How to be a Sustainable Student

Keeping the environment at the forefront of your mind can be hard when faced by the seemingly endless obstacles of student life, whether it be your intensifying workload, your horrific spending habits or that mould by your window that’s spreading faster than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

However, it is becoming increasingly painless to become more sustainable as awareness is spreading of the growing problems caused by the rapid spread of discarded plastic and dangers caused by its photodegradation.

The impact of plastics in our oceans has become widely acknowledged thanks to awareness campaigns and television shows such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, yet, in a similar response to many other issues that endanger our world, many of us continue to live our lives in ignorance.

The purpose of this article is not to turn every student into a selfless environmentalist, but to point out some of the great new ways of avoiding plastic consumption that have come to light in recent years.

The Last Straw: “Rum n Coke without a straw please”

The Last Straw, A catchy slogan that can been seen touring your social media feeds, calling for the end to single use straws in bars, clubs, restaurants and wherever else they bend their ugly necks.

According to the study conducted by the Evening Standard, two billion straws are thrown away every year in London alone which is as many as in the whole of Italy and contributes significantly to the UK’s title as the biggest user of plastic straws in Europe with around 8.5 billion binned a year.

They are one of the most common plastic items found floating in the oceans or washed up on beaches and can take up to 500 years to break down into microplastics that can continue to injure or kill a variety of marine wildlife.

To some this may seem like a no brainer, a bit of ice on the lip being a small price to pay for preventing the spread of such a lethal product and ordering a drink without a straw being a relatively easy change.

However, there is a way to continue to drink your jagerbomb for those of you who want to remain classy and it comes in the form of an environmentally, and dishwasher friendly, steel straw.

Available online in a variety of colours this reusable replacement can peep out of your shirt front pocket or rest behind your ear as you bless your local dungeon with your radiant self.

Other options include bamboo straws and wheat straws, both of which are biodegradable and available for a small price online. More and more venues are ridding themselves of plastic straws and hopefully it won’t be long before they are a thing of the past in our much-loved bars and clubs.

The Keep Cup Craze

Another major issue is the 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups that are used each year, of which a fraction are recycled due to the combination of plastic and paper in their make-up resulting in only three UK recycling plants being able to process them.

The issue with these cups, alongside most other plastic products, is the microplastics they produced when breaking down. These are ingested by marine life and thus enter the food chain, inevitably finding their way back to humans.

One solution to curb the use of the coffee cup is a tax, similar to that which was put on plastic bags in 2015, but this can only be seen as a temporary solution and either compulsory recyclability of such products or replacement with reusable alternatives should be the ultimate endpoint.

Glastonbury launched their reusable steel cups in 2016 for which they charge a £5 deposit which is repaid in return for the cup and there has been great success in the emergence of keep cups in the work place and universities.

There are various styles and brands, some glass, some bamboo and some reusable plastic and there has been a recent upsurge in their popularity, sold at student union shops and cafes across the country. Embrace this new craze for reusable cups to defeat single use plastics and the companies that profit from their use.

The Shampoo Bar and the Water Bottle

The first of these two plastic replacements revolves around the single use bottles and tubs that flow in then out of our bathrooms at an alarming rate. The shampoo bar has largely been pioneered by LUSH and they last as long as three 250g bottles of liquid shampoo.

One lorry full of LUSH’s bars can carry roughly the same number of washes as fifteen filled with liquid shampoo! LUSH is a great company for producing toiletries with the least environmental impact possible and all their stuff actually works whilst also smelling great.

Shampoo bottles are part of the 1 million plastic bottles that are bought around the world every minute but the vast majority of these are water bottles, a horrendously pointless single use item.

The rise of the steel re-usable water bottle has been coalescent with that of the keep cup and has already solidified itself as part of the library furniture at all universities and colleges. If you don’t have one then get one as only one in five plastic bottles are recycled and bottle tops remain un-recyclable in most areas.


There are many more eco-replacements out there for all the unnecessary single use products that are polluting our world but these represent four of the more easy solutions.

If you’re an avid consumerist and spend half your days scrolling through ASOS then maybe redirect your energy to shampoo bars, keep cups and bamboo toothbrushes and tote bags amongst others.

Why not buy your clothes second hand off EBAY and/or the revolutionary DEPOP? Sustainability is fast becoming fashionable but it is also cost effective. You can easily support this movement against single use plastics and I promise you will gain more than you’ll lose!

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