Food Editor Adele Franghiadi looks at just a few of the ways students can make moves towards eco-consumption, without breaking the bank.
Recently, there has been a significant (and long overdue) move towards eco-consumption in food and drink culture, both across campus and the wider country. Whilst this isn’t a comprehensive list of ways to improve your environmental impact, these small and simple steps are a great start to reducing consumption in student life, and will even save you a penny or two.
I’d argue that there’s really no excuse to not buy a reusable water bottle, and it is great start towards personal eco-consumption. Whilst some water bottles can be expensive at face value, you quickly make a return on your investment.
When I used to buy bottled water, I was paying around £1 for 750ml, and whilst I reused these bottles, I’d still buy a fresh water each week for hygiene reasons, or whenever I forgot to pack my previous bottle. Over a term, I’d spend at least £15 on disposable water bottles, and therefore at least £45 a year (three terms, not including holidays!). In the end, it’s been more financially viable to buy my current reusable bottle, which cost £14.99 at time of purchase.
Also, it really does encourage you to drink more water! Knowing you’ve spent more upfront on an empty bottle is motivation in itself, but you can also buy bottles with features that make drinking water more enjoyable. I really hate when my water isn’t cold, so I’ve gone for an insulating metal bottle which keeps cold liquids in a cold state for up to 24 hours.
Additionally, it doubles as a thermos, which keeps hot drinks hot for up to 8 hours. I’ve genuinely noticed my water intake improving since buying my bottle, so not only do I feel better environmentally and financially, I also feel more hydrated and healthy.
This year, the University of Birmingham have been selling eco-cups at selected campus food outlets in an effort to reduce disposable cup consumption. At £3.50 a pop, they’re quite the bargain, especially as you get a free drink when you buy the cup. Additionally, they reduce the cost of your drinks after that by 10p. However, if you already have a reusable coffee cup, then this 10p discounted incentive also applies.
Having bought my cup in first term, it’s reached a point where I won’t buy a hot drink if I haven’t got my cup with me. I have genuinely started to feel guilty using disposable cups on campus – there are so many reusable cups about that it’s quite obvious when someone is using a disposable one.
Again, I see no reason why students would continue to use disposable cups, when campus has started such an incentivising scheme towards eco-consumption on campus. What with the free drink, plus 10p off per coffee, it’s again very easy to earn your return on investment whilst reducing your disposables consumption.
In the kitchen
Whilst obvious, and sometimes easier said than done, bulk cooking is a great way to save money and reduce waste.
Curries, bolognese, soups, shepherd’s pie, and many other staple dishes freeze brilliantly after cooling down, and it means you’ll always have a healthy ready-meal when you need it. Furthermore, fresh herbs and leafy greens can be frozen and chucked straight into a dish whilst it’s cooking, so no more wasting that inexplicably large bag of spinach (looking at you, Aldi). When it comes to freezing, try to reuse plastic sandwich bags, or if you can spare the space, freeze your food in takeaway tubs which are even easier to wash and reuse.
Paella is helpful for using up vegetables, and keeps in the fridge for around 3 days. Similarly, “rice and beans” makes a fantastically cheap and versatile meal. As long as you have the pantry basics (rice, kidney beans, chilli flakes or powder, paprika, cumin, vegetable stock, and tomato puree) you can basically chuck in any vegetables or meat you want. Again, this keeps for around 3 days in the fridge, and it great as a packed lunch.
Lastly, pasta sauce is an effective way to finish off your leftovers, and requires very little effort. Any old sauce can be improved with some left over cheese or cream, almost any vegetables, and even spare sandwich meats. In general, the most basic meals are the most versatile, and end up being the most enjoyable with the surprise of added extras and no waste. The kitchen really is a great place to reassess your eco-consumption.
Lastly, several establishments in Birmingham have ditched plastic straws in favour of paper ones. These include Wetherspoons, the Prince of Wales (Moseley), the British Oak (Stirchley), Fumo in Selfridges, and San Carlo. Hopefully more venues in Birmingham and the rest of the UK will follow suit, especially on student nights out where single-use straws are used a lot more. However, in the meantime, it’s a good idea to turn down plastic straws when out and about, because ultimately they’re not needed.