Ways to keep sustainable when you have little control

Ani Talwar·17 June 2022·5 min read
Ways to keep sustainable when you have little control

As a student, a lot of my shopping is controlled by a budget. As a renter, a lot of my appliances are chosen without my say so. These factors combined mean that whilst I know there are certain more sustainable brands out there, I can’t always access them because some of the choices made in this process (such as a greener washing machine for example) are taken out of my hands. However, this doesn’t mean all is lost. You may not be able to control the way you gain things in your home, but the way you make use of and dispose of them can go a long way to ensuring you’re as sustainable as you can be.

Adapting the way you use products

You can contribute to reducing waste even when you can’t control how you chose your appliances by making sure they last, whatever they are.

With dishwashers, simple things like making sure your dishes don’t inhibit the washing arm movement will prevent breakages, and with washing machines , taking care not to overstuff and overload with washing powder can help them last longer. With your fridge, make sure you keep the door seals clean because this will enable better trapping of cold air, and make sure to clean up any spills and ruined food. Separating your waste into general, glass, tin and paper is also a good way to make sure you’re disposing of materials most sustainably.

There are also simple swaps you can make when living in a rented property such as using disinfectant spray and a reusable cloth as opposed to disposable wipes on your kitchen counter. Sellotape for example even comes 0% plastic now so you can ensure even your stuck together notes are done sustainably. When it comes to food swaps, learning multiple recipes that centre around the same set of ingredients goes a long way to reducing your food waste, especially when you cook for just yourself but supermarket portions are for multiple people.


There are several ways you can change the way you throw out used products to make sure you’re being as sustainable as possible.

Batteries for example can be collected in special bins so that they can be recycled instead of dumped. Even better, you can get rechargeable batteries which you can reuse again and again. If you want an idea of where you can get your batteries recycled, shops that sell over 32kg batteries a year must have battery recycling points and you can also put your postcode into this Finder which will then tell you where the nearest battery recycling facility is to you.

You can also use this guide: https://www.recyclenow.com/recycle-an-item/batteries to search for your nearest recycling facility for various other items you have such as aerosols, cans, oil, carpets, animal litter, decorations and technology.

For your old clothes, places like Heart UK partner with a free collection service through London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool to collect your unwanted clothes as well as shoes (in pairs), bags, belts, hats, linen, towels, curtains and bedding. If you are not in any of these areas, the Salvation Army has a search function where you can find their nearest clothing donation bank to you where your old items can be recycled, including furniture as well.

Got any cereal, soup, pasta, juice or pasta sauces you brought far too much of in a supermarket sale? The Trussell Trust via this guide highlights these and several other items that are suitable for a food parcel you can make up out of items you have to donate! They also highlight non food items that are suitable such as detergents, toiletries, and face masks (Full guide here ). Once you’ve got a few things you want to donate, you can use this search function to find the donation bank nearest to you.

So you see, even if you are renting, living a hectic student lifestyle on a budget, there are still things within your control that you can do to make sure your appliances last longer, your produce does not go to waste, and your leftovers go to the most sustainable end possible.