Low waste student guide

Low Waste Students on a Low Budget: 12 Step Guide

Tips to low waste

Whether you’re going back to student life or starting as a fresher it’s a new and exciting time, but let’s face it: university can add up. There’s an overwhelming temptation to buy buy buy, especially if it’s your first time away from home. We’re not going to say it’s easy to be low waste as a student because it’s definitely not. From the unwanted freshers leaflets to the endless printing that needs to be done, it can seem impossible. Your studies are important so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t be completely zero waste. As we always say a little goes a long way. We promise it doesn’t always have to cost the earth if you’ll pardon the pun (or don’t…). Here’s our step-by-step guide for all you students on a budget.

1. Swap Your Plastic Toothbrush for a Bamboo One

Bamboo has its pitfalls – unfortunately anything we do will always have an impact, so sometimes you have to pick the lesser of two evils. The difference with a bamboo toothbrush is that it is biodegradable unlike plastic. You can find bamboo toothbrushes pretty much anywhere now but we recommend checking out Fat Panda because you can bulk buy them, which saves those extra pennies. For five toothbrushes you spend £6.99 which is roughly £1.40 per toothbrush. If you’re lucky to be buddies with your housemates share them and split the cost! We know plastic ones will always be a little cheaper but we think this is quite competitively priced.

Using a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic toobrush helps to low waste
Source: @fatpandaeco

2. Swap Your Shampoo in a Bottle for a Soap Bar

Shampoo bars are great. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t buy your favourite bottled shampoo from time to time but a soap will seriously save you money. It can last up to 100 washes in comparison to shampoo in a bottle which only lasts about 30 washes. Shampoo bars are also usually free from harsh chemicals such as formaldehyde, propylene glycol, and sodium hydroxide. On top of all that they’re more often than not packaged plastic free. We recommend giving Ethique shampoo bars a go. With all this being said it might take you a little while to find the right one for your hair. Don’t give up on the first try! For coily thicker hair types or those wanting to fight the frizz, why not try a conditioning soap bar instead. Top tip: use an old vegums tin to store your soap in.

Another tip to low waste is to use an ethical soap bar
Source: Ethique

3. Try Plastic-free Period Products

If you are a person with periods, swapping for plastic-free period products is great if you’re in a position to do so. Check out our blog all about low waste periods which includes our favourite alternatives. Here’s some facts for you so you know just how much you’ll save: a menstrual cup can last up to 10 years! In 2 years on average 528 pads/tampons are used in comparison to using just 1 cup. In the long term a menstrual cup can definitely save your purse strings too: according to 4NEWS the average woman has 450 periods in a lifetime. That works out at about £128 a year, or just under £11 a period. If we compare this to buying just 1 cup for around £20 (depending on the brand) that’s a lot of saving.

Source: OrganiCup
Plastic free period products
Source: GladRags Cloth Pads

4. Try to Recycle and Reduce Your Food Waste

Recycling on campus is usually quite easy because there should be bins provided. However, in house shares it might be a little more tricky. Check your local council recycling to make sure you know your stuff. Tell your housemates too so they can chip in and help keep the recycling up to scratch. Recycling can be cool, duh. Reducing food waste is super important too because wasting food can actually waste you money! Try and plan out your shops so the fresh things you buy are just enough and won’t go to waste. You could even start your own compost (which might not be possible in all accommodations) but definitely worth a try.

Recycling rubbishes
Source: @vibing.vegan

5. Share Food Shops with Housemates and Cook Meals in Bulk

Following on from not wasting food, bulk buying with housemates can save you time and money. Even if your housemates don’t share the same eating habits there’s likely to be some things you can share. Remember to only buy what you need fresh, but that 1kg bag of pasta will always come in handy. When you buy together it saves that moment when someone steals all your biscuits out of the cupboard and won’t fess up. Sharing is caring. Tinned foods are always great because they last a very long time, meaning you can stock up. Beans on toast – yes please.

6. Use Loads of Tote Bags

Tote bags are your best friend. Great for carrying shopping, books and all sorts of things. The stronger the tote the better, so that’s why our organic totes are ‘bags for life’ because they won’t break on you. We’re not just saying that – they’ve been tried and tested, we promise! You can also reuse plastic bags (not all plastic is bad if you learn to reuse it) however they might not be as reliable. They might break up with you very quickly.

Using tote bags instead of plastic bags

7. Don’t Forget Your Reusable Cutlery and Straws

Going out for drinks but there’s only plastic straws?! Whip out your metal straw, yes let’s be one of those people because turtles need our help. Our friends at Dearest Fannie sell funky rainbow straws for £1! Choosing reusable cutlery doesn’t have to be fancy either. You can reuse plastic cutlery if sustainable alternatives are too expensive because plastic will last forever. Alternatively you can simply carry around your cutlery from home but sometimes travel sets with cases can prove more convenient.

Reusable straws are more ethical for the planet
Source: Dearest Fannie

8. Unplug What You’re Not Using

One word: bills. There’s a few ways you can save money on your bills whilst saving the planet too. Unplug what you’re not using especially at night. This of course won’t apply to appliances, which must be on at all times. However most electronics such as microwaves or televisions can be switched off when not being used. Similarly with light switches which drain your electricity – if you’re not in the room try remembering to switch it off. It’s a habit that can take a little while to get into but once you’re in it, you’ll be telling all your mates off for leaving those pesky lights on.

9. Try Swapping Clothing with Your Friends or Only Buy What You Need

Okay so plenty of places offer student discounts and there will be fast fashion places trying to sell you things all the time. If you need it, buy it. However, if you can swap clothes with friends it stops you buying that night out outfit that you only wear once. It’s always pretty fun rooting around in each other’s wardrobes even if it’s just to borrow something for the night. 

10. SAY NO to Fresher Flyers and Junk Mail

You will have to resist leaflet/flyers especially if you are a fresher. They will try to bombard you with offers but you can SAY NO. Take photos of the flyers or promotional adverts instead so you don’t forget those all important offers.

11. Bring Your Own Coffee Cup and Water Bottle

Pulling all-nighters (so many regrets) and need coffee? Make sure to bring your own coffee cup. You can actually save pennies when you bring your own coffee cup because places usually offer 25p off. Similarly with your water bottle this can save on having to buy plastic bottled drinks, whilst keeping you hydrated wherever you go. You can also use the Refill app to find drinking water stations nearby!

Reusable bamboo bottle help to low plastic waste

12. Try Reusing Your Old Jars as Decor

How many jars can one person save. Too many, but you can reuse some of them for decor, stationary, plants, and all sorts of things. It’s a cheap way to make a space your own, and it looks a whole lot better than filling the windowsills with empty Jack Daniels bottles (other liquors are available)… You can also use tin cans to store things in as long as you’re careful with the sharp edges! Remember you’ll have all those bean tins to use, so DIY them to spice them up a bit if they don’t fit in with your vibe!

Reusing old jars as decor