BY Freya Cormack

It’s hard to ignore the environmental crisis we are currently experiencing.

As university students, who are often young, we are likely to be the ones inheriting this burden and may witness the more severe impacts of climate change within our lifetimes.

Naturally, you might want to know what you can do to help beyond using your Keep Cup ™ and writing notes electronically. Here are seven ways you can actually help the environment as a student:

1.     Vote for parties and candidates that prioritise the environment

It may sound obvious, but Australia’s political parties each have wildly different approaches to tackling (or not) climate and environmental issues. Look to parties that think long-term and aren’t short-sighted with their policies. For example, we know that coal is a finite resource that has disastrous impacts on the environment and will runout soon. Politicians and parties need to adapt and shift towards renewables and investment into sustainable technology innovation.

2.     Put pressure on your local MPs and council

Make it known to your local representatives that environmental protection and action is important to their constituents. You should be able to email, send letters or even call your MP’s office.

3.     Have some tough conversations with friends and family

Don’t be afraid to respectfully call out friends or family members for actions that may be harming the environment. Whether it's littering, wasting water (e.g. hosing down concrete regularly) or straight up denying the climate crisis, you should try to educate them without being patronising.

It’s also great to involve your friends and family in your environmentalism. Have a friend who is always using disposable plastic water bottles? Buy them a reusable one for their next birthday. Get them to come to protests and contact their MPs too.

4.     Buy less unnecessary stuff

Reducing your consumption of unnecessary items is key in reducing waste and reducing demand for unsustainable goods. The fashion industry is especially bad and with the ultra-cheap prices for trendy clothes, it can be tempting to buy more than you need. Reassess your needs and make use of what you already have before buying more. This goes for eco-friendly goods too! It’s not very sustainable to toss your plastic food containers in favour for eco-friendly metal or bamboo ones.

Many students already do this to save money, but buying your textbooks second-hand Is a great way to reduce waste. Check out Student VIP for more info.

5. Look into your bank and super fund’s ethics

Unfortunately, many banks and superannuation funds use your money to invest in the fossil fuel industry which has a direct negative impact on the environment. Do some research and make the switch to the many ethical options that are now available.

6. On campus action

UNSW currently invest in fossil fuels, but have said that they intend to divest by 2025 at the latest. This is great news, but it’s not fast enough. Every moment UNSW continues to support the fossil fuel industry, more environmental damage is caused.

UNSW’s Environmental Collective are a group of students who believe collective climate change action starts on campus. This is a great place to start putting pressure on UNSW to improve their sustainability.

Remember that surface-level sustainability, such as solar panels and water refill stations, isn’t helpful as long as UNSW continues to invest in the fossil fuel industry.

7.     Reduce your meat consumption

People don’t like to hear it, but the animal agriculture industry (aka the meat, dairy, egg and seafood industry) is one of the worst offenders when it comes to environmental degradation. Even having one meat-free day per week makes a positive environmental difference and can expand your culinary creativity at the same time.

Being more environmentally friendly isn’t always easy, but the planet definitely thanks you. You don’t need to necessarily strive for a zero-waste lifestyle or eco-friendly perfection in order to make a difference. But there’s strength in numbers, so don’t forget to get your friends and family involved in your journey towards a more sustainable future.

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