Hi, my name is Charlotte and I am a second year Sociology with Criminology student at the University of York. In this blog post, I’m going to discuss how you can make your packing list for university as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. Let’s get started!
Reduce, then Reuse, then Recycle
When thinking about living sustainably it is important to think about the three ‘Rs’- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Whilst you are likely to be familiar with these already, you might not know the ordering of these words relates to the order of the most sustainable practices. For example, the most environmentally friendly action we can take is to reduce our consumption of products, followed by reusing things we already have and finally by recycling. If we reduce what we have in the first place, we will have fewer products we are trying to reuse and fewer products we have to recycle.
The latter is particularly important as only a tiny percentage of materials such as plastic are actually recycled by companies, with the majority ending up in landfills or being incinerated. Plastic incineration is particularly harmful to the planet as it releases climate-wrecking gases and toxic air pollution. As a result, it is important that we minimise our product consumption and reuse objects wherever possible.
Things to consider when compiling your packing list
Today I will be focusing on the first two ‘Rs’ (Reduce and Reuse) to help you compile a packing list of everything you will need to live independently at university.
Important factors to consider:
- Will you be sleeping in a single or double bed? Is this the same or different to the bed you have at home?
- Is your accommodation catered or self-catered?
- What mode of transport will you use to move your possessions to university?
Whilst you might not know the answers to these questions already, keep them in mind to ensure your packing best suits your situation and lifestyle. For example, a different size bed at university will of course warrant different sized sheets to the ones you sleep on at home. Although this may sound obvious, it is easily forgotten and could lead to a potentially awkward situation on your first night.
Similarly, will you be cooking for yourself or does the price of your accommodation include catered meals? This is another important consideration as it will inform the amount of kitchenware you will need.
Finally, how will you get your things there in the first place? If driving, is your car big enough to hold everything you want to pack? Consider this even more so if you will need to fly or take a train to reach your accommodation – you can only take what you can carry!
First of all, you do not need everything you think you do. Bear in mind that what you take to university is likely to remain in your accommodation for the rest of the year. I massively overestimated the number of things I would need in my first year and quickly ran out of storage space in my room to keep all of my possessions, the majority of which I didn’t even use! The process of moving in and eventually packing up would have been a lot easier for me if I had simply brought fewer things with me in the first place.
Think about what you might buy when you’re there
Secondly, you are likely to acquire a fair amount of items at university, whether that be fancy dress or posters and plants from on-campus pop-up shops during Freshers’ Week. With this in mind, consider the additional space these items are likely to take up and wait to purchase them once you have moved in, rather than taking up packing space. This will both save you time and space when packing but will also provide you with a fun activity amongst the renowned Freshers’ Week events. (Also, your plants can’t break or cause a mess in transit if you buy them once you’ve already moved!)
Consider what you already have
Thirdly, reduce the number of new products you buy by thinking about what you already have that you can take with you, i.e. how can you reuse what you already have? For example, fancy dress, photos to decorate your room. Does this fit in your intended packing space?
Ask friends and family for their unwanted items
Remember, the most environmentally friendly products are those you already own. If necessary, extend the meaning of ‘you’ to your friends and family by asking them if they have anything suitable that might be of use to you. I found that I lacked kitchenware in particular as I had always lived at home with my parents and had used theirs. Aware of this, members of my family offered up items they no longer used or had too many of, such as mismatched bowls and mugs. Although not my first choice, packing these items saved me money, kept these products in circulation and because they were old, it meant I wasn’t upset if they got broken or went missing in the communal kitchen.
In addition, do you know anyone who has moved recently and has a bunch of cardboard boxes sitting around? Use these to store your possessions. It will not only save you money but will prevent them from going to landfill or cluttering up someone else’s house.
Don’t forget charity shops
Similarly, why not check out your local charity shop? I found several good quality items that I could take to university all whilst supporting a good cause. You never know, they may also have boxes and bags from donations that they would be more than happy for you to use.
Thanks for reading this blog post today, I hope it will help you to make choices that are both good for you and good for our planet. Best of luck in your future endeavours and have a great time at uni!
Read more student stories about settling into uni
Find out more about sustainability at York