Female University of Portsmouth student in front of wall painted with green leaves

Being sustainable at uni

Read our helpful advice on how to be a little greener while you're studying

If you want to do more to help the environment while you're at uni, consider living sustainably. The way you live as a student can help the planet and save you money.

Use our guide to discover how to reduce your waste, eat eco-friendly, clean your halls or shared house with natural products, shop locally and combat climate change.

Manage your food waste

When food is discarded and sent to landfills, harmful greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane are produced. Managing  your food waste reduces the chemicals released by rotting foods and the energy used to produce and package food you're not eating.

Female student with reusable coffee cup and vegetables in canvas bag

Eat sustainably

You're likely to spend a lot of time at uni cooking. When you shop sustainably you benefit the environment and aid animal welfare. Eating more vegetables, shopping locally and buying sustainable fish are a few things you can do.

Read the Sustainable Food Trust's guide for tips, and see our guide to shopping in the city for a list of local butchers, bakers and grocers.

Plan your meals

Planning your meals means you only buy the ingredients you need each week. If you know what vegetables you need for each dinner, for example, you're less likely to have waste veg at the end of the week.

If you do end up with extra food, Love Food Hate Waste has an archive of recipes for leftovers.

Food waste collection

In 2019, Portsmouth City Council began trialling a food waste collection service. Residents in chosen roads receive food waste caddies for their leftover food and these are collected weekly. In the first 2 weeks more than 22 tonnes of discarded food was collected.

You can find out more about the food waste trial including where it's taking place and what happens after the waste has been collected.


A great way to reduce your food waste is to put it in a compost bin. But this isn't easy when you're living in halls or a shared house without space for a compost bin. Instead, you can donate your food waste to others. Use ShareWaste to find people in the local area willing to share their compost bin.

Donate your food

There are many ways to donate unused food to those who need it.

The Trussell Trust gives emergency food and support to those in poverty. It's a nationwide charity and you can find your local foodbank on its website. The Trust uses the donated food to give 3 days' worth of nutritionally balanced food to local people who are referred to them. Portsmouth has 3 food donation points in the city.

FoodCycle Pompey is an organisation that collects unused food from local retailers. Every Tuesday the charity's volunteers use these food donations to cook a 3-course meal for people in need. If you find yourself with more canned food than you need, consider donating it to FoodCycle Pompey.

Other local Portsmouth charities collecting food donations include Helping Hands Portsmouth, Portsmouth Volunteers for the Homeless and The LifeHouse.

Get a reusable coffee cup and water bottle

Pack a reusable water bottle and coffee cup for uni. Most universities have water refill points and many cities encourage their cafes and bars to give tap water for free. Many cafes also offer discounts or double loyalty points if you bring in your reusable coffee cup.

Use our map of water refill points to top-up your water bottle for free at more than 50 campus locations.

Get a travel cutlery kit

Most takeaway food now comes with wooden cutlery instead of plastic. But you can reduce your waste even more when eating out by getting a travel cutlery kit.

A local Southsea business sells cutlery sets for just £5.99, for instance.

Travel sustainably

If you have a car, consider leaving it at home when you go to university. Most campuses are located on direct public transport routes and you might find you can walk to campus from your accommodation.

Instead of driving home to visit family and friends, consider using National Express or National Rail. You can get student coachcards and student railcards to reduce the cost of coach and rail travel. 

Close-up of bicycle wheel at historic dockyard, Portsmouth

Sustainable travel in Portsmouth

Walking around Portsmouth

Walking is a great way to travel sustainably and keep active. Our city campus makes walking to and from lectures easy. Our most southern halls, Rees Halls, are a 13-minute walk from University House in the centre of campus and a 20-minute walk from our most western property, Portland. You can walk from University House to Portsmouth and Southsea train station in just 8 minutes.

If you're taking a break from lectures, the beach is just a 15-minute walk from the Students' Union and the Library.

Cycling in Portsmouth

Cycling is a quick way to get around our city campus. Portsmouth has an increasing number of cycle lanes, especially along the seafront. We also have secure bike storage lockers and racks near all our main buildings.

Free university bus

Our free University bus loops around the city with 11 stops in the main residential districts. It's free with your student card so it saves you money and cuts emissions.

National Express

You can take a National Express bus from 4 locations in Portsmouth to destinations across the UK   another reason to use a car less and travel sustainably. The coach is often cheaper than the train and you can get a Young Person's Coachcard to save 1/3 off your ticket.


Reduce your general waste and consumption

One of the first steps towards being sustainable at uni is reducing your general waste  this includes plastic, chemicals and fabrics. 


Woman placing plastic bottle in recycling

Find out how to recycle

Where you recycle will depend on where you live. Some houses have their own recycle bin for clean plastics, cardboard, paper and metal packaging, such as drinks cans and food tins. Glass is often recycled in special green bins located in streets or at supermarkets.

Portsmouth City Council has more information on what you can recycle at home, when the collections are and the location of your nearest recycling point.

Give away your clothes

You might find your style changes a lot during your time at uni. Instead of throwing away clothes you grow out of, donate them to a local charity shop or textile bank.

There's no shortage of textile banks in Winston Churchill Avenue and Elm Grove where you can drop your old clothes off for a good cause on your way to Uni. Find out where your nearest textile bank is on the Portsmouth City Council website.

Keep your eye out for clothes swaps taking place in the Students' Union or the community. This is a great way to exchange one wardrobe for a new one while helping the environment and saving money.

Mend your clothes

If you have clothes that could be repaired instead of thrown away, find out how to fix them yourself. Learn to patch over holes and sew on new buttons. If you're feeling creative, you could learn a new skill at one of the many craft workshops in Portsmouth.

Sustainable toiletries and accessories

When you're packing for uni and stocking up your bathroom essentials, look for block shampoos and soaps rather than liquid soaps that come in plastic bottles. Treat yourself to new flannels or linen face towels, rather than disposable make-up wipes, and a sisal soap bag instead of a plastic soap puff.

If you're already in Portsmouth, check out our guide to local shops to find great sustainable products.

Environmentally-friendly cleaning

Eco-friendly cleaning products are a great way to use natural ingredients, reduce plastic bottles use and keep your bedroom smelling fresh. Keep a stock of vinegar, lemons, essential oils and baking soda and you'll be ready to clean your windows, wood furniture, dirty drains and bathrooms whenever they need it. 

Use your heating sparingly

Consider the environment and put your heating on a timer, rather than having it on all day. This prevents wasting heat when you're not in. Choose crucial times like first thing in the morning when you might need to take the chill off the air.

During the summer, you shouldn't need the heating on at all if your home is well insulated. Invest in some big jumpers and cosy woolly socks for cooler evenings.

How we’re tackling plastics pollution and sustainability

Find out more about the work we're doing in Revolution Plastics.

Stock image of vintage clothes in charity shop

Shop secondhand

Buying secondhand is a great way to live sustainably at uni. Every year students change accommodation and donate their furniture and clothes to charity shops. You'll also find secondhand items for sale online through Facebook marketplace or Gumtree. 

Pre-loved clothes

Buying secondhand means less energy is used to create new products and fewer clothes end up in landfills. It's a budget way to dress individually and add to your wardrobe based on what you love, rather than what's on sale in shops at the time.

If you're looking for secondhand fashion in Portsmouth, Palmerston Road in Southsea and London Road in North End have many charity shops perfect for clothes shopping.

Used furniture

Shopping for secondhand furniture is more enjoyable than buying an item straight off the shelf. You could find antique bedside tables or a unique up-cycled chair. Personalise your bedroom by decorating it with one-off pieces found in charity shops. Debra in Elm Grove is a great example of a secondhand furniture shop in Portsmouth.

When shopping for secondhand furniture, remember to measure your space to make sure it will fit. Also, check the condition carefully before you buy. Used furniture may be cheaper than buying new, but often you can't return the item, especially when buying via online sites such as Gumtree and eBay. 

Want to know more? Visit our Sustainability and the Environment research theme page >

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