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Going to university comes with a lot of responsibilities. Went to class? Check. Cleaned your room? Check. Hit the gym? Check. Kept up your eco-friendly habits? Che… Wait, how do I fit that into my agenda?

The truth is, it can be tricky to stay eco-conscious as a student – living in a small space with limited finances, whilst feeling under pressure to get work done can make you feel unmotivated to keep up your green habits. Regardless of how good your intentions are, with too many things on your plate, environmentalism simply becomes another factor complicating your daily choices.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to feel this way! Making eco-conscious decisions – whether it’s regarding your daily habits or your diet – can benefit you as much as it helps the planet. The following seven eco hacks are fun and practical, and ultimately help you improve your life. Cost-effective and easy-to-follow, these tips are perfect for any students who want to better themselves whilst also helping the environment. 

© KLTV

Street markets are your best friend
When it comes to food, we all know that it’s better to buy organic, locally-sourced produce than it is to get the big supermarket stuff. One look at the prices at your nearest biological shop, however, can scare you (and your student budget) away from the idea of ethical food shopping forever. Nevertheless, while biological stores are the ones that get the most rep with regards to ethical food sourcing, they are not your only (or even primary!) source for organic food. Street markets allow local farmers and vendors to sell their produce directly to customers for a cheaper price, since none of the money has to go to a middleman (i.e. a supermarket). The result? It’s better for the environment (less transportation involved), more ethical towards the producers (they get to keep the whole price you pay), and cheaper for you. That’s what they call a win-win-win scenario!

There are many fantastic markets in Amsterdam that are worth you paying them a visit. Some of our favorites include:

  • Dappermarkt (East)
  • Albert Cuyp Markt (De Pijp)
  • Lindenmarkt (Jordaan)
  • Ten Kate Markt (West)

Opt for reusable bags, cups and cutlery
A classic piece of advice you hear with regards to zero-waste living, this one has some surprising benefits for you. Besides avoiding the use of a whole lot of unnecessary plastic, bringing your own reusables can also save you money – you no longer have to pay for a plastic bag every time you shop at the supermarket, and many big chains (like Starbucks) give you a discount for bringing in your own reusable cup.

Choose plant-based alternatives
One of the issues I have encountered since living on my own as a student has been finishing up all of the food I buy before it expires. Gone are the days of my family fridge, where any item was consumed within a day and another one came to replace it. Now that I have to eat everything that I get on my own, it often takes me a week to drink a carton of milk or finish a bucket of yoghurt. The solution I found? Plant-based alternatives. Not only do they have a lighter carbon footprint than conventional animal-derived products, but they also last longer. That way, I have enough time to finish my food without worrying it might expire (or having to eat the same thing for every meal!).

Lower the heating when you go to bed and turn it back up when you wake up
Dutch winters can be frosty, and no one likes to be cold. However, lowering your heating when you go to bed can have considerable benefits for the environment, your wallet and your health, and the residual heat (and your blanket) will likely be enough to keep you toasty until the morning. By using less electricity to keep your room warm at night, you will lessen your carbon footprint and decrease your electricity bill. In addition to that, you will likely experience better sleep, since studies show that the human body rests best at slightly lower temperatures (somewhere between 18 and 21C).

© LDNFashion

Thrift shops are a fashion goldmine
We all know that fast fashion comes at a high cost, both ethically and environmentally. Luckily, thrift stores are there to provide an alternative that is not only cheaper, but also incredibly fun. Going thrift shopping makes for the perfect Saturday afternoon with a friend, and can truly feel like a treasure hunt. Besides, with all the second-hand stores popping up around Amsterdam, there really is something out there for everyone, regardless of whether you’re after last season’s finds or are searching for authentic 90s apparel.

Some of our favorite second-hand spots in Amsterdam are:

  • IJHallen (a monthly flea market held in Amsterdam North)
  • Kringloopwinkel De Lokatie (East)
  • Leger des Hells 50/50 Budgetstore (East)

Volunteer
The most valuable thing you can dedicate to a cause are your time and your energy, and volunteering allows you to do just that. Next time you have a minute to spare, consider spending the afternoon helping a local environmental initiative. The possibilities are endless – from picking up garbage at a nearby park, to helping cook for a food waste organization (wink!) to making banners and striking against climate change. Regardless of what you choose, your time will be well spent – not only will you help the environment, but you will also (according to research) experience a powerful mood-boost from knowing you’re supporting a good cause. In addition to that, volunteering can help you develop practical skills and build up a resume that will later be useful to you after you graduate.

Being eco-friendly doesn’t have to be difficult – in fact, it can often make your life easier! Even as a busy university student, you can make better, more eco-conscious choices that help the planet – all you need is some creativity, a bit of enthusiasm and a willingness to start.

Photo: Satapat/Shutterstock

Photo: Satapat/Shutterstock

One of the most important keys to reduce your food waste is to know how to treat them in a way so that they will stay good the longest. There are many, many tricks to do so, but here’s a few that I have found the most useful:

  1. Treat your veggies like flowers!

Noticed that leafy greens go bad really soon after you bought them? There is actually a really easy way to prolong their lives; Instead of just having them lay around, put them in a vase as if it were a nice bouquet of flowers! It’s time to treat them with some more respect, because even though they might not look as pretty as most flowers, they are just as worthy of your love and care. (Note: this also works for many other vegetables such as leek, spring onions, asparagus, artichoke and many many more. The rule of thumb is basically: Does it look like it can suck up water? If yes, then put in a vase.)

  1. Don’t keep bread in a plastic bag!

The only valid reason to ever throw out bread, is when it has become moldy. So how do we prevent this? Simply not putting it in a plastic bag, but in a tin box, paper bag, or kitchen towel instead. This way, you can store it much much longer and when it gets old, it will only get really dry, but never moldy! If you’re curious about what to do with dry bread, have a look at our Bread Recipes; There’s plenty of options! (Note: You can also keep your slices of bread in the freezer and they will never get old.)

  1. Take out the rotten ones!

Do not let your good pieces hang out with the bad ones: They will turn them bad as well! In order to prevent this, just make sure to remove the rotten pieces on time (if they’re not too bad, you can simply put them in the blender to make some juice, sauce or, if frozen, ice cream).

  1. Separate your veggies from your fruits!

Like cats and dogs, most of them don’t go well together. Most fruits contain enzymes that speed up the ripening process, so you’ll want your bananas and apples (etc.) to stay away from the vegetables. Simply storing them in different cabinets or different drawers in the fridge will do.

  1. Keep your potatoes with your apples, but away from unions!

This trick is an exception to the previous rule. Apples will in fact decrease the potatoes tendency to sprout, whereas unions actually speed up the process.

  1. Put your overripe bananas in the freezer for ice cream!

If, for example, they look very brown and you don’t feel like a smoothie at that very moment, or you are about to leave for a small holiday trip and won’t be able to finish them, just store the bananas in your freezer. You can take them out anytime later, peel and cut them, and after blending them a bit, you’ll have perfect banana ice cream! No need to add sweetener, considering the fact that the bananas were overripe and therefore very rich of taste. Just one last thing: They will turn even browner once they freeze, but this means nothing. It’s just the peal changing color, but the inside stays all the same.

Go save some Fruit & Veggies!