By Bridie McArthur
Sustainability can look different in different countries. If you’ve not long arrived in Australia, being more eco-friendly – while important – may be taking a back seat to assignments, classwork, extracurriculars, paid work, and your social life. However, there are some small steps you can take to make sure you look after the planet while looking after yourself. Most of it is about habit-building — they’ll eventually blend seamlessly with other priorities and responsibilities.
1. Start cooking or preparing your food at home
Not much of a cook? There’s no time like the present to start learning! This will help you to eat healthier, develop your cooking/food prep skills, and will reduce the amount of waste you produce by minimising takeaway packaging. Perhaps best of all, you can save a bunch of money.
2. Invest in sustainable materials and supplies
The life of a student often involves eating on the go or on-campus. Plus, now that you’ve done all that work meal-prepping, you’d hate to wrap it all up in single-use plastic or foil.
If you don’t have them already, consider getting a reusable drink bottle, lunch bag, bag or utensil kit. While these items can be expensive, options are available to suit all budgets. These pieces will last and often end up saving you money in the long term. For example, many cafes will offer a discount if you bring your own cup.
3. Walk, carpool or take public transport
There are so many alternatives to a solo car trip that are more planet-friendly. And with these fuel prices, the planet and your wallet will thank you! Carpooling can help you split the cost of travel and provide a social outlet. The bus, tram or train offers the chance to catch up on class readings. Walking or cycling will help you get fitter, plus take in some vitamin D and fresh air.
4. Join sustainability groups on-campus – or start one
If your school has sustainability initiatives already, join in! If there isn't anything like this at your school, this is a great chance for you to start something and drive change at your place of study.
5. Encourage your friends to join you in being more sustainable
The more people prioritising sustainability, the better, and as students, you can support and help each other. Rather than preach to your friends or peers, it can be more effective to simply share the changes you’re making to your everyday life and the benefits it has brought you — those who are interested will ask questions and be most open to making changes themselves.
The most important thing is to simply try and keep trying. Don't beat yourself up for forgetting your Keep Cup one day – just make sure you're minimising you’re waste and keeping the planet front of mind as often as you can. As a student, the future is yours, and we must do what we can to protect it.