Going green does not have to mean drastic lifestyle changes and unaffordable costs, there are many inexpensive things us students can do to make a big difference in saving the planet. Believe it or not, you can be kind to the planet without breaking the bank with next to no effort at all. Adopting a greener life does not have to be difficult, and these are just a few of the small changes you can make that could have a big impact.
Cut your household bills and save the planet at the same time
There are many ways that having a more eco-friendly home can actually save you money too. One idea is simple: Do not heat an empty house. Experts have advised that in the winter your thermostat should be turned down to 19-20 degrees, which is supposedly the optimum temperature. Why not spend that extra £10 on a food shop or a night out rather than an excessive heating bill, and wear an extra jumper or invest in a super cosy blanket before resorting to turning the heating on. If you are adamant on using your heating, by turning it down just 1 degree you can cut your energy usage by 10%.
A relatively easy means to become more energy efficient as a student is to keep your fridge freezer full. Experts have argued that freezers run more efficiently when they are well stocked up, which is great news for us students who are strapped for cash. It’s a good way to store food for those no-fresh-food-in rainy days.
“Did you know that lighting a typical six bedroom student house overnight would waste enough energy to heat water for 500 cups of tea? Cut your energy usage and your electric bill will thank you”
It may seem like common sense, but don’t forget to turn lights off whenever and wherever they aren’t needed, especially near windows so you can make the most of natural daylight. Did you know that lighting a typical six bedroom student house overnight would waste enough energy to heat water for 500 cups of tea? Cut your energy usage and your electric bill will thank you.
For those of us who enjoy long showers, we should really think more about out water usage. According to the environmental experts at Living Green and Saving Energy: ‘If you use the average number of 2.5 gallons per minute from your shower head, reducing your shower by just four minutes a day would save 3,650 gallons a year. This means if you’re student house of six all abided by this method, you’d collectively save 21,900 gallons of water.
Ensuring you turn off your laptop or any other electrical devices rather than letting them ‘go to sleep’ is something that only takes a matter of seconds but can save a significant amount of energy a day. If your laptop is sleeping, it’s screen may be off but it’s still sucking up energy. Reducing the brightness on your screen is also a great way to save battery and reduce the need for charging, meaning you can type lecture and seminar notes for a longer period of time.
Recycle Recycle Recycle
Surely the most effective change we can all make is to keep on top of our recycling. We are given two bins for a reason and now is a great time to take recycling seriously, as the Councils are imposing fines for those who do not put the correct items in the correct bins. It is simple: paper, clean cardboard, plastic bottles, metal tins and cans are all able to be recycled.
A good idea is to purchase a reusable bag from the local supermarket, which are normally no more than a few pounds, instead of opting for multiple plastic bags and struggling around Lenton with far too much shopping than both the flimsy bags and you can manage. This is an important change to consider, as the government have agreed plans for supermarkets to charge customers 5p per plastic bag they use to pack their shopping, which will begin to be implemented in October.
“If you only purchase what’s really necessary, you’ll not only be going green but saving money as well”
One original idea to reduce plastic and save the remainder of your student loan is to buy less and borrow more. In the consumer culture we live in, it’s easy to fall into overbuying habits. If you only purchase what’s really necessary, you’ll not only be going green but saving money as well. We’re all in the same poor student boat, so why not swap clothes with your housemates and friends instead of severely denting your bank with one trip to Topshop, and cutting out the plastic shopping bags in the process.
Items to invest in
Planning to take a packed lunch to eat on campus? Why not invest in a Tupperware box that you can clean and reuse day after day, and in addition you’ll remove the worry of your lunch leaking through a plastic bag. Purchasing a good sized reusable water bottle rather than continuously buying bottled water from the shop and throwing the plastic bottles away is a simple yet effective step to take to be more environmentally friendly too, as it is believed that 80% of plastic water bottles in the UK do not get recycled.
Cut your carbon footprint
If you don’t want to make the most of our city’s fantastic ‘all student trips £1’ service and insist on driving to University, why not car share? You could even charge your friends a small sum and save the environment and make a small fortune at the same time. If you are driving to University or into the City, make sure you clean out your car, especially the boot. Extra weight in your car decreases fuel efficiency and creates more pollution.
If you feel like pushing yourself further, the best thing you can do to be environmentally friendly is to walk to your destination, or ride a bike. In addition to helping you live a healthier lifestyle and reducing the harmful gasses polluting the atmosphere, cutting down on small driving trips can save you petrol money as well.
By keeping your laptop’s brightness down so its battery lasts longer, you will be able to save money and stop wasting paper and numerous notebooks by typing up notes from lectures and seminars. Be sure to use a power-saver mode though.
Another tip is to use e-tickets for your entry in a nightclub, why waste paper printing numerous tickets out when you can just show the bouncer the barcode on your phone? A great way to save the environment and your dwindling printing credit balance at the same time.
Watch your usage of chemicals
To save the environment and protect the Ozone Layer we should try to reduce our usage of aerosol cans. It is believed that 600 million aerosols are used each year in the UK, causing poisonous gasses to enter our atmosphere. Using pump sprays or a roll on deodorant is a great way to reduce your usage.
When you’re next shopping for cleaning products, look out for natural cleaning products made by environmentally conscious brands such as Ecover. Ecover ferment ingredients to create their cleaning substances, minimizing the impact on the environment. They also do not test on animals. Be sure to shop around for the best deals on these product though, as some can be rather more expensive than the own brand alternatives.
And if you want to really go for it
If you really want to push yourself to be the ultimate environmentally friendly human being, there are plenty of other ways you can do so. In terms of food, you can look out for the sustainable food label in your local supermarket which symbolises products that protect the diversity of plants and animals and avoid damaging natural resources on contributing to climate change. You may find these products to be considerably pricier than your normal products, however. If you want to really go for it, you could decrease your meat consumption. Raising livestock produces large amounts of greenhouse gases, with a United Nations report suggesting that the livestock sector accounts for 9% of CO2 emissions. Cutting down your meat consumption can positively influence change.
Another quirky idea is to not throw away your tumble dryer lint and to put it in the garden instead, as birds will use it to feather their nests. Another outdoors change would be to create a compost heap, which you can do with no expense by creating a small closed pit with one detachable side yourself so the finished compost can be removed. You can compost fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags and coffee grounds, newspaper, cardboard and paper bags, so why not remove the hassle of trying to fit all of your bin bags in the bin every week, and be more environmentally friendly in the process.
It’s clear that if we want to live on a planet with clean water, fresh air and a diversity of plants and animals, we have to do everything we can to protect the Earth’s health. No matter how small the change you make is, it could have a large impact in the long term.
Image: *vlad* via Flickr