How to be a Greener Student

Published by University of Bedfordshire

Depending on where you live on the planet, life is one gigantic environmental impact from cradle to grave and beyond, as the plastic stuff you didn’t recycle or was landfilled on your behalf, will stick around in the environment for thousands of years.

Your environmental impact is also dependant on where you live. Almost 1 billion people on the planet (that’s 1/8th of the entire global population) do not have access to electricity and/or running water.

Not only does your lifestyle have an environmental impact in terms of waste disposal and resource use, these impacts have a secondary impact (Anthropogenic Climate Change and Global Warming, vis-a-vie their subsequent ‘Carbon Emissions’).

The environmental impact of a typical student

Even when you are asleep, the fridge/freezer is consuming electricity, as are the electronic equipment you left on standby and the gas central heating that comes on 2 hours before you get out of bed.

When you’re awake, your energy consumption increases dramatically. An electric shower and the associated water you consumed that had to be stored, sterilised and pumped and then the waste water that had to be sent to the sewerage treatment plant (along with your toilet waste) to be cleaned again (more carbon emissions) before being discharged back into the environment.

You then (hopefully) get your breakfast using the electric toaster and your coffee from your electrically power coffee gadget, creating food waste and an empty coffee pod capsule to be disposed of as waste.

Now you’re washed, dressed, fed and watered you’re out of the house and travelling to campus. Depending on your decision, you’re either in halls and a short walk away from campus or you could be staying with your family and be 30 miles away from campus and drive on your own to University.

When you arrive on campus, the buildings are clean, warm and well lit and there’s also fresh hot food and drink ready and waiting, if you didn’t manage to grab some before you left home.

All the environmental impacts associated with your degree are your environmental impacts. If there were no students, there would be no Universities and ergo no environmental impacts. 

How to reduce your environmental impact

You already know the causes and the impacts of Climate Change, so what difference can you make? What can you do to make a difference?

Well there is so much that you can do, the list is so long that we’ve condensed it down into some key areas:

Waste – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

  • Ditch the plastic hand soap dispenser and plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner, you can replace all of these with bars of soap, bars of shampoo and bars of conditioner that all come in cardboard packaging.
  • Eliminate all single use plastics from your life by reducing your takeaway meals, using reusable coffee mugs and water bottles, take your own reusable bags to the shops.
  • Cook from fresh to avoid food packaging, and compost your food waste, whatever waste you have that you couldn’t avoid, always try to find another use for it or if you can’t then recycle it.
  • Reduce the amount of printing, there is very little reason to print documents in the 21st Century.  
  • Say ‘NO’ to Fast Fashion, buy quality clothing that will last longer than your time at University.

Energy and carbon emissions – Avoid or reduce

  • Don’t leave any electrical appliances on standby overnight, turn everything off at the plug before you go to bed.
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend in the shower 4 minutes, not 40 minutes.
  • Reduce your red meat consumption or even become Vegetarian or Vegan
  • Try and eat local produce, look on the food label to see where your food came from, and try and eat foods that are in season e.g. no Strawberries and Salad in January.
  • Reduce your travel by car and if you absolutely need a car consider and Electric Vehicle.
  • Staycation in the UK, rather than holiday in Spain or Portugal.
  • Avoid Ultra High Definition internet streaming services, download in Standard Definition and watch rather than stream, if you want to stream content always choose the Standard Definition rather than UHD.