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Sustainability on a Student Budget

By: Meadow Funkenhauser

For many students, especially those in the Faculty of Environment, sustainability is a prominent goal. However, this does not make it one that is easily achieved. Balancing schoolwork, part-time jobs, co-op applications, and budgeting leaves little room for much else. This poses difficulties for students looking to shift to living more sustainably and reducing their dependence on single use plastics and capitalistic consumption. Below I have included many steps that helped me as a student to become more environmentally friendly and shift my lifestyle to one favouring zero-waste.

To start, it is important to look at your shopping and consumption habits. Do you constantly find yourself throwing out food waste? Do you eat leftovers? Do you find a lot of your foods being wrapped in plastics? These seem like very simple questions, however, they can make the world of a difference when it comes to sustainable living and maintaining your budget. 

When grocery shopping, it is important to only purchase foods that you need, and that you know you will consume before their expiration dates. Before grocery shopping, try to plan out which foods you would like to eat for the week, and record which ingredients you need for these meals. A good trick is to pick recipes that use similar ingredients or that can be meal prepped in batches. This ensures that you are minimizing your food waste and thus saving yourself money. 

Additionally, when purchasing fruits and vegetables, avoid ones wrapped in unnecessary plastics, as you can wash them yourself at home. When shopping for foods like flour, spices or snacks, try shopping at bulk stores such as Zero Waste Bulk (for those in the KW area) and Bulk Barn, as you are then able to bring your own reusable containers, and only purchase the amounts that you need for that period of time. And when you get to the checkout, invest in a good tote bag, backpack or reusable grocery bag so that you don’t have to rely on single use grocery bags, and you avoid being charged for each plastic bag purchase. 

In terms of self-care and hygiene items, I find it helpful to look for bar soaps and for brands like Lush who allow you to return the containers after use. Soap bars are a great alternative to regular shampoo, conditioners, and body soaps, as they are cheap and can be purchased at a variety of different stores such as Bulk Barn and Lush. These are a great alternative to regular soaps as it often eliminates plastic waste that normally results from bottles, and are usually far cheaper for those on a budget. Additionally, purchasing products like reusable makeup removing pads, reusable razors, and feminine hygiene products like menstrual cups can end up saving you money in the long run. Instead of constantly needing to purchase disposable razors, pads, tampons and cotton makeup removing pads, these items require a one time purchase and simply require some home upkeep such as laundering and cleaning while also producing far less waste. 

We all know drinking is a large part of student life, and thus it is important that we don’t forget to include these habits in sustainability efforts. Whenever you purchase alcohol, make sure that you properly recycle the bottles or cans, or make yourself some extra money and take them back to the Beer Store through their Empty Returns Operation. This ensures that they are properly recycled and allows you to pay forward some of that returns money towards your next purchase!

I hope that this guide has been helpful to you becoming more sustainable whilst maintaining your budget! 

Image source: Pexels

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