Easy Sustainable Swaps

Simple switches you can make to help the environment.

(Image: Polina Kovaleva from Pexels)

With countless recommendations suggesting environmentally friendly alternatives, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Certain options are expensive and hard to maintain, especially as a university student. 

That’s why I’ve shortlisted simple, effective, and inexpensive sustainable switches you can make, while also noting alternatives I do not recommend due to their cost or severe impact on people’s lifestyles. 

Beeswax wraps act as an alternative to cling film, foil, and parchment. They can initially be expensive but last for years. They’re washable and reusable. If you have the time you can make your own by using a cotton material, beeswax, and baking paper, which can be a cheaper option. 

Using jam jars and old glass mason jars to store food can be a brilliant alternative to recycling them. These often stack up in kitchens, and although recycling them is beneficial for the planet, it still involves pollutants through transportation to the plant and the actual recycling process. Jars can also be decorated and used to hold pencils or makeup brushes, saving money and the environment. 

Switching to a reusable shopping bag is very cheap and very easy. Supermarkets sell them at every checkout but you can also use fabric or cotton bags that last for years.

Instead of buying fruit and vegetables in plastic bags or packaging you could buy them loose or at a market. Every supermarket offers the option to purchase loose produce and it greatly reduces any excess plastic waste. 

Reusable makeup wipes are expensive but long term they could save you money, especially if you use them every day. Most options are entirely biodegradable and machine washable, so they can last for a long time. Ecovibe sells a pack for £9.99 which lasts 100 washes and is 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton. 

Two billion razors are estimated to be thrown away each year, creating an unimaginable amount of plastic waste in landfills. Switching to razors in which you can swap the blade and keep the handle is simple. Razors with handles made from bamboo or are plastic-free last for years and produce waste only through the blades. Subscriptions such as Harry’s cost an initial £3.95 and then only £1.75 every time you need a new blade. 

A simple way to help reduce waste is to bring your own reusable flask. Most coffee shops accept them, with a few offering discounts on drinks if you bring one. By providing your own reusable flask it helps reduce waste excessively: one single-use coffee cup can take over 30 years to decompose, clogging up landfills. 

Experimenting with vegan and vegetarian dishes to reduce meat consumption is highly beneficial for the environment. The meat industry was discovered to produce 15-24% of current greenhouse gases due to deforestation required for animal grazing and the processes used in underdeveloped countries to make the animals live longer. Plant based dishes can also be cheaper, BBC Good Food has a list of inexpensive vegetarian meals as does student eats. 

Bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable and bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants. They produce less unnecessary waste than a normal plastic toothbrush, which will stay in a landfill site for decades. Yet, these toothbrushes are expensive and many are sold with Nylon 6 bristles, which aren’t biodegradable. So if you wish to purchase this toothbrush, checking the recycling instructions are essential, as they are not environmentally friendly if you need to remove the bristles before recycling them. The effectiveness of this toothbrush on your teeth is equal to a plastic toothbrush, however thorough research is needed before purchasing, and the cost does mean that it is unaffordable to many. 

Shampoo bars such as those sold in Lush are extremely beneficial for the environment. With the UK throwing away 520 million bottles a year, switching to a packageless alternative would benefit the planet. However, as students these bars are very expensive, with most being sold for £8 each. The bars do smell amazing and last a while, but the cost for many is not worth switching. 

Bamboo reusable cutlery is far better for the environment than single use plastic cutlery. However, it is cheaper to just bring your own metal cutlery which can be used again and again for years. So do not waste money on sets like these. 

All these small changes can make a large contribution to the fight for an environmentally friendly planet, while not breaking the bank.