Student guide to waste and sustainable living

Welcome to Cumbria

Cumbria is a beautiful county with lots to see and do, whether you`re at home, on campus or out and about we hope you enjoy your time here. But there`s also lots you can do to help the environment and take action on climate change while you`re here. If you are a student in Cumbria, then there are a number of waste and recycling services available and plenty of advice on how to reduce waste too. Read on below to find out how you can live more sustainably during your time in Cumbria, do your bit for the environment and keep a little extra money in your pocket.


If you are a student living in a rented house or flat you will likely have various containers for recycling various materials. These will vary depending on which district you live in, maybe recycling boxes or bags or a combination of the two. Just fill them with your recycling and pop them out at the kerbside on the correct day for collection - how convenient is that!

Your local Council will also provide recycling sites around the district, often at the local supermarket (you can combine your shopping with recycling and kill two birds at once!).

For information on facilities available where you live, please use the search facility on our website www.recycleforcumbria/recycling/wheredoyoulive.asp

If you are a student living in halls of residence you will have shared waste and recycling containers inside or maybe outside in the grounds. Check the labels on the bins to find out what you can recycle or speak to your facilities management team.

Our A-Z of recycling tells you what to do with anything:

General Waste

You will usually have a wheeled bin or refuse sacks for rubbish that can`t be recycled.

For information regarding general refuse collections please visit your relevant council website

Recycling sites

You can also use the communal recycling sites or `points` to recycle items that cannot be recycled from your house or hall of residence.

To find your nearest recycling site visit

Household waste recycling centres

If you have access to transport you can take larger items that are unusable or broken to your local Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC).

To find your nearest HWRC use the search facility at:

Free water refill - Tap water is safe, cheap and delicious! Using a refillable water bottle to replace shop-bought bottles of water is an easy win and can save you £££ per year - you may be able to pick these up free of charge at Freshers Week, in your local leisure centre, at exhibitions etc. Download the Refill app. from Google Play or the App Store to find out where you can fill up your water bottle for free and find more than 274,000 refill stations offering waste refills globally at Think of all of those plastic single use water bottles you`ll save by refilling instead. The app also contains details of public water fountains where you can fill up for free.

Plastic free shopping - If you`re a plastic free shopper - more and more plastic free shops are signing up to the App too, so line up your jars and head on down to your local for those plastic free store cupboard essentials. Don`t forget your reusable shopping bag (preferably not plastic).

Say no to single use lunches - Use the Refill app to find places you take your own lunchboxes to get your food to go.

Coffee on the move - The same applies to reusable coffee cups (waxed cups are non-recyclable) - there are some beautiful designs of reusable cups available made using earth-friendly materials like bamboo. Plus, some coffee shops will offer a discount to customers who bring their own cups. You can`t lose! Find places offering discounts and rewards for bringing your own cup on the Refill App.

If you want to set up a Refill scheme or support an existing one find out more information on the Refill website. There are active local refill groups in Ambleside, Keswick, Eden, Carlisle and Sedburgh

Be Organised - Try to make a weekly menu of the meals you plan to eat in the next week, so that you only need to buy what you need. If you`re not sure what to do with those leftovers, try the website - they have loads of fab recipes and great food waste saving tips.

Veggie meals can be cheaper and are more environmentally friendly. If you`re not ready to cut out meat completely, why not start with one meat free day a week to see how you get on?

Eating sustainably

Reducing meat and dairy in general is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. A brekkie sandwich of sausage, bacon and egg may be a delicious start to the day but it has the carbon equivalent of a 12 mile drive! Buy local produce to whip up tasty meals in your communal kitchen, then freeze or store your labelled leftovers in the fridge and use to make a unique and filling breakfast omelette/burrito. Any non-edible food peelings etc can be stored in a kitchen food caddy and composted.

Shopping and eating out

• Write a shopping list, take it with you and stick to it

• BOGOF`s (Buy One Get One Free offers) are great but only if you know you`re going to use them

• Use your fridge and your freezer to keep your food fresher for longer - fridges should be 5 degrees and freezers should be at minus 18 degrees

• Know your portion sizes - www.lovefood has an easy guide

• Know your dates - the `Use By` date is the safety mark and there to protect us. No food should be sold, redistributed, or eaten after the use by date as it may make you ill. A `Best Before` date is a quality guide and you can use your judgement as to whether it`s still good to eat. You can still eat things after a Best Before date, but they may have started to lose quality.

• Take a reusable cloth shopping bag - saves on ending up with a cupboard full of single use plastic carrier bags.

• If your local takeaway allows it, take your own Tupperware (reusable) container and bring your tasty tea away in that. The Refill app lists local places where you can take your own container for take-aways.

• Get a travel cutlery kit - most takeaway food comes with wooden cutlery these days but it still usually gets thrown away at the end of the day - be prepared and carry your own.

• And finally, make the most of food sharing apps like Olio and Too Good to Go where you can find unwanted food from local people or businesses for free or at a reduced price - a win-win for you and the person with too much.

Add a little greenery

Shop bought `fresh` herbs often go brown and sludgy if you don`t use them quickly. Why not try growing your own herbs? Repurpose some old food tins or yoghurt pots and plant a few seeds on your windowsill. Coriander for curry, basil for pasta - you could even try chives and garlic. A little bit of greenery to brighten things up and add flavour to your meals.

Be thrifty

If you`re happy to rummage for a bargain, thrift and charity shops are a vintage treasure trove and if you`re crafty, cheap clothing can be restructured into unique bespoke items that will make you stand out in the crowd. The same shops can decorate your bedroom and shared spaces and offer quality used kitchen crockery etc. Have a look at our Charity Shop and Reuse map of the county at reusemap.asp to find what is near to you.

Give your clothes a happy `mending`

Mend your clothes if you can. When you lose a button or a hole appears, it`s great if you can repair it yourself. There are some great easy to follow guides all over the internet. Some areas of Cumbria have Repair Cafes where you can turn up and an expert will be able to repair an item for you and show you how to do it yourself next time - all for free! Look out to see if you can find a Repair Café in your area.

Have a `Swish`

Why not have a clothes swap or `Swish` on campus? Ask if there`s a suitable place you could put out a clothing rail and get people to pop on clean clothes they no longer want and make them available for someone else to take. You could take it a step further and set up an area for swapping all kinds of items.

• Shop second-hand for good quality furniture if you can - Reuse is a great option and can make a huge difference to your budget. There are some great furniture reuse shops around Cumbria - check out this list of ones we know about www.

• Upcycle some old furniture gifted by your parents, family or friends, install it in your student accommodation and voila, wildly impressed housemates.

• When the time comes and you have graduated (congratulations), don`t forget you can donate all of your items back to the charity shops to benefit the next batch of students coming through behind you.

• Never buy new books if you can help it! Final year students will likely be selling textbooks at a fraction of the price, plus check out used bookshops close to your campus and online sellers.

• If you only need a book for a short while, check out a library to see if they have the book in stock or can order it for you.

• Keep these books in circulation by selling them on when you`re done!

• Set up a book swap shelf somewhere on campus as mentioned earlier.

Temperature tips

• When it`s chilly, put on an extra layer rather than turning up the thermostat

• Close the curtains when it starts to get dark - it`s amazing how much heat they keep in.

• If it goes the other way and gets too hot, turn the thermostat down rather than opening the window and letting all the heat out.

• Make your own draft excluders to keep your room/flat/student house toasty…..and relax.


• Turn off lights, TV`s, laptops and non-essential devices when you`re not using them. Chargers can be especially draining as they can still draw power even when on standby without your phone or laptop plugged in to them.

• Dry your clothes outside if it`s warm or even on a drying rack in front of the radiator. Tumble dryers (along with anything else that produces heat), can be expensive.

• When boiling a kettle for a hot drink, just boil the amount of water you need - again kettles use a lot of electricity.


• Showers usually consume less water than a bath, but it does depend how long you are in there for. Try and find a song to sing along to in the shower that`s about 3 minutes long if you really want to commit to saving energy (and therefor reduce your carbon footprint), and keep your shower to the length of the song. (Well, maybe two songs until you hone your technique!).

• Wash your clothes at 30 degrees or even in cold water if you can and always do a full load rather than lots of smaller loads.

• When you wash the dishes (you WILL run out of clean ones at some point), make sure you fill the sink rather than doing them under a running tap - it`ll save loads of water. (Especially useful if you are on a water meter).

• Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth - again this is not only wasting good clean water, but also the energy that is used in the process of making it clean to drink and getting it through the pipes to your home.

Environmentally Friendly Cleaning

Cleaning - yuk but it`s no good leaving it until the last day of term before you drag the hoover out to find that the mice have been having a feast behind the sofa (we know this can happen from first-hand family experience - but we`re nice and we`re not going to name and shame!).

Keep up to date with cleaning and try to use natural methods if you can - there are great natural alternatives to pre-prepared cleaning products in plastic bottles. Here are just a few things you can use with some ideas to use them for.


• Great for cleaning stainless steel, sinks and floors and they also make a great air freshener.

• In a spray bottle add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to 400 ml of water, 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda and half a teaspoon of washing up liquid to make an all-purpose cleaner.

Bicarbonate of soda

• Another great all-rounder.

• Leave a small pot in the fridge to absorb strong food smells.

• Mix with water to clean almost everywhere in your kitchen - worktops, sinks, microwaves, cooker hoods, utensils and even inside the oven and oven door glass.

• For extra greasy pots and pans, add a little bicarb to the wash up liquid for a little cleaning boost.

• Smelly trainers can be a thing of the past if you sprinkle a little bicarb inside them after your gym session - just remember to tap it out before you use them next time.


• Good for dissolving hardened on chewing gum

• Cleaning windows - 2 tablespoons white vinegar to one litre of warm water makes a great window cleaner. Polish with newspaper afterwards

• Furniture polish - equal parts of white vinegar to vegetable oil. Wipe on and buff off with a soft cloth

Cumbria is a big place and not always the easiest to get around - those gorgeous hills of ours can get in the way a little and can make public transport difficult to access.

If you can though, do use buses and trains when you can - it really does keep the environment cleaner as you are effectively sharing one vehicle with a lot of other people - therefore cutting down on your carbon footprint.

Walking or cycling is even better as it not only helps the planet, but it can keep you fit and healthy in body and mind. Perhaps you could borrow a bike if you don`t own one yourself?

If you have to go by car, see if someone else is going the same way and have a car share.

If you have a question about resources or recycling please call one of the following numbers
Cumberland Council: 0300 373 3730
Westmorland & Furness Council: 0300 373 3300
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