Being sustainable as a student

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Many of us are trying to do our bit for the environment but this can seem difficult on a budget. Becoming more sustainable is not something you have to do all at once; I find that changing things gradually works best for me. Don’t feel pressured by people who are further down the line of sustainability than you are, we are all on our own journeys and most of us are far from being 100% sustainable. Do what works for you and become a conscious consumer.  

Fast fashion 

The fast fashion industry has a huge impact on the environment with the equivalent of a truck full of clothing going to landfill every second. The clothing production industry causes 10% of carbon dioxide emissions each year and 35% of microplastics in the ocean come from laundering polyester clothing.  

Do what works for you and become a conscious consumer.  

There is a constant need for more with clothing companies selling the latest trends, convincing you that the clothes you bought last month are no longer fashionable.  

The most sustainable clothing items are the ones that you already own but, if like me, you enjoy changing up your style every now and then, try to find more sustainable alternatives. One of my favourite ways to shop is in second hand, vintage or charity shops. It feels so rewarding when you find a unique item that fits you perfectly, not to mention that buying second hand and reworking older clothes is becoming fashionable in its own right! Charity shops are in abundance in Cardiff so you can find cheap clothing that is also giving to a good cause. 

If charity shopping, be aware of your privilege that this is a choice, and not your only option. Many people on lower budgets will rely on charity shops for clothing, so only buy what you really need, without adopting the fast fashion mindset of buying more, just because its cheap.  


Food is something we all have in common; we eat to fulfil our needs but rarely think about the impacts that the food we pick from the shelf has on the world around us. The agriculture industry has a huge impact on the environment and is a leading factor of climate change. Reducing meat and animal products in your diet is the single biggest way that you as an individual can impact the environment more positively. I have found a few budget friendly ways to make the food I eat more sustainable… 

  • Try eating less animal produce. Since switching to a plant based diet and cutting out meat and finding dairy alternatives I have saved massively on my weekly shops. You don’t have to, pardon the pun, go cold turkey and become a fully-fledged vegan in one day, I still occasionally relapse for cheese. Why not try Meatless Mondays and making vegetarian versions of your favourite dishes for a more sustainable option! 

  • Make a meal plan and stick to it. Choose a few flexible meal ideas for the week and write a shopping list based on this. Only buying what you need reduces food waste and stops you paying for things that you end up throwing away.  

  • Try to buy less processed foods and learn to cook from scratch. It can be fulfilling to learn a new skill and you save money as the ingredients are often cheaper and healthier than the processed dish you are purchasing.  

  • Reduce plastic packaging! Try ‘Ripple’ a Zero plastic shop in Cardiff that is often cheaper per weight than supermarkets.  

A few quick tips to save money and the environment

  • Stop buying takeaway coffees on your way to lectures. Buy a keep cup and get discounted coffee in most café’s, it will save you money in the long run.  

  • Always keep a water bottle in your bag to refill throughout the day. Stop wasting money on single use plastic when there are free water taps everywhere! 

  • If you are living in a student house, save money by having shorter showers, only using heating when you need it, using energy saving lightbulbs and switching off appliances that aren’t in use (also reduces risk of fire!) 

  • Use Next Bike instead of Uber. Cardiff University Students get a free Next bike membership giving us a free half an hour for every ride. If your running late, hope on a bike and not in an Uber.  

  • Switch to more environmentally friendly sanitary items such as bamboo toothbrushes, plastic free toiletries and menstrual cups (tampons/pads are extortionately expensive and people with periods buy them every month!) 

  • Home work outs are all the rage so why not stick with it? Gyms use a lot of electricity and cost a fair bit of money, so try out some home workout videos, get your friends involved and get outside for some fresh air – it's a win, win!

Elizabeth is a first year English Literature student. Follow her Instagram @liz.mae 


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