Go Green Every Single Day and Save the Earth! Follow these helpful tips from other students to create an eco-friendly lifestyle at home, at university, and beyond.
Caring for our planet is undoubtedly everyone’s responsibility. However, should students go the extra mile and play more active roles than other Earth citizens? If you are ready to become an aspiring environmental warrior, read on. What follows is the ultimate student guide to sustainable living in just 10 easy steps.
The raging war against plastic
The first and foremost tip is to avoid single-use plastic items when you are home or out and about. Invest in reusable alternatives now and save a lot of money later as these products last for years:
- Reusable plastic or stainless-steel water bottles
- Paper cups or mugs: Some cafes now offer discounts for bringing your own cup. This is also a healthy habit because some plastics release toxic chemicals when exposed to heat and cold.
- Reusable straws, food storage containers
- Reusable lunch boxes, sandwich wraps, utensils: Bring your own lunch to university or use your lunchbox to buy food.
- Buy reusable bags from the supermarket for grocery shopping. Your backpack, foldable bags, canvas bags, tote bags are good options, too.
Here are two solutions you may want to put forward to your university or Students’ Union. Some environmental organisations may be willing to sponsor for universities. Once you got the sponsorship, just organise a Refill programme. Students can check out reusable water bottles and mugs from campus cafes or bistros, then return at any outlet within the university.
Sustainability starts at home
We benefit from a green lifestyle not only by ensuring that we live in a healthy planet, but also by saving money in the long run.
Easy-to-learn daily habits
Cultivate energy-saving and water-saving behaviours to protect the environment:
- Switch off lights, electronic appliances when not needed
- Use sunlight instead of electric lights
- Use pot lids when cooking to reduce the energy required
- Hang clothes to dry naturally rather than throwing them in a tumble dryer
- Take short showers, especially if you are using hot water.
Live a ‘zero-waste’ life
A major issue in our society is the massive annual waste of dollars on food, goods, services that are hardly ever or never used. Here are some simple solutions to reduce landfill waste:
- Eat all fresh and takeaway food you purchased
- Store leftovers in the fridge and finish in a few days
- Cook ‘clearing the fridge’ meals before buying more food
- Plan your meals in advance, strictly follow your grocery shopping list
- Always think twice when you shop
- Donate/sell the unneeded stuff
- Use mains electricity or rechargeable batteries instead of disposable batteries
- Use the kerbside recycle bins well
- Recycle electronic devices with ewaste (national), Recycling Near You (national), Computerbank (Melbourne), Green Collect (Melbourne)
Cook and eat green
Animal farming consumes ridiculous amounts of natural resources and contaminates the environment. Therefore, it is eco-friendly to adopt a vegan/vegetarian diet or eat more plant-based food daily. Eat less meat and dairy, buy local and seasonal food, avoid eating endangered fish, try organic food and milk alternatives.
Other tips for a sustainable kitchen:
- Buy loose veg and fruit, sauces contained in tins or jars
- Keep old jars for leftovers, or pasta and grains bought from bulk stores
- Use veg scraps to cook a cheap, healthy broth
- Replace foil/clingfilm with reusable food wraps
- Replace paper towels/napkins with fabrics
Eco-friendly personal care
Next, we suggest the alternatives for your bathroom and toilet essentials:
- Bamboo toothbrush, reusable safety razors, soaps, shampoo bars
- Recycled toilet paper, reusable cotton pads, cotton buds with paper sticks
- Reusable pads, menstrual cup, or period underwear
Getting around the green way
Walking to university daily is beneficial to the environment and your health. It also saves you time stuck in traffic congestion and saves money on petrol and parking. However, if you live quite far from campus, cycling is a good option. Just get a second-hand bike and expand its lifecycle.
Public buses and trams are affordable ways to commute in all of Australia’s major towns. Having 50 people on a bus is still better than driving 50 cars with regards to carbon emission.
Shop with an environmental conscience
Say NO to fast fashion! Go to op shops for your shopping sprees and for giving your second-hand or unused stuff a new life. Online stores, garage sales, charity shops and thrift shops are ideal places to shop, give away or sell goods. DIY workshops and clothing swaps with friends can make your wardrobe unique, too.
Look for GECE’s ecolabel and check out their database of eco-friendly goods and services sold in Australia. Purchase recycled (or ‘high in recycled material’) products whenever possible. From recycled paper to home décor and furniture, the diversity is quite impressive. Find them at Oxfam and Planet Ark.
Tech-savvy ways of sustainable living
With mobile apps and social media, the process of changing to a green lifestyle might become easier and more enjoyable.
Fight the food waste battle
Food waste is a major global concern. Fortunately, there are numerous apps to recycle food waste and alleviate the problems of hunger and carbon emission. By using and promoting the apps, not only will we save millions of dollars across the food chain, but also save money on grocery shopping.
OLIO is a food-sharing platform that connects you with neighbours and local shops. Simply add a photo and description of your item, then indicate when and where to collect it. Users frequently donate food, but you can also exchange.
YWaste enables retailers to sell food that would otherwise be sent to landfill. Just browse and pay through the app, then pick up the food from the retailer. You can find hot meals, desserts, groceries, and more.
Exchange tips and embrace other cultures
Join student groups on social media to buy and sell second-hand items. Online groups are also great for sharing knowledge about sustainability, exchanging tips and learning from students with different cultural backgrounds. We live in a world of different cultures contributing differently to environmental issues. Thus, it is a good idea to learn from one another.
You could easily implement a similar communication channel at your university if one does not already exist. Just a Facebook group, some ‘marketing’ from the Students’ Union, and you are all set!
Stay informed, connected, involved
Get updates about the environment from reliable sources. Avoid websites/blogs of climate change denialists. Never give them the pleasure of gaining views out of curiosity!
Try to participate in Earth Hour annually. The more people you get to join, the better it is. By simply switching off lights, you are helping to push for sustainable policies/laws and crowdfund for our planet’s future. Also, remember to vote! And empower other students to vote for pro-environmental changes and for candidates whose priority is to combat climate change.
Lastly, join your university’s sustainability groups or local/regional environmental organisations. They are hundreds of individuals caring about the Earth and hoping for impactful changes. They meet regularly to discuss strategies and policies that the university or government can adopt. Being part of such communities makes it easier to mobilise meaningful political action.