Our Green Gurus

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Studying ethically

Yasmin-blog

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By guest-blogger Yasmin Talavera, who is about to enter her final year of an english and creative writing degree at the Uni of NSW.

As university students, including myself, prepare for the first semester of 2013, I’m reminded of the challenges student life can throw to eco-friendly living. Busy lifestyles often result in choosing convenience over sustainability - I know at the beginning of my degree, I never considered the planet when I drank my pre-lecture coffees and threw the takeaway cups in the bin. But I gradually became aware of the resources and waste involved in the daily business of my education.

Three years on, here are five lessons I’ve learnt in being an ethical student:

1. THINK ABOUT HOW YOU TAKE YOUR COFFEE
For people like me, study and caffeine are inseparable, but there are alternatives to disposable cups. I now pack a thermos on long days, and when I don’t feel like lugging that around, I bring my Keep Cup.

2. PACK A LUNCH
When I don’t bring lunch I end up at a vending machine: those kinds of snacks are unhealthy, unsustainable and unconducive to concentration. Bringing a reusable drink bottle and a lunch can mean limiting excess packaging and choosing eco-friendly food. When I do buy food at uni, I dine in where possible, to avoid the plastics accompanying takeaway.

3. GO EASY ON STATIONERY
Whenever I think I’m out of pens, I just clean out my desk and voila- suddenly I have too many. As most stationery is destined for landfill, be aware of what you have before stocking up. Where possible, get hold of used stationery. At the University of New South Wales, the Student Representative Council created the Stationery Reuse Centre. Students leave their unwanted stationery there and pick up what they need, free of charge. Alternatively, you can find affordable stationery made from biodegradable or recycled materials online.

4. DON’T RUSH INTO BUYING NEW TEXTBOOKS
Cheaper second hand textbooks can be found online or advertised on university noticeboards. Reuse a textbook, and then pass it on to the next generation. If you’re lucky, your textbook might exist as an e-textbook. Alternatively, check the library for a copy. English students like me have tonnes of eco-friendly options for novels, including libraries, second hand bookstores, friends’ bookshelves and e-books.

5. KNOW YOUR UNI
Universities are leaders in environmental research and supporters of sustainable living. Many provide water bottle refill stations, ethical eateries, car-pool services and recycling bins for hard-to-recycle items. Unfortunately, many students don’t know these services exist. But by joining societies, subscribing to newsletters, attending free guest lectures or reading student publications, you’ll get to know your campus and how it encourages sustainability. Universities are places of knowledge and progress - take advantage of what you can learn there, even that which isn’t part of your degree. Good luck to all beginning or returning students for a successful and sustainable 2013!