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Sustainable shopping on a budget

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Sustainable shopping isn't just good for the planet – it’ll also benefit your health and your wallet, which is particularly important for students in the current cost of living crisis. Shopping sustainably is often considered to be expensive, but with a few simple changes you can be eco-friendly without breaking the bank. Here are our eight top tips for sustainable shopping on a budget.

Two students looking through a clothes rail in a shop

1. Plan what you’re going to buy 

Meal prepping is a great way to plan your meals for the week and save you time and money. Once you know which meals you’re going to make, create a shopping list. According to the United Nations, we waste almost 1 billion meals every day across the world! Meal planning will help you to avoid impulse buying food you don’t need.

Read more of our tips on student food shopping.

2. Freeze what you don't eat

If you do find yourself with more food than you need or you don’t get round to eating something, a great way to reuse food is to pop it in the freezer. We’re all guilty of forgetting about something in the fridge and having to put it in the bin. Check your sell-by dates and make sure you know what’s going out of date. If you don’t think you’ll get round to eating something like bread, meat, or meals you’ve prepped, then pop them in the freezer and save them for another day!

3. Buy natural cleaning products

The likes of #CleanTok have taken social media by storm, allowing people to share cheap and natural cleaning hacks. Here are the three most popular products and what they can be used for:

  • White wine vinegar cleans grime and kills bacteria
  • Baking soda cleans tough stains
  • Lemons remove limescale and odours.

These three versatile products are all you need to clean your student flat. Not only are they non-toxic, but they’re also way cheaper to buy than your standard cleaning products. White wine vinegar and baking soda mixed together are great for cleaning surfaces and unclogging drains.  

4. Shop locally

If possible, try and shop at local stores rather than big supermarkets when you can. Supermarkets ship their food from overseas and leave behind a huge carbon footprint. Shopping locally often means you’ll be buying products from local farms, so not only does this result in a smaller carbon footprint, but you’ll be putting money back into the community and supporting local businesses. They’ll normally sell seasonal products, which are usually cheaper and fresher to buy. A win-win!

5. Shop second-hand

The fashion industry is a huge contributor to global emissions. Buying second-hand is a great way to reduce these emissions and to save some money too. Pop into your local charity shop and have a look at the clothes – you’ll be surprised at what you can find. There are also the likes of Vinted, Depop, and eBay. These platforms are great for finding a bargain and you can even have a clear out yourself to make some extra cash.

Clothes aren't the only thing you can buy second-hand. If you’re moving into student accommodation or need to replace some glasses after a flat party, charity shops are great for homeware and crockery. There’s also Facebook Marketplace where you can find pretty much anything, from desks to laptops to exercise bikes! Just be careful who you buy from and make sure you always have someone with you when collecting or selling an item.

6. Invest in reusable products

How many times have you bought a coffee or a bottle of water when you're out and about? Or forgot your shopping bags and had to splash out 60p on a bag in the supermarket? Purchasing long life items that you can use over and over will save you money but also help reduce waste. Here are three non-negotiables we think you should have:

  • A reusable bag. Whether it be a stylish tote bag or just a bag for life, this will always come in handy wherever you go.
  • A reusable travel cup. Enjoy your coffee sustainably! Lots of places will offer you discount if you bring your own cup, such as Greggs or our on-campus cafés.
  • A reusable water bottle. You can buy a water bottle for as little as a pound and fill it up at one of our many water coolers dotted around our campuses.

7. Bulk buy dry goods

Items like pasta, rice, grains, nuts, and seeds are a staple in most households and have a long shelf life. If you buy a large bag of rice rather than individual packages, this will save you money and it’ll save plastic and packaging. You can also bring your own reusable containers to some shops to store the likes of nuts or legumes. 

8. Buy more plant-based foods

Meat, especially red meat, has a high environmental footprint and can be expensive. You can try and incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet. Meat alternatives like beans, lentils, and chickpeas are a lot cheaper and have a lower environmental impact. This doesn’t mean cutting out meat completely, but you can try to eat one vegetarian or vegan meal one day per week, for example, having a meat-free Monday.

Sustainable shopping on a budget is very achievable with a little bit of planning and creativity. If you consider even one of our tips then you're on your way to helping the planet. Happy sustainable shopping!

Published: 31 May 2024