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5 Broke-Student Ways to Become More Environmentally Friendly

climate change

And maybe earn some money along the way

I have always been interested in looking for ways to help the environment. From recycling everything recyclable to reducing plastic waste, I wanted to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

However, as a student on break without a source of income (the cafe I was working at had to close its doors for a while due to the current pandemic), I had to look for ways that:

One, was cost-free as much as possible.

And two, didn’t require me to volunteer in person (because we were still under lockdown measures and most volunteer postings weren’t open anyway).

After compiling different ideas and trying them out myself, here are my top 5 useful tips to become more environmentally friendly.

1. Ordering less delivery food

As the use of reusable food containers and cups spread, more and more individuals are making use of them to cut down on using disposable plastic containers.

This is great news for the environment as people are now able to enjoy take-out food while not adding to the ever-growing pile of plastic waste.

However, as people entered self-isolation, the demand for delivered food skyrocketed.

Although food delivery services provide unrivalled convenience for all of us, the problem of using too many disposable plastic containers returns with it.

With food delivery services, it is impossible for you to use your own reusable containers. The food is often packed into sealed plastic boxes to prevent the food from being contaminated and they are often placed in plastic bags to make it easier for the delivery man to carry them.

Furthermore, with the food being delivered straight to my doorstep, I rarely look at how far the restaurant I am ordering from actually is. As a result, food has to travel a long distance, consuming petrol.

That’s why, if possible, relying less on delivery and heading close by for take-out options can go a long way in helping you be more environmentally friendly.

Broke Student Tip:

With price markups, delivery fees and tips, ordering food often works out to be a costly option. To save money and plastic, choose to cook your own food instead!

If ordering is your only option, find a group of friends to order with and try to buy from nearby restaurants. This reduces the carbon footprint of that delivery, getting the food to you faster when it’s hot while also allowing you to split delivery costs.

2. Experimenting with plant-based diets

So now that you decided to cook instead of ordering food, you have to decide what you want to cook.

Instead of buying meat, try to experiment with plant-based recipes instead.

Farming and producing meat is an incredibly wasteful process. Large amounts of land and water are required to farm meat. By reducing the demand for meat, the demand for farmland and freshwater decreases as well.

Furthermore, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture in the US accounted for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.

In comparison, plant-based food has a much smaller climate footprint per gram of protein, requiring less land (and hence, less deforestation) and produces less waste.

While you don’t have to cut off meat consumption fully, relying more on a plant-based diet can greatly reduce the damage done to the environment.

If you’re up to challenge yourself, you can even go further and attempt a 100% vegetarian or vegan diet.

Broke Student Tip:

Fruits and Veggies are often cheaper than meat options. Buying from local farmers’ markets if possible will also mean cheaper and fresher produce when compared to those found at supermarkets.

These farmers’ markets are also often filled with entertainment and stalls selling baked goods and juices. They can be an affordable way to spend your time while getting you fresh vegetables to cook.

3. Finding and supporting the use of online services with green initiatives

When looking for plant-based recipes, you would definitely have to use a search engine to scour the web for recipes.

Instead of relying on Google, why not use a green search engine like Ecosia. Using the ad revenue from your searches, Ecosia can plant trees all over the world.

Like this green search engine, there are many websites and services online that have green initiatives when you use them. By using and supporting them you can help these causes while using the internet as per normal.

Broke Student Tip:

Since studying and researching often requires the use of a search engine, using Ecosia (that runs on Bing’s Engine) can provide a different set of sources that might help provide a varied viewpoint.

At the same time, through this method, you would be able to take part in the tree-planting craze without spending a single cent while ensuring that there is someone to ensure that your trees grow properly to maturity.

4. Being more open to second-hand items

With second-hand markets becoming more accessible to everyone, there is an increased amount of individuals selling second-hand items on the internet.

From branded clothes to electronics to daily necessities, there is a second-hand market for many of our daily items. Some of these items are in a nearly new condition and are much cheaper than buying them new.

To reduce the amount of waste in the world, consider buying second hand whenever possible. One item bought in the second-hand market is one less item that ends up in the landfill.

Sometimes, for items such as power tools, renting them is more efficient as well. Instead of buying a brand new electric drill to drill a single nail, you can rent them from certain places, saving you money while helping reduce waste.

Broke Student Tip:

As students, our budget is often very limited. Instead of buying brand new clothes to look fashionable, second-hand markets often have good quality clothes that are on a huge discount, many of which were barely worn by their original owners.

Books and textbooks are often cheaper on the second-hand market as well. Buy them from here instead of from the bookstores to save some money. But for textbooks, you have to make sure that they are the correct edition.

5. Selling the stuff that I don’t use anymore

Since buying second-hand items is an option, selling second-hand items is possible as well.

As we buy and use things, there will often be items that are used once and left aside. Instead of letting them take up precious space at home, try selling them on the same marketplaces.

Clothes that no longer fit, books that have been read, a foldable table that has only been used once, an extra speaker you received as a present, many items can be given a new lease of life.

When someone buys them from you, there will be one less new item that needs to be bought, effectively reducing the amount of waste generated and ensuring that that item is utilised well.

When selling second-hand items, not much effort has to be put in (simply snap a few photos and write a short description) and you will be able to make some money while saving the earth.

Broke Student Tip:

Before moving out of your hostel (or rented apartment), look around and start listing items you no longer use 2–3 weeks before you move out.

Instead of throwing them away or packing useless stuff home, you can earn some money from these sales to buy necessities for the next semester or at the next hostel/ rented apartment.

In general, there are many ways for one to help the environment without spending money. If you want to take things further, you can source for green energy providers, buy items from stores that are more environmentally friendly, etc..

But for now, these 5 simple tips are easy to apply to daily life and can easily help you adopt a lifestyle that is more environmentally friendly.

For fellow broke students out there, I hope that you can use these tips well to help you save some money so that you can focus more on studying and worry less about your finances (not having enough money is stressful indeed).


This article was originally published by Jerren Gan,

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