Meet your new study abroad routine: saving money and the planet. In this week's post, Kara gives 7 tips for us to do our part and be environmentally-friendly while abroad (or at home). From using reusable shopping bags to air-drying laundry, see how you can reduce your environmental impact and save some cash while studying abroad.
With growing awareness of social and environmental issues, many of us in our generation want to do our part in protecting the planet for future generations. However, eco-friendly alternatives are often more expensive than conventional products, making them difficult to afford on a college student budget. But saving the planet doesn’t have to cost more and can actually save you money and be good for your health. Keep reading for some simple ways to reduce your environmental impact and save some cash while studying abroad.
Heart Reef, one of Australia’s most beloved, yet fragile, natural wonders.
(Note: Though some of the following content is tailored to Sydney, all the tips can still be applied when studying abroad in other locations or back home.)
1. Bring Reusable Shopping Bags
A bag that’s cheap, cute, and REUSABLE.
A simple way to save money and reduce plastic waste is to bring reusable cloth or plastic bags when you go to the supermarket. At Aldi, Coles, and Woolworths, reusable plastic and cloth bags are for sale for 15 cents and $2 respectively. I admit that I wasn’t the greatest with remembering to bring bags when I first got to Sydney (even though I used them back home), but I was soon able to pick the habit back up. If you want to go the extra mile, try to use reusable bags for all of your shopping.
2. Drink Tap Water
Thanks, CAPA Sydney, for the free reusable water bottle!
Depending on where you are studying abroad, drinking tap water may or may not be viable due to availability and sanitation. In many developed countries, such as those in Europe and Australia, tap water is considered safe to drink and costs about 2000 times less than bottled water. When drinking tap water isn’t an option, try to purchase larger bottles or refill containers with clean water instead of smaller bottles. (Fact: globally, about 1 million plastic bottles are disposed per minute, and this number is increasing. Only 9% of this gets recycled and it is becoming more and more difficult to recycle plastic.)
3. Buy in Bulk
Like with bottled water, buying food in larger quantities rather than single-servings (e.g. a large container of yogurt instead of individual cups) generally saves money and reduces waste, assuming you are able to finish it by the expiration date.
4. Air-dry Your Clothes
In many countries outside of the United States, it is more common to air-dry clothes than to use a clothes dryer. In addition to using a lot of energy, drying machines are harsh on clothes making them wear-out faster. If the climate is too wet or there is no space outside, you can get a small foldable laundry rack for inside your apartment or homestay. At my Sydney accommodation, drying costs $4 per load, which makes a drying rack a very good investment.
5. Use Public Transportation
Sydney trains are fast, efficient, and reliable.
Many of us know that public transportation is much better for the environment than automobiles are, but end up driving or calling an Uber due to lack of good alternatives. Fortunately, most global cities have robust public transportation systems that have regular, timely services at least within the city center or central business district. In Sydney, I am able to easily access any place in the CBD and surrounding suburbs via bus, train, light rail, or ferry with my Opal card (which is fully paid for by CAPA). In addition, there are a number of hop-on/hop-off bus services in Australia, such as Premier Motor Service and Greyhound, that are good for traveling between nearby cities.
6. Shop for Secondhand Items
One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.
Buying items such as home-wares and clothing secondhand is another great way to save money and reduce the amount of stuff that gets produced and sent to landfills. (Fact: The average garment is now worn just 7 times before it is disposed of; it takes 2,700 liters of water along with fertilizer, pesticides, and dyes to make just one cotton t-shirt; and garment workers are often subject to poor or hazardous conditions) In Sydney, you can purchase used goods at a number of Vinnies and Salvos, along with many op-shops (a shop operated by charity) and vintage stores. Glebe Markets (open Saturday from 10AM to 4PM) is a fantastic place to find barely-used fashion steals.
7. Eat Less Meat
One last way to significantly reduce your living expenses and environmental footprint is to eat less meat and animal products. (Fact: In the US, growing feed for livestock accounts for about 50% of fresh water and 40% of land use.) If you are accustomed to consuming a lot of meat and animal products, you can start by doing Meatless Mondays, choosing poultry over beef, or substituting dairy with plant-based products (e.g. almond milk instead of dairy milk).
Kara Davis is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Sustainability major at Arizona State University, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
Kara's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.