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How to Live More Sustainably as a Student at Queen’s

As Queen's works towards achieving Net Zero by 2040, Human Biology student Sarah gives some top tips on how to live sustainably as a student.

Two students walking on University Square

The buzz word right now is Sustainability. I would be lying if I claimed to be an expert in sustainability but recently, my eyes have been opened to the future of our world if our carbon footprint continues to increase at the current rate. I think it’s time as a student body on behalf of the University to stand up and act for the future.

Queen’s is committed to achieving Net Zero by 2040, which means reducing its carbon emissions as close to zero as possible. It’s time for us all to open our eyes and become educated in what’s going on around us and affecting us every day. Here are some tips for students to become more sustainable in their day-to-day lives.

Bike with Net Zero University printed on top

Queen's has committed to achieving net zero by 2040

Reduce, reuse, recycle

You’ve heard it before, but it can make a difference! Make a conscious effort to minimise waste by recycling and reusing items whenever possible. In my student accommodation, it is mandatory we divide the recycling up appropriately and ensure rubbish is disposed of correctly. Although it seems small and will only take a few extra minutes, this step can greatly help the environment, and it also avoids the problem of the dreaded argument about carrying out overflowing smelly bins!

Four wheelie bins

Try to separate your waste efficiently

Use eco-friendly transportation

Consider walking, biking, or using public transportation instead of driving to reduce your carbon footprint. A lot of students don’t know this, but the university has an excellent Bike Hub, in which staff and equally students can buy refurbished bikes, lease bikes and it also offers a range of bike servicing options. For £84 you can get a new bike for the academic year and hand it back to the Bike Hub at the end of Semester 2. What a bargain!

Belfast Bikes are now available at Elms BT9!

Queen’s also provides a range of secure cycling parking facilities across campus. For many students, public transport is so much more cost effective than driving, while considering the environment. A tip I have is to get a Translink yLink card for transportation within Northern Ireland, it will save you money, and you will be more enticed to take the bus to town instead of booking that Uber!

Conserve energy

I know this is an obvious one, but sometimes we forget how easy it is to leave switches on. Turn off lights and unplug electronics when you're not using them, cut down on doing small clothes washes and team up with your housemates to cook dinner at the same time. Also, I know this may be difficult in student accommodation or when renting, but try to use energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs. They will save you money on your dreaded electricity bills in return!

Light bulbs

Turn off lights and unplug electricals when not in use

Try to eat more sustainably

For many students, when they think of eating sustainably, they think of spending money on food that could be bought cheaper in chain supermarkets. This, however, is not always the case. Last semester, I cut down on eating meat, for health reasons mainly, but also for the environment.

Salad bowl

Try out some veggie alternatives!

Within a few weeks, I noticed myself saving a few pounds every week, as I was making veggie alternatives most weeks for dinner. Beans such as chickpeas and kidney beans are cheap, nutritious and taste great in a chilli instead of beef, all while reducing your carbon footprint!

Get involved!

Join environmental clubs or organisations on campus to learn more about sustainability or become a member of the Handy Helpers volunteers, which have projects such as Litter Pick Ups or Community Gardening. These are great initiatives to get out and meet new people, as well as giving back to Queen’s and the environment.

Handy Helpers logo

I have recently joined Queen’s Climate Action Group to educate myself about what is going on and what we can do in the University to help mitigate climate change. Small things like this will help you to meet like-minded people, even if you don’t know much about sustainability, you can come along and begin to. Once your eyes are opened, they won’t be closed!

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Sarah Geraghty

Human Biology | Undergraduate Student | Galway, Ireland

My name is Sarah Geraghty! I am a second year Human Biology student from Galway. I'm 21 and I feel like I have a lot to offer in the line of advice because I realise that a lot of people have a hard time settling in and making friends in university and that the expectations of “university life” don't always meet reality for many students.

I am in the Biomedical Science society, and I really enjoy it. 

Sarah Gerarty