Student guide on zero waste living

Updated: Feb 11


Being a student, it is often hard to think about anything else than your budget. But a zero-waste solution does not always have to be more expensive than the usual one.

Here are some helpful tips we recommend for all those potentially trashy college scenarios to reduce waste and to do good for the environment.


Reuse cardboard boxes instead of plastic tubs.

Students are moving quite a lot. Rather than buying big plastic tubs, or new cardboard boxes for moving into halls or your house, think ahead by asking a local grocery store to save some large cardboard boxes for you to move in with. You get free boxes and the cardboard gets a second life.


Wrap it up.

When you move in your breakable items must be protected. Rather than using plastic bubble wrap, just use your clothes, towels and bedding that you’re also bringing along with you.


Get second-hand items wherever you can.

When you move in a new house, check out your local thrift store for small furniture items, mirrors, lamps, storage baskets etc. You can even give things a fresh coat of paint or go on Pinterest for some amazing up-cycling ideas.

Always remember that you’re not staying in this accommodation forever and therefore, not everything has to be new.


Always bring a waste-free toolkit.

Equip your backpack with a “waste-free toolkit” so you’ll be ready to avoid any potential waste that might come your way. Here are some great things to always keep on you:

  • Reusable water bottle: Refilling a reusable bottle at a water fountain or in the sink is a no-brainer way to never use a single-use plastic water bottle again.

  • Reusable coffee cup: For most college students, coffee is a lifeline. Keep a reusable cup on you to avoid single-use cups. Most cafes on campus even give discounts for bringing your own cup!

  • To-go cutlery: Say no to non-recyclable plastic forks, knives and spoons and keep a portable set of cutleries on you.

  • Reusable straw: Plastic straws are non-recyclable, but sometimes you just want to sip your iced coffee or smoothie through one. Reusable straws exist and if you add it to your kit, you’re always prepared!

Shop smarter

Sustainable choices are always available when shopping if you know where to look. Watch out for the country of origin, fair-trade, organic and toxin-free when you can. Opt for spending your money with companies with a conscience and make your student loan count.


Bring a bag

Not only are plastic carrier bags hugely polluting and wasteful (with the typical useful lifespan of a carrier bag being 12 minutes) but they take 100s of years to degrade in the environment.

Cotton tote bags can be picked up inexpensively or even free and have a multitude of uses, they are great for shopping, dirty laundry, gym bag you name it! Furthermore, most supermarkets started to charge extra for plastic bags.

Reusable string bags are super compact and light to keep in your bag, but can expand to hold up to 40 lbs. It’s perfect for last-minute grocery trips or even bringing your dirty clothes to the laundry room.


Get your bike out.

A bike is a great investment whilst at university, not only is it a great form of exercise and miles better for the environment but it will save you money as you don’t have to pay for the bus.


Stock up on bulk snacks and cook together with friends.

£13 billion worth of food is chucked away every year in the UK! Being a student is a great time to tackle food wastage.

Get together with your housemates and plan out a food shop for the week, cook up big batches of a meal you all love or take turns to cook a meal each night.

Either way you will save time, money and food wastage!


Sustainable studying.

Studying can be pretty wasteful: Handouts that go in the bin, stuff printed off never to be read and notepads never used.

Go digital when you can, maybe even suggest the same to your lecturers. If your lecturer is handing out 100s of paper handouts per lecture think about all those trees being felled every single semester!


Do it yourself.

Making stuff is super rewarding, it’s also a great way to cut down on waste and save some pennies to boot. Toiletries and cleaning products can be made from a few simple inexpensive ingredients. There are loads of recipes and instructions to be found online.

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