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Students vs. Climate Change: Is it possible to live sustainably on a student budget?

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Tuesday 16th November 22.35

The answer is yes. Not ‘maybe.’ Yes.

We all know that budgeting seems to be a part of everyday life as a student. Between wondering if that large coffee will take you over your daily spending or if you can afford to get takeaway on the night you can’t be bothered to cook, it’s all about being conscious.

As a fresher, I’ve found that my time so far in Edinburgh has mainly centred around budgeting food, going out and travel expenses, all of which contribute in some form to the environment and my impact on it. However, the common misconception surrounding sustainable living and the aim to live a low-waste lifestyle is that it’s more expensive. 

It’s true that some, for example zero-waste supermarkets or biodegradable alternatives, can cost more since the market is predominantly aimed at middle to upper class consumers, with the working and student populations being left to cheaper, processed products that hurt the environment. Although, this doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Being sustainable doesn’t mean you have to buy from these specific businesses, it’s more about being aware of what you buy and its individual environmental impacts. 

Instead of purchasing plastic-wrapped fruit from the supermarket, try buying from your local farmers market or low-packaging grocers, which also contributes to smaller businesses who don’t have a large environmental footprint or air miles from foreign imports. Go for less processed goods and buy milk in glass bottles that can be refilled. Furthermore, most refilling shops are the better alternatives when buying grains, cereals or even washing up liquid since you just need to bring along your own containers and the rest is all calculated by weight. Plus, they usually offer a student discount. Reusable alternatives are also money-saving in the long run, such as make-up cloths that just need a wash to use again. 

But it’s not just food and drink that can be made sustainable as a student. 

It’s important to note that fast-fashion and buying online, despite its ease of access, needs more abstinence. Edinburgh has a whole host of alternatives from charity shops to vintage clothing emporiums for every fancy dress need. You can often find the best items where you’d least expect them instead of resorting to that usual Shein order that will only do more harm than good.  

What’s more, there are a heap of available services for students to use to save money. From Depop, Vinted and eBay making the selling and buying of second-hand items easily accessible to all, to organisations such as Too Good To Go and Olio helping reduce supermarket and personal household food waste by selling it for next to nothing and helping you to make that weekly shop for much less. 

Now this is all well and good in theory, however, in our current climate, the way marketing is targeted at the student population makes it increasingly difficult to live sustainably. Spending less money becomes the central focus and all other aspects such as origin, materials or environmental harm are forgotten. All too often I’ve also been told that making a conscious change in your own lifestyle to make less of an impact is pointless, when the opposite is true. Large corporations and organisations account for a vast majority of atmospheric pollution and environmental degradation, but it’s not a reason to stop trying to change our lifestyles to benefit the environment we live in. It's more important than ever now to look into your everyday habits and wonder how you can truly make a positive impact - even on a student budget. 

Image via Pixabay