“I do try to prioritise sustainability every day and also I’d want to live with people that share the same views as me and are willing to try their best to abide to the general ways that help the environment” Cerys Davage, Second Year Drama student at Aberystwyth University.
Is sustainability the way forward for students? Research from Student.com concludes that students are prioritizing sustainability when house-hunting and are becoming far more eco-friendly.
The largest student accommodation marketplace in the UK conducted a poll of over 1,000 students between the 30th May and the 7th June 2021. The results showed, pretty clearly, what students are putting the most value on when looking for their next accommodation.
51% of the students that participated wanted to live somewhere that prioritises sustainability and environmental issues. These ranged from using renewable energy such as solar energy and prioritizing recycling.
A further third of students would be willing to pay more for their housing if it has these eco-friendly features. One in ten participants also stated the importance of living with others who shared their views.
Far more students, and Gen Z in general, are valuing mindfulness and are becoming more eco-conscious in their day-to-day lives with 43% of students reported making everyday decisions with environmental concerns in mind.
Dan Baker, manager of Student.com, commented, “it’s fantastic to see that passionate students are prioritising being more environmentally conscious and are looking to make a real impact….this can be seen in the demand for sustainable living features as they look to balance their education with personal passion points”.
So I set out to speak to students to see whether this new rise in sustainability is in fact true among students and whether Gen Z can be the ones to finally change the way we treat the planet and the environment.
Ellie, a student from UCL, tries her best to be sustainable, claiming, “I definitely make small choices to do with recycling and buying second hand clothes etc”. However, Ellie does have her reservations, stating “As a student, it can be too expensive and inconvenient. I want to be able to pay for these things (sustainable features in student housing) in the future but I’m not in any position to right now. I think there’s only so much we can do as individuals as well, as I think a lot of the major choices lie with local authorities, the government and corporations”. (Ellie Jeffery, second year Social Sciences student at University College London).
“I prioritise sustainability when I can”, says Lewis, “I use public transport often instead of cars”. But affordability comes first for Lewis before sustainable features in housing as well, stating “It should be the job of the landlords and big corporations to make the conscious effort to make uni accommodation more sustainable and eco-friendly”. (Lewis Vinnicombe, first year Psychology student at the University of Surrey).
Many students want to value sustainable decisions but often find it difficult, expensive and believe it is mostly down to landlords and accommodation companies to provide students with the sustainable features they desire and need.
Alicia understands that location can cause difficulties in prioritising sustainable living, commenting, “I would love to have sustainable features in my accommodation but London is already a really expensive city and sometimes I have to prioritise finding a good and affordable place over these features so paying more is not always possible. Perhaps if I lived elsewhere where prices were less, maybe I would be willing to pay a bit more. Despite this, Alicia does her best to make sustainable and eco-friendly decisions in her day-to-day life, emphasising, “one of the things I do is I barely throw clothes away and I don’t buy them that much. When I do buy clothes, I use them for a very long time. I don’t really change out my clothes that often. I also don’t take the car much and mainly bike to places”. (Alicia Cuber Caballero, third year Natural Sciences student at University College London)
Cerys also claims “I make sure I sort out my rubbish to the right places and if I see a McDonald’s cup littered on the floor I’d pick it up and put it in the nearest bin. I also ensure that I try my best to save water and electricity when living in student housing”. (Cerys Davage, second year Drama student at Aberystwyth University).
Students wanting to recycle more will find it a little easier now with the Co-op introducing recycling units for soft plastics at 1,500 stores across the UK.
Non states “Depending on the situation, I choose the most sustainable option if there’s more than one option. Generally I live with people I have common interests with”. (Non Scott, second year Law student at the University of Birmingham).
Carys, a student from Reading University, also tries her best to remain sustainable day to day but feels she can do more, admitting, “I should look at maybe buying more sustainable clothes as I do buy from places like Shein and Primark even though I know their clothes are often made unethically”. However, she does generally like to live with others who value eco-friendly choices, claiming, “It drove me insane when people didn’t recycle in my house last year!”. (Carys Jones, second year Business Management student at the University of Reading).
London student, Tara, believes the city has made it easier for her to remain sustainable in her day to day life, explaining, “Living in central London for the past two years has definitely made it easier as most things are within walking distance and there are plenty of markets and shops that practice sustainability. I certainly think that if I was able to find a more sustainable living space, I would love it. I would be willing to pay more for these features as I know in the long run it would probably work out cheaper”. (Tara Azaden, second year Natural Sciences student at University College London).
Perhaps there needs to be more sustainable options available for students in their housing arrangements – some students may feel as if they want to make more sustainable and eco-friendly decisions but they’re unable to do so due to lack of options. This research by Student.com will not only raise awareness but will help students understand how they can practise sustainability in their everyday lives. This is good news for students and great news for the planet!