Nowadays, it seems impossible to turn on the TV or scroll through Twitter without reading something about climate change. Whether it’s deforestation, rising sea levels or the bushfires in Australia, it’s all doom and gloom when it comes to the environment.
Though switching from plastic to paper straws won’t change the planet on its own, if we all make an effort to become more environmentally-conscious, we can have a huge impact.
To give you a helping hand, we’ve rounded up ten ways to reduce your houseshare’s carbon footprint in 2020 and live a greener, more sustainable life when you’re sharing a house…
Make the effort to check the packaging of everything you throw away to see whether it can be recycled, and check your local council website for information if you’re not sure. If you’re living with others who don’t care about recycling as much as you do, consider buying an indoor recycling bin for books, paper, bottles, tins, cans, and other recyclable items; they’ll be less likely to throw them in the general waste if there’s a dedicated bin in the kitchen.
If your recycling bin gets full before it’s due for collection, review your shopping habits and consider cutting back on prepackaged groceries, opting for loose alternatives. And for drinks, buy family-sized bottles that can be kept in the fridge rather than individual cans and bottles.
One of the simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint - and your energy bill - is to switch your traditional light bulbs to energy-efficient ones. They only cost a couple of pounds and can be bought in bulk on Amazon, or you could ask your landlord to replace them for you.
Energy-efficient bulbs use an incredible 90% less energy than standard bulbs, they last for years, and they’re safer than traditional screw-ins. Make the investment when you move into a new property and the planet (and your bank balance!) will thank you for it in the long-run.
If you’re a fan of cooking and spend lots of time coming up with new dishes in the kitchen, consider growing your own herbs. Rather than buying packets of herbs from the grocery store or those convenient shakable jars, build a makeshift herb garden in your windowsill.
All you need is some compost and a wooden window box and you’re good to go. Buy seeds from your local garden centre or online, place your box in a windowsill that gets at least six hours of sunlight every day, and you’ll have herbs in no time. If you grow too many, you can freeze them in ice cube trays with water or butter to stir into soups and dishes when needed.
There’s nothing better than a hot steamy shower after a busy day of lectures or in the gym, but cutting down the length of your showers and turning down the temperature can have a big impact over time. A ten-minute shower can use around 100 litres of water - if there are five of you in a house, that’s a crazy 500 litres of water every morning before your classes.
Set a timer and challenge yourself to wash in five minutes, or opt for a bath instead, which uses on average 60 litres of hot water rather than the 100 from a shower. If that’s no good, buy a low-flow showerhead that can offer you the same pressure whilst wasting less water.
We’re not saying that you should never wash your plates and dishes, but setting off the dishwasher when it’s only half full or filling the sink with hot water to clean one plate and a fork is bad for the planet. Make big savings on your water bill and usage by letting your dishwasher fill up before turning it on, and setting a cleaning rota where one housemate cleans everyone’s dinner pots, plates, and accessories at once. Bagsie takeaway night!
If you’ve got space in your garden, line dry your clothes as much as possible.
Check the forecast before you do a load and, as long as it’s not freezing or raining, you’ll be good to go. Not only can you save £200 per year on energy bills (dryers cost a fortune!) but you’ll cut your household’s carbon emissions footprint by a whopping 2,400 pounds a year.
What’s more, line drying is gentler on clothing, so your favourite hoodie and jeans will last much longer than if they were tumble dried, meaning less clothing entering landfill sites.
Those yellow whoopsie stickers are oh-so-tempting, and those two-for-one offers by the till can encourage you to add more food than you need to your basket. In 2020, don’t fall for it.
Only buy food that you actually need. Plan meals in advance and consider teaming up with your housemates to take it in turns to cook. One night, you can do your pasta, the next, Joe cooks his chicken dish. Fewer dishes, fewer wasted ingredients, and less energy use.
In the UK alone, more than £10 billion worth of in-date food is thrown away every year. But with some careful planning and snacking compromises, nothing in your fridge or cupboards will be wasted. Experiment with leftovers, invite friends round for tea and take snacks to uni.
Spending a couple of hours (and a few hundred quid) in IKEA is part and parcel of moving into student accommodation, decking out your room with cheap wardrobes and units.
Don’t get us wrong, we love IKEA, but mass-produced furniture breaks easily and is often sent to the landfill at the end of your tenancy. Forget those flimsy, throw-away units and turn to local second-hand shops and Facebook Marketplace to find quality, long-lasting furniture.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Do some DIY. Convert outdated cabinets and units by sanding them down and varnishing them, and reupholster old chairs and sofas to add your own unique touch. And when it comes to moving home, you can sell them for a tidy profit!
How many paper towels do your housemates get through in a month?
Mopping up a quick spill here, creating a makeshift dessert plate there.
Kitchen roll is super misleading - once it’s been used for a spill, it cannot be recycled, so opt for cotton dish towels which you can launder time and time again instead. If you’re a fan of a paper towel, look for bamboo paper towels which can be washed and reused 85 times each.
There are so many chemicals in everyday cleaning products that are not only bad for our health but terrible for the environment. Choose eco-friendly alternatives to popular products and keep your shared house sparkly clean, without filling our lakes with harmful chemicals.
Look for plant-based cleaning products (now available from most supermarkets) or make your own with soap, vinegar, essential oils and Bicarbonate of Soda. Retailers like Wilko have launched their own planet-friendly eco range of products, complete with 100% recycled bottles, whilst products like EcoEgg, which sits on top of your clothes to lift dirt from your laundry, help to reduce the amount of water and energy you need when using appliances.
Making small changes to your household routines can cut your carbon footprint and make you feel better about the environment. Oh, and once your flatmates return home, they’ll pass on their new-found knowledge to their friends and family!
Join in the conversation over on Twitter and check back soon for more tips and tricks on living your best eco-student life.