Today’s guest blog comes from Lucia Simmons of econono-student. Econono was established by Liv Nono as an online hub for students, focusing on eco-living. I’m really impressed with the platform, especially the student directories they’ve created that provide eco-alternatives in all areas of life, including fashion, fitness and food. This blog focuses on the household itself, with tips and links to many useful pieces of research. A great piece. Check out their site: https://econonostudent.co.uk/ & find them on Insta: @econonostudent. LW

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The new uni year is upon us, which means (finally) moving out and into student accommodation! Whether you’re a fresher moving into halls, or a second or third year moving into a house or flat, there’s lots of exciting decisions to be made: who gets which room, how you will decorate, who gets which kitchen cupboard and shelf in the fridge. But running a home also comes with great responsibility.

An average household creates a lot of waste – something that we’re very conscious of at econono-student – and one of the reasons why we decided to set up an online hub to help students save the planet. We understand that university is often where many people’s eyes are first opened to environmental issues, and living green on a student budget can often seem unfeasible. By offering tips, product recommendations and discounts, we hope to change this assumption and mainstream sustainable student living – starting with these collective actions you can take as a house or flat in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, to make your student household an eco-friendly one.

Kitchen

Cooking a house meal is a fun way to reduce food waste and try new, lower environmental impact meals. Set a ‘veggie night’ once a week to reduce your house’s meat consumption. You’ve probably heard by now that animal based foods, in particular red meats, have a much higher carbon footprint than plant based foods. Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect all students to go vegetarian or vegan; however, recent research published in Nature found that simply restricting red meat to one portion a week, and eating ‘modest’ amounts of poultry, fish, milk and eggs – in line with what is now commonly referred to as a ‘flexitarian’ diet – could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 52%, compared to baseline projections for 2050. Not such a hardship – even for the most avid of meat eaters. You can see from this US graph that even just cutting out beef can reduce the carbon footprint of your diet to a similar extent as that of a vegetarian.

Use your local greengrocer to source seasonal veggies free from plastic packaging. Eating local, seasonal food reduces emissions from production and transportation, and you can find out more about the benefits of seasonal eating here. For takeaway nights, try to pick one that uses compostable packaging, or, if you’re collecting it, ask if they’ll package it in your own reusable containers. If you do get a takeaway that comes in plastic containers, wash them out and save them for leftovers – the best way to save money and reduce food waste.

Set up separate labelled bins to recycle your kitchen waste – including your wine bottles and cans! Despite the EU setting a target of 50% by 2020, the UK recycling rate for household waste fell from 45.5% in 2017 to 45% in 2018 , and COVID-19 has made it even harder to process recyclable waste. Almost half of all local authority recycling services were stopped or reduced over lockdown, meaning most went to landfill or incinerators. Find out what you can and can’t recycle in your area with this online tool. If your area doesn’t operate a food waste collection scheme, consider buying a food waste caddy to compost your own veg waste – a small cost when split between all your housemates.

Bathroom

Try and schedule a monthly house visit to your nearest zero waste shop (which you can find here, if you’re based in Manchester, London, Bristol or Leeds). Most offer a wide range of low waste toiletries; from shampoo, conditioner and body wash liquid refills to plastic-free razors; bamboo toothbrushes to natural deodorants. You can also stock up on eco-friendly cleaning products for your bathroom and kitchen – along with non-perishable foods like pasta, rice, beans – and split the cost as a house. Buying in bulk in this way reduces your plastic use, whilst also saving you money and hassle.

If you want to avoid those all too frequent ‘oh no’ moments when you sit down on the loo to find no toilet roll left, check out Bumboo. They deliver 48 extra long rolls of 100% sustainable bamboo toilet roll straight to your door for £40, and you can save 10% if you subscribe. This way, you’ll never run out, you’ll save by splitting the cost between you, and you’ll never need to faff over who bought the last pack again.

Self-care is so important while you’re at uni, and many of us use cosmetic products to boost our mental wellbeing – perhaps as part of a house pamper night-in, or during your own daily skin care or make up routine. Try switching to some eco-friendly products from actively sustainable brands. Many of these are also cruelty-free, natural, and free from harmful chemicals. You can find some of our recommendations here.

Bedroom

Decorating your room is a super exciting part of moving into any student accommodation. Try and opt for sustainable and ethically sourced pieces from small, local businesses, like these Knight Light natural soy wax candles in recycled containers. If you can, shop responsibly for essentials and basics too. Duvet Hog makes duvets from used water bottles, up-cycling plastic waste to keep it out of oceans and landfills.

When kitting out your wardrobe, resist fast fashion; this industry’s carbon footprint is larger than all international flights and shipping combined. Many university student unions (including Bristol, Bath, Warwick, Exeter, and Nottingham) host Clothes Swaps, where you can donate and swap your old clothes with other students. Check your SU website for dates and make it a house trip. Search Facebook for ‘The Vintage Clothing Kilo Sale’ events in your city, where you can buy a kilogram of vintage clothes for £15. A big perk of living with mates is being able to borrow and swap clothes for an instant wardrobe refresh. The jeans you’re bored with may complete your roomies outfit, and the top they’ve gone off might match perfectly with your fave jacket.

Of course, not everyone will have the means to make all these changes. However, households adopt habits – and even one student house making a few eco-adjustments in these areas can significantly reduce our environmental impact.