Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

In April I wrote about the impact of environmental degradation on the basic wellbeing of much of the global population and why students have a particular responsibility to act against it. 

To follow up on such a strong claim, here are four student-specific lifestyle changes which benefit the environment.  

1. Buy textbooks second hand — if you have to buy them at all

In the age of eBooks, university libraries carry digital versions of most relevant textbooks. That said, many students prefer hand-copies which they can physically annotate. The downside to this is that each year, textbooks are mass produced for students, used for a semester, then cast aside, often barely used (something I can personally attest to). Fortunately, most textbooks do not put out new editions every year and second-hand ones can be procured from bookshops, older students, and online. Not only does this reduce the number of books produced (and energy used to produce them), but reduced costs are friendlier on a student budget.  

2. Ditch Uber — take the bus

Many universities are in cities, which usually have frequent and comprehensive bus services. Nonetheless, students often use ubers because they are viewed as a convenient way to get from A to B quickly and cheaply. However, not only do ubers give us higher carbon footprints than buses due to their higher person-to-fuel ratio, but the sheer volume of their usage contributes to inner-city congestion which in turn adds to the carbon-usage of all other vehicles on the road. Furthermore, this increased congestion slows down the time that it takes to travel anywhere. While it could be responded that this increased demand serves to drive down costs which is better for student budgets, the vast majority of ubers remain more expensive than buses. For example, in Edinburgh a £1.70 bus ticket will take you anywhere in the city, whereas on a rainy Friday night in my first year I paid £9 for a three-minute uber ride.  

Not only are buses better for the environment, but by forgoing uber you will likely save money and, if others do the same, time. 

3. Recycle your crisp packets

As my mother frequently reminds me, our generation consumes far more crisps and popcorn than is strictly healthy. Whether or not this is true, our dietary habits need not be so bad for the environment. This is because crisp packets are recyclable!  

Although crisp packets cannot yet be recycled by local councils, there is a national scheme in the UK run by Walkers. All you need to do is rinse out used crisp packets and drop them off at your nearest collection point.  

Some universities, such as Edinburgh, even have their own collection points on campus. 

4. Buy better — it will last longer

When something breaks it is easy to hop online and order an identical replacement to arrive the next day. However, such an action is usually unnecessary. Old socks can be darned, holey shirts can be sewn, torn books can be sellotaped, and tool kit DIY can work wonders on faulty appliances.  

In our desire for perfection, we can forget that things do not need to be perfect to work. 

A ‘make do and mend’ attitude is not only more financially sustainable, but it can teach us useful life skills such as needlework, and competency in design and technology. Although such capabilities may seem needless in our current consumer society, growing support and awareness of environmental degradation means that such frivolous production may not always be socially acceptable. David Attenborough certainly thinks that it will not be.

These four lifestyle changes alone will solve the current environmental crisis. They are merely a series of small, student-specific actions which can accumulate to big consequences. We only have one planet, and the time to save it is now. 

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis


  • Rebecca Joyce

    Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large from University of Edinburgh

    Rebecca is a fourth year student of Philosophy and Politics at the University of Edinburgh. Her academic interests lie in the role of ideologies in practical politics, and the treatment of religion in political discourse. Her favourite mindfulness practice is taking walks in nature, which she does as often as she can.