It is a reasonable assumption to say that most students want to do their bit to help save the planet. This becomes a little daunting, however, when the world is described as a polluted, unethical, and often unsustainable mess, created by the generations before us and left for us to clear up. It all sounds a bit much to address, making the idea of maintaining blissful ignorance more appealing to a large majority of society.
Well, that is where the United Nations think you’re wrong – and so do I. The UN has created a helpful guide for sustainable development goals to “transform our world”. In a pretty successful attempt at appealing to the younger generation, it was also dubbed the ‘Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World’. With quite a small amount of thought (and effort), we can emerge from our previous polluting past towards a new golden age of sustainability.
Here are a few of the easy goals set to get you on your way to a more sustainable way of living:
Level 1: The Sofa Superstar of Sustainability
Things you really can do without even getting off the couch:
Stop paper bank statements and pay bills online or via mobile. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to read that mountain of bank statements you come home to at the end of term anyway, no matter how much care your mum takes to save them for you.
Share, don’t just like, if you see a social media post about human rights or climate change. Spread the awareness like that kind person did before you (that goes for Impact articles too, of course).
Speak up and support agreements like the Paris Agreement, or petitions on conservation and sustainability. It only takes a few clicks and if you get bored of the emails that follow it is very easy to unsubscribe (just scroll until you find the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email).
Do a bit of research, and try to buy from companies that you know are sustainable, ethical, and don’t harm the environment. To get you started, last year Asda was said to be the least ethical supermarket followed by Lidl. Co-op was named as the most ethical.
Stay informed and follow local news. It is easy to stay in touch with the UN who help you on your way to goals such as these by following them on Twitter or Facebook.
Level 2: The Household Hero
Things you can do around the home:
Air dry: let your hair and clothes dry naturally instead of running a machine, and in each wash make sure the washing machine is full. This doesn’t mean ramming the machine and breaking it – that doesn’t help yourself, your landlord, or the environment either.
Take short showers and fewer baths. Keeping a bath as a treat literally will save gallons of water every day.
Eat less meat. Now I’m not saying be a vegetarian – that’s one hell of a commitment. Just make meat more of something to be enjoyed a few times a week rather than a commodity. Meat uses so much more energy per calorie you get than other foods, so it not only saves your pocket but the planet too.
Recycle. In Nottingham, this is easy with the option of getting orange bags from the local council, or alternatively dropping recycling in local collection points (At Penn Avenue opposite Lenton’s Alms’ houses, or next to the Derby road Sainsbury’s).
Buy minimally packaged goods. Bringing your own plastic bags is now pretty much accepted. Take it one step further and buy unpacked veg to put in your own bag – easy!
Use cardboard matches to light your cigarettes or whatever you fancy. They don’t use petroleum, or plastic, unlike standard lighters.
Buy energy efficient light bulbs if one breaks in your house. I know we’re poor, but is the extra pound for a long lifetime of bulb sustainability really that much?
Don’t preheat your oven. I know the chicken nugget finger box says you should, but trust me, preheating the oven is not necessary to avoid food poisoning. Good cooking, however, is.
Level 3: Neighbourhood Nice Guy
Things you can do outside your house:
Shop local. Support that local business that sources local goods. This helps the community and stops those long distances travelled by lorries full of goods.
Shop smart. Plan meals and don’t succumb to microwave meals every evening. They use a lot more packaging and use lot more energy to produce. They also don’t taste half as good as what marvels you can make in a pan.
Buy weird looking fruit. If there’s a strange looking carrot or something that will go out the next day does it matter if you’re eating it that evening? No.
Bike, walk or take public transport. Most students can have a halo on their head for this one, but keep it up at home and you can maintain your pedaling fitness for that Derby Road hill in term time.
Shop vintage. Charity shops, Cow, the Braderie, they’re everywhere in Nottingham. It’s cheaper, it’s unique and it’s beautiful.
Donate what you don’t use. Local charities will give your clothes, books, and furniture a new life and a better use than your cupboard.
Maintain your car. A well-tuned car emits fewer toxic fumes.
Use a refillable water bottle and coffee cup in your trips to the library. This cuts down on waste and if you’re used to buying a coffee a day at George Green, it could save you at least £10 a week!
Take advantage of a right you have to elect MPs and parties that look out for the planet and the local community.
As well as the few ideas picked out here, there are many other pointers given by the UN that may appeal may to you. Equally, if you can think of anything that may make a small difference to our planet, share it with friends, keep it up and start a trend for other fellow students to follow. If one person does something, it will make but a small drop in the ocean, but together the University of Nottingham can make one hell of a splash!
Image courtesy of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Like the Impact Science and Technology page for more updates from Impact Science and Technology.