Top 5 Ways to Better the Environment as a Student

Climate change, helping the environment, and being a conscious consumer are all things we as students think, how can a student save the environment? A student lifestyle is so stereotypically surrounded in cheap, easy, and convenient, which often comes with a hefty environmental price tag! It’s not easy to change old habits, but here we are with a list of the top 5 easiest things to think about, or action so you can be sure that you’re playing a crucial role in helping the environment! And no, trust me, it doesn’t need to break the bank or be difficult!

Helpful tip number 1! GO REUSABLE! 
I know, it sounds super simple and no doubt you get it drilled into you by that one friend that brags about how amazing their KeepCup is and the reusable cup benefits. There is one benefit that you may be either forgetting about or don’t even know it exists to help ease that student budget. Many coffee shops, cafes, and cafeterias offer discounts when you bring your own container or cup! It’s normally a small discount but you’re a regular (no one’s judging you! We all need that caffeine in our system!) these small discounts can add up and you’ll feel great about reducing waste, one small step at a time.

Waste not want not!
The student’s role in environmental protection is most important when it comes to waste. As you and I both know, so much of a student lifestyle is all about what is easy, convenient, and fits into our very hectic schedule. This means buying easy food, choosing heavily packaged items, choosing cheap over quality, and even our stationary choices can be questionable! The first step to contributing to helping our beautiful environment builds on our first tip, think about what you can reuse or not use at all! Think about the straws, plastic cutlery, bags, receipts, and food wrapping we just receive and discard without even thinking about it! Straws are super easy, try drinking just from the cup or finding a reusable option! Here’s a helpful hint I have strategically kept to myself (I know I know not very environmentally friendly of me). Instead of spending a good $20 to $30 on reusable straws follow these instructions carefully. First, get in your car (or better yet try an environmentally friendly transport alternative) and head straight to your nearest K-Mart. K-Mart? You ask. Yes, Kmart, and not where you’re thinking. You enter, don’t go to the obvious spot, the homewares, because you’ll be wandering around like a headless chicken, go straight to the party section. Right there, my friends, hidden amongst the party supplies you’ll find a pack of metal reusable straws with a cleaner and in different colour options for $4. Yep, that’s right you can thank me later and say goodbye to the wastage of plastic straws.

Second, guess...Can I get this second hand?
We’re in an age of thrift shopping and second-hand opportunities so why not utilise it! Buying second hand is a great way to help reduce waste by giving old items some TLC and use before they end up in recycling or worse the rubbish bin. Perfect for student lifestyles, thrifting often means you can grab an item for a bargain just by doing some simple searches. Try out your local charity shops, or utilise the beauty of the internet with TradeMe and Facebook Marketplace. You can trawl through the thousands of second-hand items, which can come in handy when you’re setting up a flat or when your Kmart vacuum doesn’t quite last so you’re left painfully sweeping up the mess from the weekend before. If you’re willing to put in the extra time to search for a bargain you’ll feel better for it and your wallet will be thanking you too!

Cut the printing… GO DIGITAL! 
As Gen Z’s we’re known for being digital natives but the allure of a printer or using excess paper can be so tempting as a student. I know I personally find doing my required readings so much easier with a highlighter in one hand and a stack of paper in another. Think about how you can reduce your use and how much money you can save on printing when you move digital! Think about it, are you an avid note-taker who loves tidy (or messy we’re not judging) notes each lecture, reading, or tutorial? Move to a system like OneNote where you can package all of your notes into virtual notebooks, throwing in links, drawings, audio files and more! If you’re more visual or find a lot of your work involves media files try dropbox paper, yes it’s less organised but the ability to add images, video, and even HTML code gives you endless possibilities!

Public Transport is your friend not foe!
Do you grimace when you see the price of parking around your uni, or in city centres? This is where public transport is your friend AND best way to help minimise the impact transport can have on the environment. Public transport such as buses, trains, or even e-scooters are considerably cheaper than paying for parking especially if you’re located in a large city like Auckland or Wellington. If you’re in Wellington just head here to see how you can get a tertiary concession. If you’re in Auckland head here to find out how you can get yours, and as a fellow Aucklander, I can assure you the discount makes a massive difference to your student budget. Unsure if your local bus transport services offer discounts? Just head to your student centre and they’ll be able to help you out! Wait, you’re not sold on public transport because you enjoy the luxury of driving on your own time? I get it! However, let me tell you this, alongside the discount, and helping our environment, the bus into uni and out of uni is your time to decompress, listen to a podcast, jam out to your upbeat tunes, revise, whatever gets you in the zone to start or finish a day. It’s like you’re in your own bubble away from the world with no stress about the traffic you’re zooming past in a T2 or T3 lane! Heaven I say!

Start small, but start now!
Now it’s time to start the uni year off on the right foot! Students can save the environment, even with a fast-paced hectic lifestyle. Better yet, it doesn’t need to cost you a million dollars to do so. Think smartly, and you’ll be saving money as you go along too! If you struggle just start small, whether it’s straws, coffee cups, or buying second hand, the world of living environmentally friendly is wide open for you to do your bit!

Written by Amber Wharepapa, Auckland