The ‘little things’ we do: sustainability as a student

We all know the importance of taking care of our planet, but that can be difficult, especially as a student. Shopping sustainably can be expensive, and with busy schedules among many other worries, recycling properly isn’t always the top priority. I talked to Lottie Gravelsons, Environment Chair for Durham University Student Volunteering and Outreach (DUSVO), to get her top tips on student sustainability. Looking out for the environment “is difficult on a student time and budget, but it is really important,” Lottie told me, going on to say that “it’s the little things” that can make a big difference.


So, what are the ‘little things’ we can do to be sustainable as students?


Clothes Shopping

Lottie’s first recommendation for sustainable clothes shopping was local charity shops. They’re much cheaper than vintage stores and are good for both the environment and for charitable endeavours. Lottie particularly recommended going to Newcastle if you have a little extra time and money, as the city boasts a great range of charity stores with an even bigger variety of clothing. Don’t worry if that’s not an option, though – there are plenty of charity shops in Durham, such as the British Heart Foundation shop on North Road, or the St. Cuthbert’s Hospice store on Claypath. There are also ways to shop second-hand online, with apps like Vinted promoting affordable pre-loved clothing, and increasing numbers of sustainable fashion initiatives using platforms such as Instagram to share their work.


Food Shopping

It’s not just clothes that you can buy sustainably: food shopping can be made eco-friendly too! Lottie has given us the low-down on two sustainable spots in Durham:

  • Scoop (The Riverwalk) – one of a few shops around the country that are part of this student-led zero-waste initiative, Scoop sells a range of items such as oats, herbs, pasta and other foodstuffs. You can take your own containers and fill them up with items of your choice. With a buy-what-you-need attitude and prices per 100g, Scoop shows us that being more sustainable doesn’t have to be costly. Their website says, “We’re committed to ensuring that shopping plastic-free can come at no extra cost and be accessible to everyone. We are strictly non-profit and so any money we do make is put straight back into the shop or donated to a choice of charities selected by you at checkout.”
  • Grape Tree (Silver Street) – another prime sustainable shopping spot in Durham city centre, Grape Tree have a “commitment to sustainability and traceability” and sells foods that are “natural, organic, free from, vegan and vegetarian”. They sell these products in big bags, reducing waste from excess packaging and encouraging less frequent shopping. They even have the approval of TV’s Dr Ranj!


Student Activities

There are also some environment-orientated activities you can do in your own time, right here in Durham! DUSVO offer a variety of opportunities with different projects, such as gardening, litter picks, the Hedgehog Friendly initiative, and the Environment Club, which educates primary school students on sustainability. (For more information on these, see the Durham University Volunteering Sharepoint or DUSVO’s Instagram account, @duvolunteering). Lottie also recommended the ECO DU newsletters, which are not related to DUSVO but link to university policies on sustainability and environment (@eco_durham on Instagram).



Lottie’s final piece of advice was to buy recyclable packaging where possible. Durham County Council seem keen to make recycling as easy as possible, even providing a reuse and recycling guide to tell you exactly what can be recycled and where. Choosing to clean an item to put in the recycling instead of in the bin only takes a couple of extra minutes and is really helpful as and when you can!


These are just a few of the ways in which you can contribute to a greener and more sustainable Durham. While having sustainable practices isn’t always the easiest or most convenient option, every small effort we can make promotes a happier and healthier planet!


Many thanks to Lottie Gravelsons for taking the time to talk to me about student sustainability.


Featured image by Akil Mazumder via Pexels



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