How to be a sustainable student

By Jodie Sutton

Starting university can be the first time you are living away from home, which means it’s the perfect time to pick up new habits. It’s especially important nowadays to make conscious and sustainable choices about the way we live. Here are some tips you can use to live a greener lifestyle as a student.


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  • Take public transport instead of driving. Bristol has a large bus network making it easy to get around the city and surrounding areas. 
  • If you’re not living on campus, plan to cycle or walk to university at least once a week. This will not only make a significant difference in reducing emissions but will also save you money on travel and parking costs, as well as keeping you active.


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  • Avoiding buying new. 300,000 tonnes of clothes are sent to a landfill in Britain per year1. Bristol is home to many vintage and charity shops where you can pick up pre-loved bargains. For example, on Park Street there’s BS8 and The Vintage Thrift Store. Broadmead is home to Beyond Retro and Sobey’s, and Loot and The Vintage Market in Stokes Croft. There are also regular Vintage Kilo Sales happening in Paintworks and Colston Hall. There’s a Vintage Kilo Sale happening on Frenchay campus on the 27th September.
  • Mend or upcycle old clothes or furniture to give them a new lease of life.
  • Support small, independent and local business when shopping. For example, Illustrate on Park Street, Papersmiths in Clifton, That Thing in Stokes Croft and Co.Lab on Gloucester Road. Also visit Whapping Wharf by the harbour for a range of independent restaurants and cafes.
  • Bring a reusable bag everywhere. Avoid having to pay for new, plastic ones.
  • Try going zero-waste. Some shops are offering services where you bring your own containers to reduce plastic waste when buying things like cereal, washing up liquid and fabric conditioner. Zero Green in Bedminster, Smaller Footprints in Clifton and Scoopaway on Gloucester Road are fully zero-waste shops. Better Food supermarket in St Werburghs, Clifton and Whapping Wharf also offer zero-waste shopping.
  • Don’t get lured in by offers. As a student, you will often get offers for all kinds of free stuff or discounts. Try not to take or buy things just for the sake of it. Ask yourself; will I really use this, or will I just throw it away?

Food and Drink

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  • Get a reusable water bottle and take tap water with you everywhere. Bottled water is much more expensive than tap, and plastic bottles make up 1/3 of all plastic pollution in the sea.2
  • Get a re-usable coffee cup. In the UK, 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year in the UK, with just 0.25% of these being recycled.3 Many coffee shops offer discounts when you bring your own takeaway cup.
  • Bring your own lunch to campus. As well as reducing food and plastic packaging waste, this can also save you money instead of buying food from a shop or cafe every day. 
  • Buy your fruit and vegetables from a market. Supermarket produce is often imported from hundreds of miles away and has a lot of single-use plastic packaging. Buying from a market will help reduce waste whilst supporting a local business. There is a fruit and veg stall on Frenchay Campus, as well as regular farmer’s markets all around the city centre and surrounding areas. Particularly there’s Reg the Veg in Clifton, Gardner’s Patch on Gloucester Road and East Street Fruit Market in Bedminster.
  • If you are able to, grow your own fruit and veg. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can create planters to go on a windowsill. You can readily grow plants such as herbs, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and radishes.


  • Be mindful of your water usage. Running the tap while brushing your teeth will use about 9 litres of water per minute. Turning the tap off can save approximately 18 litres of water. Only doing full loads of laundry can save up to 10 litres of water. A typical washing machine will use an average of 112 litres of water a week. Having showers that last 5 minutes can also save around 20 litres of water. A typical shower will use an average of 62 litres of water.4
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  • Switch off lights and electrical appliances if they are not being used.
  • Go digital. Having folders full of paper can be bulky and hard to keep organised. Try making lecture notes on your laptop, and only print out things if you really need to. Not only will this greatly reduce paper usage, it can be easier to keep track of what you’ve covered and if you need to make any changes. 
  • Use rechargeable batteries. These have 28 times less impact on global warming and 12 times less impact on water pollution than their disposable counterparts.
  • Grow plants. If you don’t have a garden, try hanging plants from your exterior walls. This will help biodiversity and look pretty in the process. Remember to plant bee-friendly plants, as bees pollinate 60% of the crops which feed the world.


1 11th February 2019 Fast fashion waste: a circular approach to textiles

2 House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Plastic bottles: Turning Back the Plastic Tide, First Report of Session 2017–19,

3 House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups, Second Report of Session 2017–19,

4 Figures from Bristol Water,

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