Sustainable Student Starter Pack
Updated: Jan 11
The long list of things you need to buy before you journey to University can be daunting, and it can be expensive, so That Libby Girl and I have put together a collection of affordable essentials that are not only kind to your wallet, but kind to the planet too.
My sustainable journey truly began after university when I first moved into a new apartment, but I wish it had started sooner! I did my best whilst studying but I didn’t believe I could be truly sustainable, and a large part of that was down to not knowing how to do it on a student budget. This is exactly why That Libby Girl and I have put together this guide; to inform students old and new that it really is possible to be sustainable at university!
Libby has been actively working towards helping the environment over the past few years, from shopping consciously to litter picking around campus and beyond, and she’s been a fab influence for me, so I’m super happy to be collaborating with her on this post. Libby will be bringing you the best sustainable stationery and bedroom accessories, and I’ll be showing you the most environmentally friendly kitchen, bathroom and self-care products.
Before starting university you'll receive a supply list, but, before rushing out to buy everything on it, read through it carefully and only buy the things you think you'll actually need. There were a number of things on my supply list that I diligently bought and wish now I hadn't. I could have saved myself a lot of money and resources if I'd have just considered it more carefully.
I've put together this collection of study basics, but there are many other things, like highlighters, that can be bought sustainably so shop around before you buy.
This lot comes to around £30 (excluding delivery prices), which for a trendy, guilt-free, study pack is worth every penny.
Despite most likely being a shared area, the kitchen is a fab place to begin reducing waste and investing in some high-quality, sustainable items. This is where your budget will take a bit of a hit, but both That Libby Girl and I can testify that quality is so important when it comes to kitchen products! If you spend the money now, the things you buy will last you well past your uni-days.
Below are some great examples of the essentials you will need to start you off, but bear in mind when you’re shopping for other utensils and items that you only need to get the things you know you’ll definitely use. Student kitchen starter packs are only going to save you money if you make use of all of the things included, sometimes it's best to just buy individual utensils. In truth, I’ve still got random slotted spoons and a non-descript spinny thing rattling around in the back of a drawer that I have never used, and, let's be honest, probably never will!
1. Produce Bags
Produce bags are a great investment and, along with your reusable shopping bags, will soon become a staple in your food shopping tool belt.
It’s truly shocking just how much fruit and veg is wrapped in unnecessary plastic, so these bags are a must-have for enabling you to grab some unpackaged produce either at your nearest supermarket or your local farmers market. Plus, they can also save you a lot of embarrassment at check out – having your oranges and apples rolling around on the conveyor belt is not a fun experience, trust me!
Reusable coffee cups are a must for anyone that needs a little boost to get them through the day! Many are now air-tight unlike the single-use cups you get at coffee shops, so you can shove them in your bag and not worry about coffee leaking all over your books, and some coffee shops will offer a discount to those who bring their own cups in, so you can even save a little bit of money too! That Libby Girl recommends the Keep Cup to satisfy your at-your-desk coffee needs, whereas I’m a huge advocate for the rCup as it’s made from recycled coffee cups and is completely leak proof.
Getting a reusable water bottle is probably one of the easiest ways to make a sustainable change – and drinking water is super important for students, be it to keep hydrated whilst studying or to ward off that hangover from the night before! This stainless steel Chilly alternative is a particularly great investment as it keeps drinks cold, is completely leak-proof, and, let’s be honest, is pretty darn aesthetic. If you want to be really sustainable, you can even reuse old pasta sauce or jam jars – not only are you helping the environment and your bank, but you’ll be totally on-trend!
5. Lunch Box
Having a lunch box and preparing your own meals is a more sustainable choice than picking up a grab-and-go option. Not only is it generally a healthier option, as it allows you to have control over the ingredients you're eating, but it reduces the use of single-use food wrapping, like take-away containers and plastic cutlery. Plus, it means you can save money by bulk-cooking and taking in your own lunches, rather than buying meal deals every day!
The benefit of having a glass lunch box, over a plastic one, of course, is that the risk of food contamination is reduced drastically. After all, who wants to be ingesting tiny bits of plastic? Also, they tend to last longer because they don't stain or warp after use. This one even has a bamboo lid which is completely recyclable, and it means you get to have a day out at Ikea – win-win!
Beeswax wraps are one of the more expensive items on this list, but they’re so important! Instead of using single-use cling film or, like That Libby Girl, reusing tin foil until it's got a hole in it, or wasting any leftovers, these reusable, biodegradable, and sustainable wraps are the perfect thing for covering up food – and your food lasts longer with these compared to cling film!
As you spend more time at uni you’ll realise that bulk-cooking is your friend, so grab a pack of these to protect your meals and you’ll be doing yourself and the environment a favour!
7. Frying Pan
Getting a high-quality frying pan (preferably with a lid) is one of the best investments you can make before uni. If you’re like me and not a great cook you’ll be amazed to know just how many easy meals can be made in just one pan, and a big one like this means you can bulk cook up to four portions at once saving you both time, energy, and money, with the added bonus of helping the environment by using less gas or electricity!
You’re going to want to be cleaning up after yourself in the kitchen, if not for your sake but for your housemates too, so investing in reusable kitchen cloths is essential! Tookies' hand-made scrubbing cloths are a fab investment as not only are they reusable, but they’re also organic, biodegradable, recyclable, micro plastic-free, and fair trade, so you can be sure to keep both your kitchen and your conscious clean!
These items come to a total of £98, which might be more than you anticipated, but they are all wonderful investments that will save you money in the long run! However cheaper alternatives for all these items are out there, so have a look around and find what’s best for you.
Design & Accessories
I've written posts in the past about how difficult it can be to personalise university halls and even private rentals. Over the years, I've learned the easiest way to add your own flair and design style is through soft furnishings, like cushions and throws.
The items below have been selected for their versatile style and the materials used. Textiles aren't always the cheapest way to spruce up space, especially if you're aiming to invest in more sustainable materials such as organic cotton or linen. However, growing trends in this sector mean companies are responding with more affordable product lines. H&M, for example, has a sustainability tab touting a range of clothing and home accessories with materials, production processes and recycling in mind.
Self-Care and Bathroom
The beauty and self-care industry have always been one of the worst for negatively impacting the environment, however more and more companies are producing plastic-free and eco-friendly alternatives. This is making it so much easier – and cheaper! – to switch to more ethical products, and what better excuse to make that switch than moving to uni?! Not only will you end up saving yourself money, but you’ll also be happy knowing that as well as keeping yourself clean, you’re keeping the oceans clean of plastic waste too. (Just make sure you’re using up any old products first so as not to create any additional unnecessary waste).
1. Soap Bar
Keep your body, conscience, and the planet clean with a natural soap bar, rather than a chemical-filled, plastic-wrapped body wash! Not only are the bars free of any plastic packaging, but they only include natural ingredients, meaning you can get the best out of being clean. Not to mention they smell AMAZING!
Aerosol cans are one of the planets biggest enemies, so switch up your typical deodorant with a more natural, eco-friendly roll on, like these unisex deodorant sticks from Earth Conscious. Kind to the skin, whilst also being super effective, these will keep you smelling fresh as a daisy, and they won’t leave annoying white marks on your fave top. To top it off, if you purchase the one linked, 10p from each sale goes to the Marine Conservation Society, the UK charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife!
3. Face Cloths
Washing your face and/or taking your make up off after a long day or a night out is a must, and your skin will thank you later for it, trust me! However, single-use wipes and cotton pads are both expensive and terrible for the planet. Instead, why not invest in some reusable, washable pads like these to keep your skin clean and clear and your bank account happy?
4. Shower Bomb
For all you bath-lovers out there, you may already be mourning the lack of baths at uni, but fear not, Lush have created the ultimate self-caring student dream; the shower bomb! Super affordable, sustainable, and available in a range of scents and designs, this is the perfect luxury item for when you just want to relax and spend some quality me-time amidst the university chaos.
5. Safety Razor
Not only are disposable razors terrible for the environment and super expensive, but they’re classic pink for girl and blue for boy designs are pretty sexist!
In search of something new, I discovered reusable safety razors – they have a strong, reusable handle like this bamboo one, and replaceable blades that you can recycle when they get blunt. They're undoubtedly better for the environment than their disposable counterparts and they’re unisex, so no bowing to aged gender stereotypes that have no place in 2019!
Dental hygiene is super important, but with most toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes made of plastic, it’s also one of the biggest contributors to waste. Luckily bamboo and biodegradable toothbrushes are becoming increasingly popular, however, ethical toothpaste is a little harder to come by.
Truthpaste is one of the best zero-waste, cruelty-free mineral-based toothpastes out there. It comes in a cute little jar that can be reused, AND it’s completely free of any nasty chemicals that can cause harm to you and the environment, not to mention it’s super affordable!
7. Shampoo Bar
I don’t know about you but trying to navigate the shampoo aisle at any shop is a tricky affair. I spent years trying to find something that would tame my thick waves whilst also being kind to my very sensitive scalp, but it wasn’t until I tried ethical shampoo bars like the affordable Friendly Soap one that my head was satisfied! Its packaging is plastic-free and recyclable, and it contains no nasty parabens, chemicals or palm oil so it’s great for both you and the planet.
In total, these products cost £44.84, which isn’t half bad considering how much you would normally spend, and many of them last much longer than typical products so you’ll be saving on so much unnecessary waste!
There are so many great sustainable products out there, and it’s much easier – and cheaper – than you’d expect to shop with both yourself and the planet in mind. Hopefully our list of affordable sustainable essentials will give you a perfect starting point for finding the things you need to make your uni days a little easier, with the added bonus of protecting the environment at the same time.
A collaboration between two BA graduates trying to live a more sustainable life. This post aims to inform students, old and new, that it’s possible to be sustainable at university!