A guide to being a sustainable student: Part 1

As the discussions on climate change, carbon footprints and plastic waste get more relevant and turn into serious issues with every passing day, it is very important for all of us to try to become more eco-friendly. 
Plastic waste

I am firm believer that the S in Chalmers, and Sweden, stands for sustainability. It is loudly talked about, practiced in little but meaningful ways, and widely referred to in the daily conversations. Students are encouraged to pick the more sustainable option and generally lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Now, this can be a little daunting at first, especially when the whole system seems to push you towards sustainability and into adapting new methods and alternatives to become more…well sustainable, especially when you haven’t thought about it as deeply before. But fear not, for there are many small, simple ways in which you can contribute to the ecosystem without causing any major disruptions to your lifestyle. 

So without further ado, here are the few tips and tricks I have picked up during the last 6 months in Sweden that help me watch my carbon footprint and create an environmentally friendly lifestyle!

recycling bottles to get coupons as a reward1. Recycle, recycle, recycle. Sweden is big on recycling everything that they can possibly reuse in some form. Bottles are the most common thing that you can recycle at almost all convenience store, and even earn little rewards which further encourage this habit.

Aside from that, most of the waste is further sorted into different categories and a recycle bin is commonly observed on the campus at any open seating area. We have made a short video , showing the importance of recycling and a fun way you can do it to earn rewards. Be sure to check it out when it releases, to learn more about it!

2. Watching the water use. We are all guilty of taking a little extra time under a hot shower on a particularly cold or exhausting day. Now, this is a perfectly acceptable way of de-stressing yourself but at the same time, being more conscious of your water usage will pay off big time in the near future. Running the faucet, a little longer than needed during our daily morning/night routine is something we can easily cut back.

Studies conducted by different agencies across the globe, strongly suggest that the global demand for water might exceed the supply by as much as 40% in the coming decade. There is still time to prevent that, and it starts with all of us taking small steps together.

food waste on a table, credit goes to Simon Peel on Unsplash3. Limiting the food waste. The global inequalities are probably the sharpest observed in this area. A staggering percentage of the global population does not have access to two full meals a day! Add in the environmental impacts of the wide scale agriculture and it quickly becomes obvious why wasting the food is a really bad idea.

Chalmers has a restaurant, called the waste restaurant, that endeavors to minimize this wastage. They cook their meals with ingredients that are on the verge of going bad or typically being thrown away from the stores. Being conscious about the ingredients and where they are sourced from, along with taking care to not waste anything on your plate is another small step you as a student can take to become more eco-friendly.

Sorting the daily waste4. Reducing the daily waste. We regularly consume a lot of things that are fit for one time use only. This can be your morning coffee which comes in a cup with a lid, that you dump as soon as you’re done inhaling the bean juice, or the surgical mask that you wear in crowded areas or on a public transport. It can be the plastic lunch boxes you get at the student canteens, a set of plastic or wooden cutlery, or even the tissue papers that we don’t think twice about before grabbing. 

Simply switching to a reusable mug for all drinks and a personal set of cutlery reduces the listed waste by 50%. Add in a personal lunchbox and a handkerchief, and this goes to nearly 0. Making a habit of carrying the personal items is also a hygienic way to keep safe during the pandemic! It is undoubtedly the simplest thing yet one of the most effective things you can do for the environment.

Cycles parked in Chalmers5. Opting for a more environmental commute. Another great thing about Sweden is the availability and efficiency of its public transport. There are numerous trams and buses, often overlapping routes and stops to make seamless public transportation a reality for its residents. 

​​Choosing a public transport over a personal vehicle reduces both the carbon emissions, and the stress to park it at the correct spot. Win, win! A smaller way of further reducing the carbon footprint would be to use digital tickets instead of printouts. The Västtrafik app, used in Gothenburg and surrounding areas, works very well and is quite easy to navigate.

There are also a great number of bike lanes, which run parallel to the main roads, that you can use to break a sweat as you travel to your destination. Cycling is another popular option I have observed here as aside from being a great form of exercise, it also allows for more natural time and a chance to bask in the elusive Swedish sun!

At this point, I’m sure that you are somewhat aware of the impact your personal lifestyle has on the environment. Imagine multiplying it with the population of the globe! Now, think about what we can achieve if we all pitched in little ways to help control it.

As a student, each one of us has a responsibility of utilizing our education to figure out new ways of becoming more sustainable and eco-friendlier. I hope this piece was helpful to you in some ways and you are prepared to join the movement to combat the different challenges that surely lie ahead. 

All picture credits go to Unsplash and my friends :)
Picture of unibuddy and author, Smita


Page manager Published: Mon 14 Feb 2022.