How to live (sustainably) at uni
Updated: Apr 13, 2020
My youngest brother is about to start uni 👀. I still can't quite believe it but there we go. The other day he asked me where to buy a bamboo toothbrush (if you're wondering the same thing click here), and that got me thinking. University is the first time that most students will have so much decision making power - and that brings up loads of questions. What toilet paper should I buy? What exactly should I use to wash my clothes? What about food? And cooking? Has this gone off yet?
Loads of questions. And if you are at all interested in sustainability or living a bit green then you probably have even more questions. So I thought I'd write a little bit of a university survival guide for students wanting to make some sustainable choices along the way - this blog would also be great for people living on their own post uni. Basically its a bit of a list, broken down by room, of what you need to survive living on your own while having a positive impact on the earth (sounds like a dream come true right).
Before we dive in I have just one piece of advice: don't try to do everything at once. It's okay to take this slowly. Chat to your new housemates, see if they're up for splitting the cost of big things and suggest some eco swaps, but don't feel like you have to do everything in this guide tomorrow. You won't be able to, and that is okay.
Common areas, like the kitchen, bathroom and living area can be areas of contention for students. Do you take turns buying the toilet paper, or split the cost each time, or keep a roll in your room so no one steals yours 👀? Chat to your housemates and figure out what everyone is happy with - I would suggest splitting the cost between you all as that gives you better options.
Who Gives a Crap toilet paper 🧻: 48 double length rolls of (eco-friendly) toilet paper for £36. Thats less than £1 per roll guys. Split the cost and your house will have toilet paper till Christmas (or maybe longer if you go all conservative).
Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel: convert to the bar or find your local refill shop to avoid endless plastic bottles filling up your shower (zero waste near me helps you find your nearest refill store). The same goes for hand soap.
Cleaning products: again, check out your local refill store because they might stock exactly what you need. Otherwise, Ecover is a good brand which are doing their bit to help the earth (and they have refill options too!). If you need some more help then read this blog over on Pebble Mag, they have a load of brands.
Razor: switch to a safety razor or subscribe to Friction Free Shaving, for guys and gals.
Bamboo toothbrush: my favourite brand is from Acala.
This is a huge one - in the interest of time I'm keeping it short but if you need some help or a bit more info then drop me a message I'd love to help you out.
Use your own shopping bags: if you haven't got any, then buy some (or get your mum to buy you some 😉) - you can get bags for life at most supermarkets or buy some tote bags online. If you are feeling fancy (there's always someone) and doing a home delivery then choose the no bags option.
If there are plastic free options take them! Choose the loose peppers over the ones in a plastic bag, or the loose potatoes, or meat at the deli. You get the drift. And if you're the one who likes to be fancy then buy yourself some little bags to put the potatoes in and take your own containers to the deli for your meat.
The food bin: check whether your council collects food waste and try to arrange for your house/halls to get a food bin. Putting food waste in a food bin means that it gets recycled (yay!).
Plan your meals and shop accordingly: students waste a lot of food, trust me I was one. We change our plans at the drop of a hat, forget what we have in the fridge so buy more, decide we don't feel like eating what we planned to. But food waste is a huge problem for the earth (read more here). Planning your meals and buying only what you need is a great place to start.
Share your food: if you aren't the best at planning then get good at sharing. Ask your housemates if they want that broccoli that you planned to eat before you decided you didn't want to eat something green (we've all been there). If your housemates turn it down then share your food using Olio (it's a really great app, check it out).
Check your bin: what do you throw away every day, every week? Is there a more sustainable option you could swap it with? Ask yourself these questions as you go and you'll be making sustainable swaps left right and centre.
Washing: Smol deliver laundry and dishwasher tablets (if you're lucky enough to have a dishwasher that is!) right to your house. This is another one to split with the housemates. 24 laundry capsules for £3.85 and 28 dishwasher tablets for £4.20. Choose how regularly you need them delivered, and you're off!
Reading and taking notes: try to read online instead of printing and borrow books from the library. If you have a laptop or tablet to take notes on during lectures then do that instead of buying loads of notebooks. If you're a die hard paper person, be conservative with it 🤷🏼♀️.
Staying hydrated: buy a reusable water bottle - it'll save you so much money! Chilly and SHO bottles are popular, but I found mine at TK Maxx. You can buy bottles almost everywhere, look at the supermarket or on Amazon. Choose one that isn't made from plastic - even though it's reusable it's still plastic...
Keep cups: if you're a coffee (or tea) lover then get yourself a keep cup for take aways.
Make a packed lunch: buying lunch while you're out on campus not only adds up (££) but always involves a lot of plastic. Try be a little organised and make your lunch at home.
Going out: say no to straws! And plastic cutlery. In fact, buy your own if you need them!
University is great. So go, enjoy yourself! Use these tips along the way but don't beat yourself up. It's a journey, take it at your own pace (but not too slowly it's still important 😬).
If you found this post helpful, let me know! I'd love to hear your uni stories. And to help you out even more I've made a downloadable checklist for you before you head off - download it below.