Sustainability Hacks: How to be a Digitally Sustainable Student

1 December 2020

Student sustainability blog contributor Helen gives us her 5 top tips on how to be a digitally sustainable student.

Female student sat on a chair

As students, taking on the problem of mass consumption and environmental damage can seem daunting. However, technology is one of our biggest assets and there are many things we can do, starting from our computers at home. Here are my five top tips on how to become a digitally sustainable student:

1. Buying electronics

Undoubtedly a laptop is a vital piece of equipment for any student, but with e-waste on the rise (with ‘planned obsolescence’ of products driving over-consumption) let’s look at the alternatives. Consider the prospect of upgrading your machine with a new hard drive or more memory. Buying second-hand or refurbished electronics is next best. If you want to buy new, look for a TCO-certified product.

2. Sustainable search engines

It may not be the first thing you think of, but by switching to search engines such as Ecosia, even your internet browsing can be greener. They pride themselves on being carbon neutral, 100% transparent, and they use their profits to plant trees as opposed to sponsoring unethical business or selling our data. Taking the moral high-ground has never been so easy.

3. Alternatives to tech 

It seems that now we use our laptop for everything; working, socialising, entertainment and relaxing. To save on the vast quantities of energy it takes to keep our electronics running, consider turning off either your phone or laptop. Compartmentalise your time and your commitments: phone for social media, laptop for study, and maybe even both off for your down-time, opting for reading instead.

4. Standby? 

Switch off your laptops and other electronic equipment when not in use, and certainly at night. This goes for all forms of electronics such as TVs and surprisingly even coffee machines. Not only does leaving a phone or computer on damage your battery, but energy is wasted to keep the machine running. If you’re really keen to know how much energy you use, install a smart meter to track your usage. (If clean energy is your thing, consider switching to a greener energy provider such as Bulb or Octopus for 100% renewable energy!) If you are using your laptop for calls, blur your background to save bandwidth and energy.

5. Online shopping

Simply ask yourself, do you really need it? Only buy what you need and try not to ‘boredom browse’. This can be difficult; try GetColdTurkey.com if you need a little help to block distractions and shopping websites.

Last revised: 7 September 2021.

Helen Visscher, UCL Sustainability blog contributor