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Elena Adams shares her top tips and tricks on becoming a sustainable student in this era of climate emergency.

The climate emergency is one of the many big issues that our generation currently faces and something that we, as a society, have a responsibility to try and fix for future generations. So what can you, as a student, do to make a difference in your small corner of the world?

Something I found useful was carrying a shopping bag with you wherever you go. I often stopped at the shops on my way home from University and would need to buy a new plastic bag each time, as I never had one on me. So, I started to always have a bag with me just in case. It’s a small but easy change that can make a difference in the long run. 

It seems fairly obvious but buying a reusable water bottle not only saves you money in the long run but also makes a significant difference upon our environment. National Geographic has stated that bottled water uses up to 2,000 times more energy to produce compared to tap water, making it even more evident that this small change can make all the difference in the effort to help our environment. Another good buy, if you like coffee, is a reusable coffee mug. With around 2.5bn cups being thrown away each year in Britain, this can benefit the environment and with most coffee shops offering a small discount for using your own cup, it can also benefit you. 

Veggie, vegan, flexitarian… all plant-based diets are becoming more popular, and rightly so, as the meat industry plays a large part in the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The Committee on Climate Change claims that even just a 20% reduction in beef, lamb, and dairy consumption could help Britain cut its greenhouse gas emissions to nearly zero by 2025. By cutting out meat for one day or even just one meal a week, you can make a difference. There are loads of different and exciting recipes online that you can try out: maybe you’ll find your new favourite meal! 

It’s never good for the planet or your wallet when you end up wasting food; 10m tons of food and drink go to waste in Britain every year, of which 60% could have been avoided. It’s fairly easy to try and reduce your food waste by prepping your meals, eating leftovers the next day, and getting a compost bin for food scraps from the council for free. There’s even an app called TooGoodToGo which lets you purchase discounted food from restaurants and cafes that would have otherwise gone to waste. Again, this is something that can save you money and save the planet, so why not?

As a student, it’s difficult to find cheap clothes that you like and that are made sustainably. Still, there are a few choices that you can make to help reduce the effects that fast fashion has. Buying things second hand from charity shops, of which there are many in the West End, or even on apps like Depop can be great. But if you still want to buy from a shop, then the best thing to do is to try and buy from more sustainable brands. GoodOnYou is a website that gives clothing brands ratings depending on how environmentally friendly they are. While a lot of their five-star options are expensive, it can help you find out which brands are better than others on the high street and online. It’s easy to get sucked into the feeling of needing a new outfit for every night out, but it’s much better for the earth and your wallet to only buy what you need and have a small but versatile wardrobe. 

Borrowing or buying secondhand books is also a small step you can take that can help reduce the harmful effects of deforestation on our planet. The University library often has more than one hard copy, but there is also access to books and articles through the library website to view online. If you do need to buy books for your classes, I would recommend trying to buy secondhand if possible. The Student Representative Council has a secondhand bookstore where you can buy used books for your classes and sell them back after you are finished with them. This helps to reduce the amount of paper used in the printing process. However, they sell out quite fast, so be quick!

Every small change that you make in your life can help to slowly make a difference, but don’t feel guilty if you slip up. One single-use coffee cup isn’t the end of the world, and knowing that you are trying to make small differences in your life is the best that you can do. Nobody can live a perfect, zero-waste life. It’s about doing what you can and when you can. It’s also important that we try to push for change on a larger scale, so what can you do to help achieve this?

Considering the climate emergency is such a prevalent issue, it’s easy to educate yourself using resources such as documentaries, podcasts, books, and articles. Learn the facts and involve yourself in the push for change by signing petitions, writing to your local member of parliament, protesting, and voting. These actions can push for change on a political level as well as gaining more awareness over the gravity of the situation. With faces such as Greta Thunberg at the front of this issue, it is clear that everyone can do their bit to make a change, no matter who you are.


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