How To Become a More Green, Sustainable Student

In a world dawned on by the aspect of climate change, we’ve got tips and advice on how to become a more green, sustainable student to stop global warming.

Coffee in a keep cup

There are many ways to be a “green” and sustainable student – to make your impact on the world’s environment as small as possible.

There are many personal actions you can take to make your life as ‘environmentally sustainable” as possible. As well as particular things you can do in your daily life and with your daily habits – at home, at school or university – there are ways to get involved to help achieve “green outcomes” for the community, through joining or volunteering for environmental organisations and participating in events.

What is environmental sustainability?

There are several definitions of “environmental sustainability”, but in regards to our daily habits and what we buy and eat, being more ‘sustainable’ really means reducing as much as possible our impact on the environment and trying to minimise the damage we do to the environment through our eating, clothing and general buying habits.

Sustainable Development

“Sustainable development” is the ability of the world’s population now to meet its present needs, without reducing its ability to meet its future needs – to survive properly. It is important to try to limit environmental damage to the world so future generations don’t have to live on a ruined planet, where climate change, pollution and waste are even bigger problems than they are now, and resources – for example food, clean air, clean water –  are more and more scarce or unhealthy.

At the moment, Australia, and many other developed countries, are using much more of their resources than they can really afford to use, or not using them properly. It is like spending more money than you have – the world’s credit card is over the limit and humans are living beyond the capacity of the world’s environment. 

Instead of that, we should all try to help protect the world’s natural environment, and help it and the human population live in more harmony. The world is one big “ecosystem” in which everything is connected.

In 2015, all the United Nations’ member countries adopted 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) – global goals to protect the planet, eliminate poverty, and aim to ensure peace and social equality by 2030. In the same way all elements of the world’s environment are connected, the 17 SDGs are integrated, because human actions on one thing will affect what happens to another.   

Climate change protest sign

How to become a more sustainable student

 First, try to use less electricity.

You can do your bit to lower the need for energy production which has harmful effects on the environment. You can do this, for example, by:

  • Turning off chargers for computers, phones and other communications devices, and all other appliances – TVs, washing machines at the powerpoint when not using them.
  • Remember that every time you use your phone, or other personal communication device, or computer, you are using electricity. Production of electricity from non-renewable sources also produces carbon emissions and pollution, damaging the environment.
  • Adjust your air conditioning up to maybe 23 or 24 degrees on hot days, so it uses less electricity
  • If you are cold at home, put on more clothes rather than turning up the heater.
  • Hang out the washing on a clothes line or a clothes rack, if possible, rather than using an electric dryer.
  • If you pay your accommodation electricity bill, ask to buy “green energy”. All major electricity suppliers in Australia have a “green” option, so you can buy power which is generated from solar panels, or wind power or other non-polluting, renewable energy. 

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle

You can also help protect and conserve the environment by using recycled and recyclable products; reusing and repairing products so they can be used more and longer; reducing your use of disposable and non-recyclable products and your consumption of water, energy (see above). 

  • Coffee cups! – get your own reusable takeaway coffee cup (and many shops offer discounts to people using reusable cups).  Over 500 billion disposable cups are discarded to landfill worldwide every year.
  • Pens! – use a reusable pen with refillable ink cartridges, or pens made from recycled or recyclable products. (more than 10 billion plastic pens are thrown away and end up in landfill each year).
  • There are clothes, and office and student equipment, and even furniture which is made from recycled plastic products and old tyres. Even mouse mats are made from recycled circuit boards. And use handkerchiefs instead of tissues, or if you need to buy tissues, buy ones made from recycled paper.
  • Don’t use plastic bags for shopping. Plastic is a huge pollution problem – it does not break down and is harmful to wildlife – and its production also means major carbon emissions (so try to buy products with less plastic packaging, too)
  • Don’t buy water in plastic bottles –buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up from a tap or water cooler or water filter…
Bag of vegetables

You can also:

  • Try to buy ‘local’ products (which have a smaller effect in their production and transport – a smaller “footprint” -, and use your own containers when buying products like grains, flour, lentils, rice, honey, and many other items (this can be done easily at health food stores and food co-operative stores).
  • Use public transport – it has far less impact on the environment less pollution, less carbon emissions) than using cars, even shared cars.
  • Join an environmental, nature conservation or Climate Change group at university, or a clean-up (the environment) group. For example: The Australian Conservation Foundation – Australia’s national environmental organisation. 
  • Take part in environmental events, such as activities on “Clean Up Australia Day” or “Earth Day” (they happen every year) or “World Environment Day” (June 5 every year)

You can also measure your “ecological footprint” – how much your life and what you do is having an effect on the environment – on such websites as: Ecofoot.

The Australian Student Environment Network – ASEN – it connects student environment groups at universities in every Australian state and territory, organises events and provides information sources.