Blog post

How to be
as a student

By Ray Underwood - 17 November 2021

There has been a lot of buzz over the years about sustainability from 10p plastic bag charges to electric cars and sustainable living seems to be more relevant than ever. Being a student can be very stressful at times as finding the work/study/life balance can be incredibly difficult and so sustainability may be the last thing on your list of priorities right now. However, doing whatever you can, no matter how small, will help a lot.

Climate change

The United Nations climate change conference (COP26) took place between October 31 to November 12, 2021, in Glasgow. The conference was intended to highlight environmental issues and respond to the threats of climate change.

Sustainable living is just one way we can help the planet by reducing our demand for resources or by reusing and recycling what we already own. I study Marketing Management and I’m often finding ways to be sustainable as a student as sustainability is so important to me. To me, sustainability is looking after the planet and our future on it whilst still meeting my own needs. I do this in a few ways.

Ethical fashion

I love clothes but, according to the UN, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of carbon emissions every year. As a student, usually, the only clothes I can afford are from fast fashion brands like ASOS and Primark who massively harm the environment due to the waste they produce but there are some great alternatives...

I go to many charity shops in Derby city centre before buying new clothes. If I don’t have the time to rummage around the shops, I search second-hand sites like Depop and Vinted. These sites are great, as you can buy from people who have clothes they no longer want. Another fun way to shop is through vintage kilo sales held by Worth the Weight, and Vintage Vera.

These organisations have pop-ups around the UK where vintage clothes cost £15 per kilo and anything under a kilo will be less. Vintage Vera is sometimes seen at the University of Derby on the Kedleston Road campus in the atrium. It’s great to see that the stigma of second-hand clothes has dissolved over the years, as these places are a great ethical and sustainable alternative.

Vegan/veggie days

Whilst I’m not vegan, I try to reduce my meat intake wherever possible. This is usually through cooking vegan meals at home or looking for meat alternatives when I’m eating lunch at the University. According to the UN, the meat and dairy industry contributes to 14.5% of greenhouse emissions so reducing our consumption of these things really helps the environment - even if it's just swapping a few meals a week to being plant-based. Thankfully Keddies have some amazing alternatives and include vegan sandwiches in their meal deals, and Blends has some great milk alternatives at no extra charge.

Coffee cups

Besides adding dairy-free milk to your coffee, there are more ways to make your cup of coffee ethical when you are getting prepared for your 8am lectures. I love coffee a lot, but only 0.25% of coffee cups actually get recycled from the 2.5 billion that are thrown away every year. To stop this unnecessary waste, you can bring your reusable cups to Blends when getting your tea or coffee. Not only does this help the environment, but it also helps your wallet as you’ll save 15p per drink when using a reusable cup at Blends.

Also, if you’re not much a coffee drinker, bringing your own water bottle to top up at the various water fountains at university is a great way to stay hydrated without buying plastic bottles.

Paperless students

Plastic waste isn’t the only issue we’re facing, it’s also paper. Paper adds to 20% of all waste in the UK and we use 12.5 million tonnes of it per year. Even if we don’t go completely paperless, just recycling 10% more paper each year would save around five million trees. Being a paperless student means you’ll be doing more digitally and less on the page.

Reducing the amount we print is the main way to do this, by taking advantage of course resources on Blackboard to view documents online. You can also buy e-books instead of textbooks or use the library resources if you prefer to read on paper. If you own textbooks you no longer need, why not resell them online for other students to buy second-hand.

Be green whilst on the go by using e-tickets for buses and trains through the Trainline or Trentbarton Mango app.

These tips are what works for me. Remember that not every sustainable living option will work for you. That’s ok (for example, I can’t walk to uni so instead I take public transport as it’s doable for me and still somewhat reduces my impact on the environment compared to driving or taxis).

Even so, there are so many ways to help the environment. Find out what works for you and help make a difference.

About the author

Ray Underwood, smiling.

Ray Underwood
MSc Marketing Management student

My name is Ray and I'm an MSc student studying Marketing Management at the University of Derby. I recently graduated from Creative and Professional Writing (BA) and still am very passionate about writing and doing anything creative!