes instead of making use of fast fashion can quickly get expensive, so for a lot of students it isn’t possible, but charity stores are common in Exeter and also reduce the impact your clothing has on the environment for some absolute bargain prices.Hopefully some of these suggestions have inspired you to make some changes towards a more sustainable life.

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