5 tips for sustainable student living – by Tina Sabbagh

A visual depiction of a sustainable lifestyle with an eco bag

With the new term upon us, a rush of nervous excitement fills the air. Students embarking on a new chapter of their lives, eager to experience all that university has to offer.

“Have I packed everything I need? Will I make new friends?” And the more pressing, “what will I have for dinner?”

Sustainability might be the last thing on our minds, but a new environment presents a great opportunity to revamp our normal practices and move towards a more sustainable diet. Our current food system is unsustainable, with climate change, food miles, exploitation and over-farming highlighting that convenience always comes at a cost.

But surely eating sustainably is costly too – a luxury students don’t often have? While it may seem like a difficult task on a student budget, it is a myth that we need to buy organic produce and shop at expensive delis to adopt more sustainable eating practices.

With that in mind, we break down 5 simple steps towards a more sustainable student diet:

1. Say no to food waste

The power of food to unite, comfort and nourish is unrefuted, yet in the UK we waste 4.5 million tonnes of edible food every year. Reducing food waste not only saves us money, but helps save the planet too – and there are some simple ways we can do it.

When cooking at home, store any leftovers in reusable containers. Why not try planning meals ahead with your flatmates to avoid unintentionally buying excess food? This would also allow you to batch cook and freeze meals, using ingredients immediately and making the idea of a takeaway after a long day of lectures less tempting. Love Food, Hate Waste provide some useful resources for storing leftovers and planning portions.

If you are dining out, asking for your meal to be served without that side you know you won’t eat, or for a ‘doggy-bag’ to take home, will ensure that tasty, nourishing food doesn’t go to waste.

2. Take a packed lunch

During a busy day of lectures, there is often limited time to relax and refuel. When buying lunch on-the-go we can end up spending more money than planned, and purchasing food in single-use packaging. With a little forward-planning, it can be easier and more environmentally-friendly to bring your own lunch and reusable water bottle. Not only will it save you money, but it will save you precious minutes waiting in long queues at lunch time – and it’s a great way to use up those leftovers too!

3. Opt for plant-based proteins

With meat production using great volumes of natural resources and land – and producing harmful gases in the process – lowering our meat consumption is an effective way to move towards a more sustainable diet.

It might be a daunting prospect to completely remove meat from our diets, but small changes can get us started. Why not try implementing ‘Meat Free Monday’s in your flat, with each person taking on the task of creating a show-stopping plant-based meal each week? A great way to get socialising and have some fun!

4. Mindful shopping

It is easy to forget about sustainability in the middle of a busy supermarket. But it is one of the places where a little bit of conscious effort can make a big difference.

Before leaving home, make sure to pack reusable shopping bags. Think you only need one? Take two! That way, if you end up buying more than expected, you won’t need to resort to a single-use bag. Similarly, try to avoid single-use bags for things like loose vegetables.

Giving a bit of thought as to how you get there can also help. Do you need to take the car, or is it close enough to walk? If not within walking distance, can you arrange a regular shopping day with a group of friends and car share instead?

5. Zero-waste food apps

Finally, zero-waste food apps, such as ‘Too Good To Go’ and ‘Olio’, have become increasingly popular, and with good reason. Allowing people to share and collect excess, perfectly edible food at discounted prices (or even free) not only saves users money, but prevents adding to that 4.5 million tonnes of edible food wasted each year. And it’s not just individuals who are giving away their excess food – some of your favourite restaurants are signed up too! From raw fruit and vegetables, to delicious hot meals, there truly is something for everyone.

So there we have it – 5 simple tips to set you off on the road to a more sustainable diet while at university. As you can see, there’s no need to spend extra money to revamp your eating habits, but with a bit of planning, you can make a huge difference.

By Tina Sabbagh

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