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A Sustainable Challenge: The Results Are In

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Lifestyle editor, Megan Tarbuck, tried to live as sustainably as possible for one week as a student in York. Here’s her verdict on whether or not the sustainable lifestyle is viable on your student budget.

My first thoughts on this challenge, is the importance of planning and and preparation in your cooking and consumption. I felt if I had not planned my meals or lunches for the library I was more tempted to by food in single use plastic packaging. Another big part of the challenge is the absolute must for carrying your re-usable items. You never know when you might need a coffee or a snack and better to ask for it in your own tupperware rather than the polystyrene take-out trays or single use coffee cups provided at the library.

So referring back to the rules I set in my last article, I’ll explain how each part of the challenge went.

No Plastic (well as much as I can avoid) – the issue here is most certainly diet, I usually only spend an average of £18 a week on food so it’ll be interesting to see how this changes when buying without plastic.

The biggest shock initially was the food cost, at around £25-£29 for a food shop for the week I was slightly disappointed.  On reflection, produce not in plastic is seemingly bigger in size in my experience, and although I was skeptical about the quality the market produce lasted for as long as anything wrapped in plastic. There are some hacks worth knowing however, such as storing some vegetables sitting in jars of water to prolong their fridge life.

Shopping plastic free on the whole wasn’t that difficult. Bishopthorpe Road in York has an array of plastic free grocers and stores that sell products such as my new reusable loose fruit and veg bag to aid a plastic free shopping experience. Shops like Lidl sold nuts to put in your own container and of course the Bishy Weigh provided all manner of food to fill your own jars with, not too expensive either. There are also closer options such as York Scoop on campus which provides really cheap package free produce, keep up to date with them on instagram (@yorkscoop).


Bishopthorpe Road is a great spot for loose fruit and veg!

No waste – unfortunately inevitable, but any waste I end up with I shall collect to keep track of.

In the end, my waste was thrown away accidentally. The issue with waste was in the changes I haven’t made yet. For example, milk cartons, cheese packaging and tins are inevitable waste due to my diet choices. Despite this, it amazed me perhaps how easy it was be to limit the amount of waste I produced. For example, by carrying around a tupperware I was able to prevent waste at places like Greggs, the library and campus food outlets- and they really don’t mind. Another way to reduce waste was to bake any treats or junk food, which I found was the most likely to be in packaging you couldn’t avoid. This is also a way to save money, though it did require a little extra time!


Take a packed lunch to avoid overpriced pre-packaged sandwiches!

Travel – I have a bike, so an easy swap from the car. However to save money on membership, a gym trip requires a car… or more importantly a car share!

Travel was potentially the easiest rule to follow, with the cycle lanes in York and the 66 bus it’s not difficult to get around campus and into town. I ended up not using my car hardly at all, which meant no petrol and I almost enjoyed cycling to campus in the mornings.

Pescatarian – My diet still includes meat and fish, but for this week I will not be eating meat and will limit the amount of fish I consume.

Really I was almost eating a 100% vegetarian diet in the week. Bar one tin of tuna, the rest of my meals featured no meat at all. I think this swap was a lot easier to achieve through some background research; I was always wary of deficiencies in my diet but I made the right swaps and incorporated lentils and other foods I wouldn’t usually eat. I felt like due to the size of produce I’d brought, the meals I cooked lasted around three servings worth so probably better value for money as I still have meals left almost two weeks on.


Buying fresh, loose produce meant my meals looked a lot greener than usual!

No new things – Although I’ve only planned a week’s experiment I thought it’d be interesting to have a look around York for ethical fashion options

York has a lot of charity and vintage shops so if you were looking for something new then you’re not forced to go and buy brand new fast fashion pieces. Whilst I tried not to buy anything I did purchase my loose veg bag and needed a waterproof.  After deliberating I decided the best course of action was to buy something slightly more high quality second hand. I settled on using Depop to purchase a ‘North Face’ waterproof for a fraction of the actual price. In second hand shopping it’s surprisingly easier to get bundle deals and I ended up receiving two second hand jackets for less than the price of a brand new one. Aside from this, it’s almost three weeks into the challenge and I’ve found there is no need to purchase anything unless I absolutely need it.


Buying second hand means you can get higher quality clothes at a fraction of the cost!

I think overall living a sustainable lifestyle is quite accessible to students living in York. It is all about planning and equipping yourself with the tools to prevent creating waste and minimising your impact. In York we are lucky that initiatives such as York Scoop have taken off and that the city provides affordable options to live a more sustainable life. All in all, any efforts you make towards sustainable living are better than nothing!

The Instagram will continue @thesustainablelifechallenge as I continue to test out contributors ideas on sustainable living throughout the summer. If you have any tips, let us know!

Fancy your own sustainable challenge? Use the rules Megan set before the challenge in her last article, or come up with your own guidelines! Let us know how you get on by tagging us on Instagram!

About the Author: Megan Tarbuck is a 2nd year Geography & Environment student and the lifestyle editor for WILD Mag.

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