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The basics
Study abroad : Once you arrive

How to be an environmentally friendly student?

If you’re looking to live more sustainably, your student years can be the best time to start. Find out how you can live more ecologically conscious as a student.

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There is no denying it. We live in strange times when it comes to global warming and climate change. We have governments and big businesses implementing huge changes that potentially can make a real difference but are also aware of how much more there is to do. Sometimes it's not easy to think about what you as an international student can do. We've got a few ideas.


While it’s argued that systemic change far outweighs individual action when it comes to this issue, it’s good to know that our actions do still make a difference. By making small changes in our daily lives, we can reduce our impact on the planet and its resources.


As a student, you may be looking forward to living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Studying abroad is likely the first time you are experiencing this much independence, especially after having told your parents you want to study abroad. You’ll be making a lot of your own decisions every day, like getting the balance between socialising and studying right.


Living more sustainably may not be simple and is different for each person. Something feasible for one person may not be so for another. However, there are three main areas to focus on for leading a more environmentally conscious life. Each area has a different path to explore depending on your circumstances.


Check out some of the world's most sustainable universities


Reducing your carbon footprint


The term “carbon footprint” is used to describe an individual or groups energy usage over a certain period. This can often be heard when climate change or global warming is discussed. However, few people know what their carbon footprint is and what it should be.


The average person’s carbon footprint, measured in tons, depends on where you live. Some of the highest carbon footprints are found in the western world. For example, if you live in the UK, you likely average about 10 tons per year, while this would jump to about 16 tons if you are a resident in the US.


But what does this look like, and what should it be? It’s estimated that one ton of carbon is the equivalent of someone driving 2,500 miles. While figures differ from study to study, a carbon footprint of under four is thought to be a reasonable target, with two tons being ideal.


Compared to other areas of sustainability, your carbon footprint may be hard to visualise. However, it’s one of the easiest ways for you to make a difference. Any time you do something less frequently, you reduce the amount of carbon you use.


Simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint include:


  • Walking instead of travelling by bus or car when possible
  • Buying fewer newer clothes and opting for second-hand pieces
  • Buying local food
  • Buying food seasonally where possible
  • Incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet
  • Use the technology you own for as long as you can before replacing it


Cutting your carbon emissions where possible is a great way to make your student life more planet-friendly. It can also inspire your fellow students to do the same.


Considered studying in Sweden? The country is home to some of the top universities focusing on sustainability and the environment.


Reducing your waste


Waste production is often considered a major contributing factor in our carbon footprint. However, the focus on reducing waste to help the planet is often more about the pollution it causes and the devastating effects this has on wildlife and entire ecosystems.


Plastic waste has gained a lot of media attention over the past decade, and for good reason. Research from universities in the UK found that, without intervention, plastic waste in the ocean could outnumber fish by the year 2050.


When it comes to making sustainable life changes regarding your waste, it’s a lot easier to see how you’re helping to reduce your carbon footprint. You can see what you’re throwing away and will certainly notice your bin filling up much more slowly with some small changes. Who doesn’t want to take the rubbish out less?


By reducing your waste, you also discover other areas where you can make a difference. Small changes can add up. Some small changes to reduce your waste are:


  • Bringing your bottle or flask when buying coffee
  • Opting for package-free foods where possible
  • Opting for plastic-free packaging where possible
  • Taking notes on your laptop or tablet instead of paper
  • Switching your shampoo, shower gel and hand soap for bars
  • Visiting a local refill store to buy things in bulk


Reducing your waste can fit well with your student lifestyle. We all know students have to save money. Many students practice this out of necessity, as tuition fees and accommodation are priorities. Each time you choose the least wasteful option, you contribute towards the fight for a cleaner environment.


Find out more about studying environmental science.


Supporting causes


If you’re reading this article, it’s clear that you are interested in making a difference in fighting climate change and protecting the environment. However, this journey towards a more sustainable life can feel a little isolating at times.


Don't feel alone. Remember that there are millions of people that feel the same way. There are also countless causes dedicated to raising awareness. While making changes in your own life is a great path, supporting and potentially joining causes is another avenue for those who find themselves wanting to do more.


You can do more. Whether it's supporting a charity in any way you can or joining a society at your university. There are so many options for you to take your journey in sustainability to the next level. These organisations or societies will be more than happy to have a like-minded individual join their cause and it will allow you to make more of an impact with the right support behind you.


Discover how studying architecture can help you contribute to sustainability.


A future in sustainability


You may be a student trying to make a difference because you feel it's the right thing to do. Maybe you are a student who thinks of sustainability as more of a hobby, or you could be a student who wants to do much, much more. If you’re the latter, why not look into studying for a degree to save the planet.


Universities worldwide are offering more courses in this area, and those graduating with these degrees are finding themselves at the forefront of the fight for protecting the planet they love. From undergraduate degrees to advanced postgraduate courses, there is a study option for you. Find the perfect degree with our course matcher tool


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