So, we love that you’re here because we will help you with your mission to lead a zero waste student life. It can even be beneficial for your wallet. Here are our top 12 tips on how to avoid waste!
1. Reuseable cups for your coffee
Quickly stopping at a bakery in the morning to get a freshly brewed coffee on the way to university – does that sound familiar to you? Many students start their day like that. Nevertheless, enjoying coffee on the go has a big impact on the amount of waste we produce. The Eco Counselling, financed by the Vienna Environmental Protection Department, has summarized the consequences of estimated 800,000 disposable coffee cups per day in Austria. Around 4,500 trees, 160 million liters of water and the annual electricity consumption of more than 9,000 Austrian households are used for disposable cups (only in Austria!).
On average, the to-go cup is only used for about 15 minutes before it ends up in the trash. Due to the plastic coating on the inside, it cannot be recycled. An incredible amount of resources goes to waste for a very short usage – time to change something about that!
Simply bring your own mug with you. At some cafes, you can also buy reusable cups. Deposit systems for reusable cups, such as myCoffeeCup, are also increasing in popularity. By bringing your own cup you can fully enjoy your beverage without feeling guilty for producing unnecessary waste!
2. Your all time companion: shopping bags
Are you one of those people who always stop at the supermarket on their way home? Some purchases come unexpectedly and therefore you probably don’t always have a big bag with you. You can change that easily by using cloth bags, fruit nets or small bags for shopping that you can easily roll up and put in your backpack. Should your purchase turn out to be bigger than expected, you can still buy a paper bag that you can also use for several times. If your supermarket is right around the corner, you can also make a short detour home. Especially in big cities, there is a supermarket on almost every corner and it only takes a few minutes to quickly get a bag, a shopping trolley or even a shopping basket.
4. Buy unpackaged vegetables
Consistently avoid packaged vegetables. Not only tomatoes, cucumbers and broccoli are often wrapped in plastic in supermarkets, but the vegetable counter is usually full of plastic packaging. Bringing you own fruit nets helps to avoid using disposable bags. Ready-to-eat meals and already cut salads in plastic bowls seem very practical at first, especially for a healthy lunch break, but they produce a disproportionate amount of waste. If you buy the ingredients individually, you are not only doing something to avoid waste, but you can also enjoy freshly cut vegetables on your plate. It is even easier at your local farmers’ market: Here you can find fresh, regional vegetables and can usually go completely zero waste.
5. Try a veggie box
Seasonal vegetable boxes are usually free of packaging, as they are delivered in reusable boxes to a location of your choice. The empty box will be exchanged for a full one with fresh vegetables from your area. This strengthens regional farmers and avoids long transport routes. If a whole box is too much for you, ask your roommates, neighbors or colleagues if someone would like to share one with you. Maybe you can get several people excited about the “zero waste” movement. At Bio-Austria you will find organic kisterl suppliers all over Austria.
7. Shopping in Zero Waste Stores
Would you like to go a step further and buy food completely without packaging? In most big cities, you can already find packaging-free shops, often called “unpackaged shops”. Not only can you get rice, pasta and other freely fillable foods for your reusable storage containers, the supply is constantly expanding and sometimes also includes non-food items such as cleaning agents, other everyday items, toothpaste, skin and hair care.
9. The answer to everything: baking soda
In the past, baking soda was the staple in everybody’s household. Somehow, we forgot about the versatility of the white powder over time. Instead, kitchen and bathroom cabinets are filled with various plastic bottles. However, baking soda is so versatily. It helps with minor ailments in the kitchen, bathroom and with your clothes. You can even make toilet tabs, deodorant and bath bombs with baking soda. Smarticular has collected over 250 uses for soda in the book “Das Natron Handbuch”. You can find some of the great uses of baking soda directly at Smarticular.
10. Zero Waste in smaller towns
Even if the number of unpackaged shops continues to grow, small cities often do not offer the possibility of zero waste shopping. When shopping, make sure that you buy larger portions, but not too large so that you have to throw away half of them, especially groceries! Washing machine powder, for example, is easy to store, which is why you can get the big pack here without a doubt.
You can also become a member of so-called FoodCoops. In these food cooperation’s, individuals and households come together to buy local products in bulk. Here you can find a list of FoodCoop providers throughout Austria.
11. Make a worm box
The leftovers of vegetables and fruits are full of nutrients – it would be a shame to throw them away. Most students do not have the option of composting. However, a worm box, which is basically a compost stool suitable for every apartment, fits in every flat and in every student apartment, doesn’t stink and the worms are probably the most straightforward roommates imaginable. The vermicomposting obtained is also an excellent fertilizer for your indoor plants.
12. Zero Waste Fashion
Mending your own socks: That used to be standard. Nowadays you throw them away and simply buy new ones. However, we do not even wait until the item of clothing is worn out. We buy something, wear it briefly and throw it away. There is even a term for it: fast fashion. The lifespan of clothing has reduced immensely.
Cotton production, the dyeing of clothes and the transport of clothing are major climate killers. When shopping, becoming more aware of the production chain that is behind every T-shirt. This is the first step in order to avoid waste here as well. By the way, you can give old clothes with major defects a second chance by, for example, using it as a cleaning cloth.
Nevertheless, many people have little treasures slumbering in their closets that are no longer worn. One possible solution: just hold an event to swap clothes with friends and acquaintances. It’s going to be a fun activity that will also enrich your closet.
The zero waste movement has already established itself among students. You reading this blog is proof of that. To walk and live more consciously and in harmony with the environment is a very meaningful and future-oriented thing. However, to be completely waste-free is initially a very ambitious, perhaps unrealistic goal. Give yourself a little time. The first steps are the most difficult because we have to change our habits. Ideally, you start with small changes in order to grow into the task and take new steps on a regular basis. Just set yourself new goals every month.
We at STUWO wish you a lot of fun with a zero waste life.