10 ways to be more eco-friendly in Leeds
We’re all in this together, after all
I’m sure you’ve been told thousands of times to turn the tap off while brushing your teeth and to turn lights off when you aren’t using them, but what else can you as a student with a limited budget do to help the environment? (seriously, though, turn off those lights). With this in mind, we’ve come up with 10 different ways you can be more eco-friendly, without breaking the bank or having to give up too much time or effort, with the help of some wonderful establishments in Leeds.
Upcycling is repurposing a belonging that you have little use for, or even just rubbish. This has two different environmental benefits: it prevents waste being dumped in landfills, and it prevents the carbon footprint of a brand new product being made from scratch. It also has the potential to save you a ton of money as well as giving you a chance to flex your creative muscles.
A great example of this is the chocolate box that my wonderful friend Ayse turned into a neat and pretty jewellery organiser. If you’re struggling to think of things to upcycle, there are some amazing ideas on the internet, such as making reusable cotton rounds out of old fabric (such as an old T-shirt) or using bottles as vases or planters.
Buy second hand
Many old clothes can also be given a new lease of life, and a massive proportion of them are still in the condition to be loved by someone new. Buying pre-loved clothes not only saves you money and is super trendy but is also massively more sustainable and overall ethical than buying fast fashion.
There are many amazing places in Leeds to find some vintage gems, such as Blue Rinse by the Corn Exchange, which sells clothing for £15 a kilo, and Cow, which has stylish revamped clothes in addition to a great range of other eco-friendly products. If you can’t find what you’re after in these physical shops, Depop and Vinted offer a massive selection of second-hand clothing. These platforms also give you the option to sell any clothes you don’t wear for some extra cash and to save someone else from feeding into fast fashion. Also, don’t forget about charity shops (there are loads in Headingley), which have the added benefit of having your money go to a good cause.
Buy solid beauty products
Many toiletries and beauty products have an excess of packaging, which is often virgin plastic and sometimes not recyclable. The products that require the most packaging are liquid products, such as body wash and liquid hand soap (it’s worth noting that if you do purchase these products, Boots have a recycling scheme where you can exchange five empty products for Boots points).
A small swap from liquid products to solid bar products can make a huge difference in the waste you put out. The easiest way to start is to switch from liquid hand soap to solid, which is widely available and used to be the norm. Bar soaps tend to be packaged in recyclable cardboard, and some are even sold ‘naked’, such as the soaps sold by Lush. Most shops sell solid hand soap such as Dove, but my personal favourites are the hand soaps sold by the Body Shop, which lather up nicely and smell great. Amazingly, there is now a large range of solid products on the market for everything you might need, including shampoos and even facial serums.
Phase out single use
This is the area in which an investment in a reusable item will save you money in the long run. There are so many amazing replacements for every single use product you can imagine. So, switch out paper towels for a reusable cloth and make use of your Tupperware. There are even eco-friendly swaps for more niche single use items, such as having a reusable baking mat instead of going through baking paper. You can also reduce paper usage by making any notes electronically, if you don’t already.
An often-overlooked strain on the environment in this modern world is E-waste. A simple way to reduce this is to not leave electronics on charge for longer than required. Not only does this waste electricity, but it can also damage your devices.
I fell victim to this in my first semester of university, when my battery swelled to the point where my phone was unusable from being left to charge for hours after reaching 100 per cent battery. I had to pay a hefty amount in repairs to have my phone be functional again, so let me be a cautionary tale to you.
Another easy way of being more eco-friendly is to unsubscribe from spam emails. They are annoying after all, and it could prevent a lot of electricity from being wasted. It’s a change that will take you seconds to implement but will make a large difference over time.
Buy from zero waste shops
To cut further cut down on single use packaging, there are some innovative grocery stores in Leeds in which you can take your own container to get a refill of dried food such as rice and pasta, AKA the staple of any student’s diet. Many refill stores also sell spices, sweets, oils, and washing up liquid, so you can get the majority of your essentials there. Hyde Park Refills is a lovely refill store located near Woodhouse Moor, and also conveniently near a bus stop if you don’t feel strong enough to haul your shopping home.
Prevent food waste
Food waste can be a huge drain on the environment, it further fuels overproduction. Also, food waste binned in plastic bin liners doesn’t decompose properly and just takes up landfill space in its plastic. Sadly, many of us don’t have access to a compost bin, so this is the only way for us to dispose of it.
The easiest way to prevent food waste is to store your food properly and plan your meals around what expires first. This will also save you money on groceries. There are some amazing products that can be used to lengthen the life of fresh food, such as food huggers which can be bought in various sizes in popular stores such as Ikea.
In my house, these are often used to preserve a pepper or an onion that we’ve only used half of. If you don’t want to spend money on these products, Tupperware can often do the trick. A great way to make strawberries, blueberries and similar fruit last longer is to store them in glass jars (bonus points if you upcycle a jar you already have, such as a sauce jar). Lettuce can be kept crispy by using a veggie saver bag. You can get creative with food scraps by creating a broth, or even re-growing some of the produce you rebuy (it’s easier than it sounds, trust me).
Eat less animal products
You don’t have to completely go vegan to help the environment, even a few swaps here and there add up. Quorn is widely available, a staple of my diet and without being dramatic, the love of my life. It has a large range of meat substitute products in recyclable packaging. The most versatile to cook with are Quorn Pieces, which are pieces of imitation chicken. They cook straight from frozen, cook faster than real chicken, and don’t carry the risk same daunting risk of food poisoning. Not to mention, they have a remarkably similar texture to real chicken and hold flavour well. I’ve switched two of my meat-eating friends to using Quorn instead of chicken chunks simply by serving them meals with Quorn.
If you aren’t a fan of imitation stuff, that’s totally understandable. There are many vegetarian and vegan meals that don’t require imitation meat or dairy. There is also a load of “accidentally vegan” snacks that you can opt for, such as Oreos or Starbursts. But what about when you don’t feel like cooking? Thankfully, there is a large amount of amazing vegan food available in Leeds. Doner Summer, Punk Vegan, and Meat is Dead are just a few entirely vegan restaurants in Leeds. There is also now a much better range of vegan/vegetarian food available in many standard restaurants and takeaways.
Cut out harmful chemicals
Many generic cleaning products harm the environment (they literally have a sign on the back of them illustrating this). To combat this, switch to more gentle cleaning products or at least use them sparingly. Many chemical sunscreens contain chemicals that are wreaking havoc on coral reefs, namely Oxybenzone and Octinoxate. Further damage to these beautiful reefs can be prevented by a simple swap to a mineral sunscreen.
Spread the word
You can extend your impact beyond your own life by sharing some of these tips and (gently!) reminding others how to help fight against pollution and climate change. We’re all in this together, after all.