A woman sitting at a desk with a laptop and an eco-friendly cup of coffee.

17 Tips for Low Waste Living as a Student

In this guide I’m going to cover how you can live low-waste as a student, saving the earth without breaking the bank. Zero-waste is often thought of as a pursuit reserved for the well-off. With plastic-free products coming at a premium. Im here today to tell you that doesn’t have to be the way, following these 17 simple actionable tips today could seriously reduce your waste and possibly save you some pennies too!

Let’s get started!

1. Food shop 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!

semates 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!

2. Hip flask hero

Whilst many students are now abstaining from drink entirely, drinking culture is still a huge part of the student/university experience for many.

With regular drinking comes an excess of plastic waste, many drinks are served in disposable plastic cups and often come with plastic straws.
This tip is a bit cheeky but it’s a money saver and reduces plastic waste, make use of a hip-flask when you’re on a night out.

Just try to be stealthy about it. 

3.  Cycle

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 over your studentship too!
One tip – if your university is anything like mine was, make sure you invest in a sturdy bike lock too!

4. Shop at vintage clothes stores/charity shops

Not only is the textile industry hugely polluting it’s also very wasteful, clothes are often bought worn for a few months and binned or not at all (up to 50% of clothing bought remains unworn).

Many cool, cheap clothing pickups can be had from local charity and vintage shops, depop and ebay are also great places to pick up pre-loved bargains! [Also read Why should we buy second-hand clothes?]

5. Invest in a reusable coffee cup and water bottle.

It’s never been more economical to invest in a reusable water bottle and coffee cup, whilst the upfront cost can be expensive almost all high street chains offer a discount for bringing your own cup, check out the discounts below:

  • Pret a manger – 50p
  • Starbucks – 25p
  • Costa – 25p

6. 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.

Add to that the fact the surcharge for carrier-bags at supermarkets is set to double to 10p and there’s clearly never been a better time to bring your own bag.

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!

7. Shop savvy

Sustainable choices are always available when shopping if you know where to look. Look 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.

8. DIY Detergent

Detergent can easily be made inexpensively from readily available ingredients and free of toxic chemicals, check out this simple recipe below:

  • 250ml washing powder
  • 250ml borax
  • 1 bar of grated natural soap

Add a tablespoon or two per load and your clothes and wallet will thank you!

17 Tips for Low Waste Living as a Student - Zero Waste Nest

9. Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk is a great way to cut down on plastic and save money.
Even if you don’t have access to a bulk store in your vicinity, pay a visit to an Asian supermarket and you’ll often be able to pick up huge hessian sacks of rice, oats and grains for cheap or many fruit, veg and spices packaging free.

10. Say no

This isn’t a nod to negativity more an attitude towards purveyors of single-use plastics. Coffee chains, supermarkets, takeaways, bars are all big contributors of highly polluting single-use plastics.
While it might seem awkward at first, insisting on resisting single-use plastics will be sure to result in a reduction of plastic pollution.

11. Get your mates involved!

University is no doubt a super social time and making friends is at the forefront of uni going-ons. Make sure you use harness the power of your influence by spreading the word of zero-waste amongst your friends and peers. Maybe join a zero-waste a zero-waste society if there is one, or start your own.

12. Be happy with less

Being a student is surely some of the most skint times of your life. That’s no bad thing, be content with the stuff you’ve got. University is all about the experience, jump into it head first and forget materialistic urges as best you can.

13. Single-use swaps

Items such as toothbrushes, straws, plastic cutlery and cotton swabs are all huge contributors to plastic pollution. The US alone disposes of 1 billion plastic toothbrushes annually!

Make swaps for more sustainable alternatives such as:

17 Low Waste Living Tips For Students - Zero Waste Nest

14. Sustainable studying!

When you think about it 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!
Maybe you could suggest a waste-free alternative in the form of digital downloads to go along with your lectures.

15. Be a religious recycler!

Get into the habit of recycling. I’m ashamed to say recycling didn’t happen all that often during my time at uni, it was sheer laziness. Make sure you recycle properly (check out this guide). Here are some essentials to remember:

  • Black plastic isn’t recycled at most recycling stations – recycling is sorted optically, black plastic is invisible to most scanners
  • Screw up your tinfoil scraps into one big ball before being recycled – Small bits of tinfoil won’t reach the minimum weight requirement to be recycled
  • Make sure all your recycling is super clean – a small amount of contaminated recycling can result in a whole lorry full of recycling being sent to landfill!

16. Make more

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.

17. Buy some baking soda

Baking soda’s uses go well beyond baking, it’s very versatile when it comes to cleaning your house and even yourself, here’s a couple of uses for baking soda:

  • Drain cleaner
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste
  • Baking!

There you have it, hope you enjoyed those 17 actionable tips you can use to make your time at University as waste-less as possible.

If you want to check out more similar posts to the one above head to SOSEAS, where you can also find our sustainable products or you can find them over on Amazon.

Go forward and be sustainable,