How to Eat Sustainably at University: 5 Simple Steps By Hannah Gravett

There are a multitude of liberties that come with moving away from home for university. Whilst limitless nights out, copious amounts of alcohol and a newfound love for spontaneity may more obviously be top of the list, there is also a forgotten hero of your freshers' freedom: the opportunity to eat whatever you want.

However, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. You are bound to be thrilled by the prospect of your very own Tesco Clubcard, catalogues of takeaway menus and a copy of the Nosh for Students cookbook, but it is far too easy to get carried away. In fact, you may not initially give much thought to the sustainability of your food.

Now, more than ever, we all need to be making individual sacrifices and changed habits in order to tackle the climate crisis. If we each begin to shift our focus towards how we may start to eat sustainably at university, we as a community here at Surrey can all do our bit.

Here are some tips and tricks to get started:

1. Avoid over-buying on food shops

It's all too easy to get over excited when you start buying your own food for the first time, but it's dangerous waters in terms of food waste (1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year in the UK).

Make a list before heading out to the big Tesco and stick to it in order to avoid spontaneous trolly-filling and map out the meals you'll have that week to plan what you'll need to buy. All this will help reduce your food waste and will also aid you in budgeting.

2. Batch make and freeze food

Making a giant portion of Spagbol every couple of weeks and bunging the rest in the freezer is a classic for a reason. It's quick and easy to do and will be a lifesaver on the days you really can't be bothered to cook but can't afford a takeaway. This may well stop you from scrolling through Deliveroo and likewise will avoid the endless unnecessary plastic that comes with ordering in.

Similarly, when freezing meals, aim to give disposable freezer bags a miss and instead opt for reusable Tupperware you can reach for over and over again. It's cheaper in the long run and more sustainable; the ideal combination.

3. Buy foods loose where possible

Annoyingly, pre-packaged fruit and veg can often be unavoidable, as well as (frustratingly) occasionally cheaper. However, in buying foods loose as much as possible, you can avoid plastic waste and in selecting the exact quantity of ingredients you need (as opposed to buying large bags) you will subsequently waste less food.

4. Eat less meat and dairy

Hold your horses! To each their own... if you love meat, don't deprive yourself for the sake of it. However, if you are up for a bit of a challenge, even just reducing the amount of meat and dairy you consume can mean being more sustainable with your meals, after all "Meat and dairy, particularly from cows, have an outsize impact, with livestock accounting for around 14.5 percent of the world's greenhouse gases each year", as reported in the New York Times. This trick is another money saver, as eating fewer animals can also be cheaper for your weekly shop.

5. Avoid meal deals and bring packed lunches

As alluringly convenient as Simply Fresh is, the accumulation of five days worth of meal deals is not really a thought worth stomaching. Perhaps this is insultingly obvious, but bringing pack lunches or leftovers with your own water bottle for in between lectures is a great way of reducing your food waste. It also saves money and skirts around the plastic waste that comes with a meal deal.

Ultimately, sustainability should always be one of our focuses in modern life. However, being able to make climate conscious choices is often, unfortunately, a privilege of class and wealth. If you're short on cash (especially at uni), such priorities may understandably fall short of the mark. As long as we try our best, what more can we ask?


Created with an image by Brooke Lark