What can students do to live carbon neutral lives?
Carbon Neutral is a term we hear a lot these days. From UK pledges to be it, to companies telling us it’s what we should aim for. It seems such a large concept, achieved by mass effort towards a common goal, but what actually is it, and how can the single student come closer to being it?
Being carbon neutral essentially means you should release as much carbon as is taken in, so the net release of carbon remains at zero. Globally, this means you can start considering things like carbon footprint, or net carbon release between countries, but for the individual student, it means keeping a few simple things in mind in everyday life.
It’s no secret we all love food- but just choosing any food off the supermarket shelf can contribute to your carbon footprint. Meat for example contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions because of the long chain from growth to supermarket floor. Choosing organic or local foods will help reduce this, and also buying in bulk and using your own containers where possible.
Meal planning, whilst not the most interesting part of your day, will help reduce food waste too, and allow you to be more efficient, both environmentally and economically with what you buy.
Within your home or student apartment, there are a few ways you can reduce your energy wastage as well. Simply closing the curtains at night prevents heat escape, and making sure you have your heating on a timer so it actually comes on when it’s cold will also reduce needless energy use.
If you live in uni halls some of these things might be out of your control but simple ideas like organising cooking times may also help. Assigning a general time for you and your flatmates to cook dinner will mean you don’t have the oven or hobs running for hours at a time, and hopefully it will mean you get to know those you’re living with better!
Putting a bucket in your shower to catch cold water means you won’t have to use extra when you water plants/mop the floor, and little things like boiling water in the kettle before putting it in the pan for pasta and covering the pan mean you use your gas and heat more efficiently too.
Whilst it’s harder to meet up and do things now, that doesn’t mean your pastimes can’t also be environmentally friendly! Take advantage of the extra time to go on walks and pick up a new hobby like sewing to redesign old clothes into great new outfits that will combat boredom, and the environmental impacts from fast fashion.
Virtual games are of course more popular given current conditions, but they drain your battery! Putting your phone on aeroplane mode charges it quicker to reduce energy usage and making sure you turn a games console off from the wall reduces electricity usage as well.
Of course, I can’t ignore the fact that we still have work to do, and all those notepads of notes you have all over the room. Typing notes digitally can reduce paper usage- in fact you can even get student discounts for software like Office 365 to help with this.
Walk more to lectures rather than taking the bus, and take your own bottle for that essential pre lecture coffee rather than a plastic cup!
So whilst carbon neutral as a term seems like a rather big thing to achieve, there are a few ways that you as a single student can push us along the way to being carbon neutral. It’s not hard, it just requires a little extra thought.