11 ways you can be more sustainable as a Notts student without breaking the bank

One people, one planet

A lot of the time the sustainable living movement is associated with Pinterest boards, hipster coffee stores and some fancy organic vegetable priced way above your means. But in truth, leading a sustainable student life is well within reach.

In other words, you can do sustainability your own way – it doesn’t mean you have to frequent some expensive farm shop and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to compromise on luxury, quality and cost. Even the smallest and simplest of changes in your everyday student lifestyle can make a difference. These are the easiest ways you can be more sustainable as a student living in Notts without breaking the bank.

1. Go plant based

There’s all the evidence out there to suggest that a plant based diet is the single biggest thing that you can do to reduce your carbon footprint on the planet. Globally, animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation and habitat destruction. In August of last year, having gone to a vegan festival in nearby Newark, I decided to bite the bullet and adopt a plant based diet. Now, 14 months on and it’s been made all the more easy with some affordable and delicious vegan eateries here in Nottingham. The Crocus Cafe on Lenton Boulevard is a personal favourite along with Mowgli.

We’re living in a time where veganism is an ever growing movement and this trend is translating itself onto the shelves of the supermarkets in the huge plant based ranges that they now offer. These meat and dairy substitutes can be a great help if you go cold turkey on animal products and have some difficult cravings to contend with. I’ve found the Applewood cheese to be the best dairy free cheese alternative and of course Quorn have a whole selection of meat free products that seem to soothe most ex-meat eater’s taste buds.

2. Cut down on food waste

I’m ashamed to say that perhaps the biggest issue in my own household is food waste. Maybe if the bin didn’t fill up so quickly, the question of who was going to empty it wouldn’t be so contentious. Storing food properly can combat food going off or drying out in the fridge. Reusing glass jars from food products like gherkins earns extra brownie points and they make the perfect containers to keep food fresh for longer. Planning meals around expiry dates is a sure way to use up all the ingredients and get creative in the kitchen. Aiming to eat seasonally saves on food miles and carbon emissions.

3. Reduce single use consumption

Plastic is everywhere. Just the other day it was revealed that micro-plastics were found in human blood. But there now exists a reusable alternative for almost every single use item. Taking a reusable coffee flask saves on coffee cups and usually gets you a discounted drink at cafes. Beeswax wraps have taken the market by storm and are ideal for packed lunches. Whilst a lot of these reusable items may have a greater initial cost, they will help to save money in the long run.

4. Sustainable bathroom swaps that you can make in your uni house

Who gives a cr*p toilet paper is a brand that donates 50 per cent of profits towards building toilets and improving sanitation in the developing world. Swapping the average supermarket brand for one like this is a small move that has a big effect. Shops such as Lush have grown in popularity over the past decade and with company giants like Amazon dominating the online market, the dying high street needs our support more than ever.

Sourcing beauty products that have a more natural product ingredient base can be kinder to our body too. Avoiding harsh chemicals in our products means that those chemicals aren’t then reaching water sources and polluting the greater environment. Some easy bathroom product swaps could be buying a bamboo razor and toothbrush or using refill services at local zero waste stores. If that doesn’t appeal just make sure you opt for non-synthetic ingredients next time you buy your shampoo and conditioner.

5. Use a refill store for eco cleaning

As a student, keeping a clean house isn’t exactly at the forefront of our priorities but you know what they say – “tidy room, tidy mind.” I’ve found that nature has a lot of the answers to eco cleaning, for example coconuts are a versatile product that are used in scourers, brushes and sponges. Again, using a refill store means you can swap big brands for cheaper unbranded equivalents.

6. Support second hand and shop locally

Buying second hand is a power move in a world that is forever shouting at you to buy new and to buy more. Charity shops and small independent clothing brands are a great way to keep up with fashion in a way that emboldens ecological integrity and social justice.  Thrift stores are on the up and there’s plenty to be found in the city centre. Charity shops have kitchen items in abundance so consider them first for things such as mugs, pans, plates and cutlery before swinging by another shop or supermarket. Beeston is a hot spot for charity shops and the Hockley area has a few too.

7. Moving more means that fuel emissions are kept to a minimum

Nottingham is great for public transport. With buses and trams, alongside electric scooters and our very own legs, we’re covered for more sustainable ways to move about. Ditch the car and walk or wheel wherever possible. Polluting fuel emissions are the enemy.

8. Avoid palm oil to say no to deforestation

Palm oil is closely tied with the deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests. Unfortunately it’s in a lot of food – about 50 per cent of packaged supermarket goods. It’s also found in beauty products and has other names such as stearic acid or sodium lauryl sulphate. Read the small print to double check before you buy.

9. Buy a Bee Bomb

Native flowers are vital for bees. Buying a native seed bomb is a sure way to create a wildflower meadow in no time that supports our pollinators. Just imagine if the nation’s green verges were multicoloured meadows that not only looked good but increased biodiversity at the same time.

10. Join an eco society

Conservation society is “a proactive society dedicated to conserving the environment and wildlife.” I went on a trip to the Peak District with them last year where we worked with park rangers in conservation work. Just recently, alongside Sustainability society, they planted a tree on campus. Sustainability society has held clothes swap shops in the past and encourage a more conscientious way of living.

11. Use your voice for good

It can be easy to feel like making these small changes does little against the profit first propaganda that we’ve come to know as the norm. But even ten years ago, alternative plant based milks weren’t that accessible and McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King didn’t have a vegan range. The big corporations are listening to the shift in demand for ethical, sustainable products that don’t harm the environment. Add your voice to this movement. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Participating in Meat Free Mondays or using a shampoo bar instead of a single use bottle are achievable steps on the road to a greener future. The time to act is now.

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