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Study abroad : Once you arrive

How to be a more eco-friendly student at university in 5 easy steps

Learn to be even more environmentally friendly while at university. From buying eco-friendly products to transport and the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recylce, we show you how in 5 easy steps.

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The Earth needs us and we need it so it makes perfect sense that we should respect and look after this planet of ours. You may hear the terms environmentally friendly, eco-friendly and earth-friendly being used. They all essentially mean the same thing – not harming the environment. Some argue that it is impossible to be completely eco-friendly, preferring instead to use the term sustainable.

It may appear that just one person’s actions or inactions cannot make a difference to such a global issue. This may well be true, but if each person did just a few eco-friendly things this collectively and globally would make a huge difference. There are some simple and effective things all students can do to be more eco-friendly at university. Here we show you how in five easy steps.

1 Save water

Water is a natural resource which is in short supply around the world. Even if you’re studying in a country where water-shortage isn’t an issue, it’s important to be mindful about just how much water you do use.

  • Turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth.
  • Have showers not baths.
  • Have two-minute showers.
  • Don’t have the tap running when you’re washing dishes or vegetables.
  • Drink tap water instead of buying it bottled. (It’s safe to drink tap-water in most top-study destinations.)


2 Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

You will hear these terms a lot when talking about being environmentally friendly.


This means to use less of something. Here are examples of what you could do at uni:

  • Switch off the lights in your room/accommodation.
  • Switch of devices, tvs, microwaves, etc. when you’re not using them. Leaving them on standby still uses electricity. It will save you money too!
  • Turn the heating down or off. Wear layers of clothing to help keep you warm when the weather is a little cooler.
  • Eat less meat. In the USA for example, 11% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the agriculture sector. Emissions from livestock manure management systems had grown by 62% in 2020 as per United Stated Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Use less plastics. When you get a coffee, take your own resuable cups. Some coffee shops give you a discount if you do this.


Fast fashion has created huge problems for the environment. There is now a drive towards more sustainable clothing options. Instead of buying new, you could buy vintage clothing or visit local charity shops (UK), thrift shops (USA, Canada) or opportunity shops / op-shops (Australia and New Zealand).

            ‘One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.’  English idiom

There are also many online platforms where you can sell things and buy others second-hand. It isn’t just clothes that can be re-used. You can upcycle furniture (make old furniture into something new), reuse shopping bags, course books; the list is endless.



Most cities in study destination have recycling areas where you can recycle paper, plastic and cans. You can also recycle old or broken electrical items like laptops, mobile phones and adaptors at some local stores in the UK. The EPA in the USA has links to useful recycling websites. In Australia you could try Electronic Recycling Australia.


3 Buy eco-friendly products

Products can be eco-friendly in various ways: they may have no plastic packaging; they may be made using only natural products or made from recycled materials. Here are some products that all international students need; buying more eco-friendly alternatives is more beneficial to the environment and maybe even the bank balance.

  • Soap and shampoo bars instead of bottles.
  • Plant-based laundry liquid to wash your clothes.
  • Recycled toilet paper.
  • Buy pasta, rice, flour etc, from zero-waste shops.



4 Use sustainable transport


Most international students will try to find accommodation on-campus or as close to university as possible. Walking and cycling are not only free and good for your health, they also produce zero emissions and so are completely eco-friendly transport options.

If you do need to commute, consider using public transport or carshare if necessary. When planning a holiday in your country of study, consider different ways of travelling. It would be good to see if there are more eco-friendly alternatives to flying. Save your carbon emissions and airmiles for those really important trips back home to see family and friends.


5 Learn even more about sustainability


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. Learn about how to make your university more sustainable and look at examples of top green universities around the world. Teach others about what you’ve learned.


If you would also like to make more of professional impact on the planet, you may want to consider studying for a degree to save the planet or try looking at degrees which focus on sustainable energy.


Whatever you decide remember that together we can all make a difference.



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