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10 ways to be more eco-friendly in a student house

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According to recent studies, millennials place climate change and the need for public policy regarding the issue as central to their political concerns.

We’ve seen a lot of initiatives in the past few years, from the 5p bag-tax to the forthcoming proposal to ban all plastic drinking straws. The big question is: what are you and your friends doing to help?

Making changes to how you consume goods can sometimes seem daunting, so we’ve put together some suggestions for how your student house can become more environmentally-friendly. The great thing about a lot of these tips is that they’ll not only help save the planet, but also save you money.

So what are you waiting for? Here are our tips for being more environmentally friendly throughout your student house. 

In the kitchen

1. Buy in bulk... 

A great way to cut down on waste products is by buying in bulk. Think about it: four one-pint cartons of milk are producing a significant amount more rubbish than one four-pint carton. What’s more, it’s much more expensive to keep buying smaller tins, packets and bottles. Get together with your housemates and consider which items you could club together to buy (we suggest you get along to your local Co-op for this.) 


2. Eat less meat

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that meat is expensive, but it also has a huge impact upon the environment. In fact, 51% of greenhouse gases are attributable to the meat-production industry, whilst feeding a meat-eater uses up 20 times the land space used to feed a vegan.

Cutting down your meat consumption will have an immediate impact on your wallet, but could also improve your health and the environment. Try using vegetables or meat-replacement products such as Quorn in dishes such as lasagne or Bolognese. Even aiming to eat meat-free a couple of days a week is a step forward!

3. Pack your fridge or freezer

As well as buying in bulk, consider cooking in bulk. Cooking enough for three or four meals will take no more time and little more energy than cooking the meals individually. Fridges and freezers use up less energy and are more efficient if they are full, so pack them with your batch-cooking. 

4. Reuse or recycle packaging where you can

Sometimes you can’t avoid packaging altogether, but you might be able to reuse it in another way. Plastic containers such as those for ice-cream are great for storage of edible and inedible products. Meanwhile, metal trays you might get takeaways or ready meals in make good disposable baking trays for those meals which are just too messy to face washing up.

If you’re very arty, you might be able to find more Blue Peter-esque uses for yoghurt pots and toilet rolls, but if you’re not, it’s worth seeing if any local schools or nurseries want them. At the very least, check what can be recycled via your waste collection service and stick to it! 

In the bathroom

5. Choose a shower over a bath

Personally, I’m a shower-girl, but I know it’s an issue that divides people. The fact is, though, that a shower will almost always use less water than a bath. If you don’t believe me, try putting the plug in next time you have a shower and see how much water you use. You’ll also probably be ready a lot more quickly, so this might be particularly attractive to your housemates, even if not for you!

6. Turn. The. Tap. Off.

On a similar note, think about your water usage when you’re brushing your teeth. Tempting as it is, don’t leave the tap running whilst you’re brushing away. That water is doing nothing, other than running straight down the plughole. Turn the tap off and enjoy your full two-minute scrub of your teeth – your dentist will thank you!

In your room

7. Turn down the heating, layer up the clothes

Given the weather we’ve had so far this year, this is not going to be a popular one, but there’s a huge amount of evidence to suggest that being heating-savvy will save energy and money. Even turning down the thermostat by one degree can have an impact, whilst putting on an extra layer is not much of a hardship. If you’re going away for the weekend, turn down the radiators in your room and keep doors closed to trap heat in the areas it’s most needed. You may even find that a slightly cooler house is better for your skin and hair! 

8. Unplug your gadgets

Hands up: who has a room where wires trail across the floor? We have so many rechargeable gadgets, from phones to tablets to laptops, and the majority of us leave our chargers plugged in even when we’re not charging them. Simply pulling the plug out or switching the socket off can help to reduce the amount of energy you’re wasting. Likewise, try not to leave televisions on standby as this still uses a tiny amount of electricity. Turn things off properly and hopefully you’ll see a difference in your energy consumption!

Out and about

9. Use refillable bottles and cups

Companies such as Starbucks and Pret-a-Manger are beginning to commit to help us avoid one-use cups and plastics. For several years, Starbucks has offered 25p off their drinks if you provide your own cup, and is trialling a 5p ‘latte-levy’ for those who want to continue to use the takeaway cups.

Meanwhile, Pret is promising to make free water available to customers, rather than encouraging the sale of more plastic bottles. Why don’t you commit as a student house to buying some refillable bottles and insulated cups so that you too can help cut-down on these one-use products?

10. Share your transport

Ideally, you’re walking, cycling or using public transport to get around, but sometimes that’s not the most practical option. If someone in your house is lucky enough to have a car, consider whether you can share lifts to campus or the shops.

They’ll probably be grateful for some petrol money and you’ll get where you want to go quicker – win-win! Think about sharing cabs or Ubers after nights’ out too. Again, it’ll be cheaper, possibly safer and much more fun than a taxi for one.

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