Being a sustainable student
Shortly before starting at Warwick, I became very interested in/concerned about sustainability and the climate crisis. I was keen to start living as sustainably as I could at university. I’ve found this easy in some ways and tricky in others: here’s my experience…
As I’m sure you’re aware, animal agriculture is a big polluter; switching to a more plant-based diet is often identified as a big action you can take to reduce your environmental impact.
When I started university two years ago, I still wasn’t ready to swear off meat entirely. However, I found it much easier to cut down on my consumption of animal products at uni than at home. This was because a) I was buying and preparing pretty much all my own food, so had more control and was paying more attention; b) meat is expensive; and c) I find meat really gross to cook with (and it’s a big food poisoning risk with my standard of cooking). After a while, I became a full-time vegetarian — and am now pretty much vegan.
On the other hand, changing too much too soon when starting uni can be mistake. I find familiar meals help reduce homesickness. And there is a risk of malnutrition if you’re not careful — I take a vegan supplement to be safe. And it took me longer than it should have to work out oat milk and quorn give me stomach-ache. So it hasn’t quite been plain sailing! However, the amount of plant-based alternatives available now have made it very easy to change my diet without really changing much. I do miss cheese, though!
I also try to minimise food waste, which is pretty compatible with keeping to a student budget. I try to plan my meals to make sure I use all my food. I buy fruit and veg without packaging where possible, so I only get as much as I need. I try to store my food properly and keep an eye on use-by dates. And, if all else fails, I put stuff in the freezer before it goes off (this is a very helpful website). The only problem here can be running out of storage space when sharing with housemates.
I try to buy second hand first where possible, which is also a great way to save money. Most of my clothes come from charity shops or Depop. When starting uni, I tried not to buy a lot of new bits and pieces (stationery, kitchenware, etc.). Instead, I took spare things from home and managed to pick up a few things from Facebook Marketplace. However, this was less convenient than buying stuff new, and I couldn’t guarantee getting exactly what I wanted. So a quick trip to Ikea was still necessary! And I still ended up with a lot of freebies from Welcome Week.
I try to keep household energy consumption low by: washing my clothes at 30°C; airing instead of tumble drying; and putting a jumper on instead if the heating. Sometimes, however, I have to make sacrifices for the sake of keeping household peace — no-one wants to be kept from the washing machine because of your three hour eco-wash!
I use my bike to travel to and from campus, which is very easy and very green. For trips further afield, it’s very easy to use the bus — also pretty eco-friendly. So, during the week, I am a sustainable transport champion!
However, when I go home at the weekends I am less good. While I’d love to catch the train: it takes at least three hours; it’s expensive; it’s stressful; it’s inconvenient; and, as I live in the middle of nowhere, I still have to be picked up from the station. So I drive instead. Not very environmentally friendly, but as I value being able to easily go home so much, I think it’s worth it.
There’s loads of opportunities to get involved in sustainability activism at Warwick. But as an introvert who’s frequently at home at weekends (and thanks to Covid) I’ve hardly got involved in any. So this academic year I plan to get more involved and go along to sustainable events. If you’re also a wannabe eco-warrior, I hope to see you there too!
Thanks for reading 🙂