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Sustainable lifestyle: How to be a better sustainable consumer without the cost

Anthea Batsakis

Tue Jan 20 2015


LIVING a sustainable lifestyle can be quite costly for students but it doesn’t have to be. Anthea Batsakis offers her environmentally friendly tips on how students can become better sustainable consumers!

The world is in a consumerist-frenzy. We can’t help but love to shop, whether it’s for retail therapy, to acquire the latest technology, or for that juicy (and sometimes questionable) burger. It should come as no surprise then that this obsession with consumption can come at a cost to the environment.

The disposal of plastic waste into the ocean kills more than 1 million marine creatures every year while packaging material makes up about one-third of an average landfill.  Given these unimaginable statistics, minimising our own toxic output can still be tough. For students especially, it’s hard to be able to adopt a sustainable lifestyle and help the environment considering how expensive that choice is. For example, buying organic produce or choosing carbon neutral flights are innovative sustainable alternatives, but their prices are impractical to those living on a budget.

Here’s a list of a few simple ways we can make our consuming habits a little more environmentally friendly without having to suffer the cost.

Food Waste and Sustainable Eating


It’s easy to get overwhelmed by grocery shopping at major food retailers like Coles or Woolworths. And it can especially be difficult when you’re hungry and confronted by aisles of food, packed like Tetris blocks!

But don’t give in to temptation and don’t shop hungry! You’ll save buying products that are necessary at the time; you don’t need those five watermelons just because they were on special!

If you can’t afford to eat organic produce, eating fruits and vegetables that are in season is always a good option. They’re usually cheaper, especially if they’re from a market, but the benefits extend further than just price. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are usually more flavoursome. Out-of-season produce have either been grown in a hothouse or shipped from across the world, and this affects the taste, not to mention the carbon output involved in these processes.

Also, think about buying a lunchbox! Avoid waste by buying one and adopt a ‘nude food’ attitude to eliminate packaging! Another way to avoid food waste is to effectively use your leftovers – those overripe bananas can easily turn into banana bread! The website and app BigOven is a great place to start if you want to know which of your leftovers can be turned into new meals. And if you’re feeling up to it, learning to ferment food will extend your waste-free efforts and upcycle old jars in the process! It’s easier than you think!

If food does go to waste, setting up a compost system is an easy, minimal-cost option. It’s a common misconception that composting is too much effort, meant only for those with gardens, and takes up too much space but in fact, you only need a bucket and some worms to do the job! It’s even beneficial for those with only a few pot plants.

Donating or Swapping Unwanted Items

With concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at their highest in 650,000 years, it’s important for each person to rethink their addition of waste to the collective toxic emissions from landfill sites. Explore the other cost-friendly options that are available.

Whether it’s clothes that don’t fit or old technologies, donating or swapping your used products will return life to unwanted items.

Freecycle is an international online group that allows people to swap their items with another person in their nearest group. You may be surprised by what others consider as treasure from your trash.

There are various places you can donate your unwanted products. The website Give Nowshows you where you can donate in your area, ranging from old electrical products, boots and clothes, to food, furniture, and even adopting a pet. Not only will you be avoiding more landfill waste, but you’ll be helping your community.

Upcycle and Repair!

Image: Markus Grossalber via Flickr

Image: Markus Grossalber via Flickr

Having too many things and yet not having what you want is more common than many of us would like to admit.

Rather than throwing away the old and buying the new, give your old products new life by transforming it into something else (upcycling)!

Pinterest has literally thousands of upcycling ideas that will get your creative juices flowing. These little DIY projects will give you something quirky that you can be proud of.

Rather than throwing away something that’s broken, learn to repair it! Not only is this is a sure-fire way to save money and conserve resources, but it’s a valuable lesson that you’ll benefit from again and again. Whether it’s repairing damaged technology or mending clothes, there are plenty of places s(the internet, short courses) and people (friends and family) who t can provide you with the necessary skills that you’ll value for the rest of your life.

What Can I Recycle?

Glass bottles take more than 4000 years to decompose, so take the time to recycle properly. Recycling is a far better energy-saving alternative. For example, glass milk bottles get reused up to 40 times, and then become recycled to make more bottles.

So what can you recycle? It isn’t limited to bottles and paper!

You can recycle: clothing and shoes,paper, aluminium cans, plastic carrier bags, cardboard, plastic bottles, glass, household appliances, aluminium foil, steel cans, kitchen waste.

Planet Ark’s website Recycling Near You provides information on the recycling and waste services in your local area.

Statistics have been obtained via 1 Million Women.