Plastic-Free Student: Preparing for a Plastic-Free Semester

Preparing to start your year at University can be stressful, even if it isn’t your first. With the end of summer quickly approaching and the new semester on the horizon, I’ve begun my back-to-Uni shop. However, this year I’m hoping to continue reducing my plastic consumption and I have gathered together a few ways I am hoping I can achieve this!



Stationery is an essential, and something I find so oddly satisfying to buy, but I have noticed the amount of plastic everything is made from or wrapped in!



This year I’m avoiding the Pukka ‘project books’ with their handy (but plastic) dividers to separate my module notes. Alternatively, I’ll be using either standard ring binder notepads, or refill pads. The pages can then be torn out and each module can be arranged in a folder at home, using paper dividers.

The notepads I will be using are FSC ‘Mix’ certified, meaning the paper is sourced from FSC certified forests, controlled wood, and reclaimed timber. If possible buy your paper FSC ‘Recycled’ as it means the paper is only from reclaimed timber. Click here to read more about FSC certifications.



To make all those important notes throughout the year we are going to need pens, but when I reached the pen section I was a bit stumped. They were all made from plastic and wrapped in even more!

This got me thinking about what else was out there. You can buy pens from recycled plastic, I have seen some available from BIC, Stabilo, and Pilot. However, you can also get wooden pens, recycled paper pens, and metal pens. There are also fountain pens that can be refilled, rather than having to buy a whole new pen. However, I have not yet been able to find one which doesn’t have plastic in some form – usually the ink cartridge. So, to be assured that your writing is completely plastic free, use a pencil!

Of course, both of these can be completely avoided by making notes on your laptop!

Photo by  Aaron Burden  

Photo by Aaron Burden 


Food & drink

For many people, going to University is the first time you have to be completely independent and that includes feeding yourself!


Bring your own bag

Pop to your local farmers market or fresh food aisle in your supermarket. Not only will it help you stay healthy, but also will allow you to avoid so much plastic wrapping! Remember to take your own reusable bags to avoid waste (and to save a few pennies too).


Food prep

Try to avoid the temptation of microwave meals by preparing food in advance. If you make a double portion at dinner time you can put the leftovers in the freezer for one of those evenings where you just don’t have the time or energy to cook.


Pack lunch

Another way to save a few quid every day is to pack your own lunch. Before you head off to Uni buy some Tupperware or metal tiffin boxes in a few different sizes, smaller ones can be used for your lunch, while bigger ones can be used to store leftovers.


Reusable drinks containers

Take a reusable bottle wherever you go and soon it will feel odd not to have one with you! Most Universities’ have water stations scattered around campus, and I’ve found most food and drink outlets are happy to fill your bottle with tap water if you ask nicely. If you’re more of a coffee/tea drinker (or you’re just struggling to stay awake in that 9am) then pack a thermos flask. Even the mid-range flasks keep your drinks hot for over an hour, so you don’t need to spend too much to get good quality. Plus, it will pay for itself eventually as you can often save money when you use your flask when buying hot drinks from most major coffee shops.

Photo by  Daiga Ellaby  

Photo by Daiga Ellaby 


For your bedroom

One of the best bits about moving away from home, is having a new room to decorate! It’s important that you feel at home in your room as University can get stressful sometimes, but here are some tips so you don’t have to stress about your plastic consumption.


Photo frames

I love to decorate my room with photos of my friends and family. However, lots of frames are just made from plastic, so have a search and try to find some wooden or glass ones.



It might be easy to buy fake plants as you don’t need to worry about watering them and they stay looking fresh all year, but try and grow your own! There are plenty of plants that survive well with low water conditions (so it won’t matter if you forget about them for a while), so have a search online to find some you like or just ask at your local garden centre. Not only with this save using plastic, but it will also keep your bedroom air fresh and also it has been suggested that plants boost your mood!



Talking of mood, if you want to ‘set the mood’ in your room you may want some low lighting compared to the usual harsh lighting in Uni rooms. Many people opt for a few strings of fairy lights, but these strings are often plastic. I have seen some metal string lights available or alternatively you could just switch your light bulb for a remote controlled lightbulb. These allow you to change both the colour and the brightness of your light and can be quite fun. Another way to create ambience is with candles. Choose natural Beeswax candles over paraffin as they burn longer and cleaner, producing less soot.

Photo by  Mike Marquez  

Photo by Mike Marquez 

I hope some of these ideas are something you could incorporate into your Uni life, and if you have any ideas of your own let us know in the comments!