The Iglu Guide | Blog

7 Sustainable study habits: Going paperless and beyond

When thousands of students descend upon a university town or city, the impact on the local community can be huge. And if those same students each decide to make more environmentally friendly choices, the benefits would be equally as huge. But when you’re trying to balance out academic study, social activities and a whole new student environment, it can be really hard to find the energy to think about saving the world. However, establishing more sustainable study habits is actually a lot easier than you might think. And it’s not just about avoiding the printer. Here’s how 7 small changes can make a really big difference – and get you top marks on a truly global scale.

1. Take it digital

This is a complete no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the number of students that still insist on printing out reams of information before discarding it all into the trash. Since the pandemic, universities have been leading the way with online learning experiences and the provision of virtual resources. Today, students are encouraged to ditch the physical textbooks and embrace this environmentally friendly opportunity. Not only does it reduce paper usage and wastage, it also provides access to a greater wealth of study materials. Download the electronic versions of your books and enjoy an improved capacity for annotation and note-sharing, or think about utilising the college online library. There are many useful apps available to students that will help keep your work both organised and accessible – further reducing paper usage and importantly reducing your digital clutter. And it’s much more energy-efficient to use digital communication as a way to connect with tutors, students and university staff alike as it reduces the need for any printed memos or letters.

2. Collaborate in the cloud

Online collaboration tools such as Google Docs, Microsoft Teams and Trello are your new climate-loving friends. Not only are they easy to use, efficient and offer real time capability, they really help preserve the planet. Firstly, you don’t have to travel anywhere for meetings which saves bucket loads on carbon emissions as well as precious personal time. And secondly, it’s all completely paperless – so that’s even more trees saved to freshen the air we all breathe. Less use, less waste, more fresh air – it doesn’t get any better!

3. Search sustainably

Whilst the digital world definitely helps us behave more sustainably, it does carry its own environmental price tag. The cloud might sound like a dreamy place to store all our digital information, but this data actually takes an enormous amount of energy to store. Consider the combined carbon footprint of all our gadgets, internet searches and data storage, and you might think twice about binge watching that latest Netflix show – especially when you realise that digital technology generates as many carbon emissions as the aviation industry. And that’s where the internet browser Ecosia can really help. Global problems aren’t solved in a day, but Ecosia helps us feel like we are actually making a difference by planting a new tree with every internet search we make. An incredible 200 million trees have been planted since launch. Switch your default browser over to Ecosia and know that you’re studying sustainably without breaking a sweat, or even leaving the room. And don’t forget to keep your inbox crystal clear of junk and spam – this helps reduces pressure on the global server.

4. Know what you’re buying

As an environmentally-considerate consumer, the first rule of shopping is to stop and think. Is there anything you can reuse, recycle or upcycle instead? If you absolutely need to make that purchase, try and support sustainable brands where the product can be recycled after use as an absolute minimum. Avoid any plastic products and look for bamboo instead. As well as being a material that easily breaks down, bamboo is highly renewable as it grows super-quickly and is self-generating. Another way we can all help is to try and shop locally. These types of businesses tend to generate less waste than the big corporates and can adapt easily to market changes. And by heading out to the local shops, you’re also helping to support local jobs and the welfare of the wider community – bonus!

5. Conserve energy

It’s easy to feel the chill when you’re sitting still studying at your desk, but try to avoid pumping up the heating. Instead, reach for some extra layers and have a blanket to hand to keep you warm when needed. The best way to warm up in the winter months is to get the blood circulating, so plan in regular breaks as part of your regular study routine and you won’t need to go anywhere near the heating dial. In summer, window shades are your greatest line of defence against the heat. Rather than cranking up the air conditioning, pull the blinds down early in the morning to keep the sun out. This basic method is highly effective and stops your room heating up uncomfortably across the day. 

6. Travel sustainably

Unfortunately, cars, trains and buses all cause air pollution and are big contributors to carbon emissions. When you need to get into uni, cycling or walking are some of the most sustainable travel methods available and are also a great way to keep you fit and healthy. Some students will be lucky enough to live in student accommodation close to campus, and can benefit from walking to college every day. Alternatively, check out the cycle route network in your area. If you do have to take public transport, make sure you utilise the e-ticket function to save on paper.

7. Contribute to your community

Many students choose to volunteer while at university, as it has many proven benefits both personally and academically. It is also good for the environment! Think beach clean ups, habitat restoration and tree planting, right through to community projects and urban initiatives. You can be part of a movement that improves the local environs such as initiating community gardens, alleviating flooding infrastructure or improving urban air quality. Investing time in improving the local community is a key pillar of sustainability and something that all students are able to get involved in. It also speaks incredibly well to prospective employers and demonstrates thinking that extends well beyond the immediate self. 

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