How to Live an Eco-Student Life in the Green Capital of the UK

Econono

Student Sustainability Blog

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Whether you’re new to the city or you’ve been here for years, Bristol’s sustainability scene is sure to inspire you to become more eco. Named as the first Green Capital of Europe in 2015, Bristol is full of independent and sustainable businesses, as well as environmental organisations that give the city its strong eco-heartbeat. 

Econono-student has compiled our top tips for how to travel, where to shop and eat, and how to participate in the green Bristol city scene, all in one easy guide.

How to Travel

Cycling

Cycling is a quick, cheap, and safe way to get around the city. If you don’t have a bike, there are lots of second-hand bike shops around Bristol where you can get your hands on one – and upcycle in the process. The Bristol Bike Project sells fully refurbished second-hand bikes for as little as £150. They’re on a mission to reduce the number of bikes going to landfill, and any profits made are reinvested in community projects, like their Earn-A-Bike programme, to get disadvantaged people cycling too. 

Bristol may be renowned for its hills, but that won’t stop us from getting on our bikes. Bristol was named the UK’s first Cycling City in 2008, and its cycle-friendly status was one reason for gaining the title of Europe’s Green Capital. There are cycle routes on almost all major roads and over 300 cycle parking spaces in the city, plus plenty of places around the university to lock up your bike.

Cycling is also a great way to stay fit and active - keeping you healthy, as well as the planet. But, if your thighs can’t quite hack pedalling up those hills, walk up them instead! Every 10km walked saves 1kg of CO2 emissions from equivalent car use.

If you want to try out the cycling life first before you commit to a purchase, Better By Bike runs a loan bike scheme for anyone living, working, or studying in Bristol. This local council-run service also offers a great route planning tool to get familiar with the cycling paths in the city – whether you’re looking for the quickest route or the most picturesque!

The University of Bristol organises regular Cycle Clinics and bike security sessions where all students can get their bike repaired and security checked for free, making cycling an even cheaper mode of transport. Find out when they are and about other cycling-related events at the uni here.

Where to Shop

There are lots of zero waste shops around Bristol which can help you to cut down on your plastic use, both for food and for home goods. Bring reusable containers to buy non-perishable foods and cleaning products in bulk, keeping costs down in the process. Most also sell eco-friendly toiletries and cosmetics, so they really are a great one-stop sustainable shop. 

University of Bristol students should check out The Hungry Caterpillar – a student-led food co-operative providing students with a variety of local, organic or fairtrade goods at affordable prices. They also offer kitchen staples and toiletries, which members can buy at bulk price with no mark-up. Membership is free for the year through the SU. 

Where to Eat

If you’re not one for cooking, there are so many sustainable places to eat out or take-out in Bristol. While we might be limited to takeaways during lockdown, look for places that use compostable packaging or allow you to bring your own reusable containers to cut down your plastic waste.

 We also love Local Traveller’s list of Bristol’s top restaurants dedicated to practising sustainable principles. If you’re out and about and in a rush, pop into a Friska café dotted around the city; all of their unsold food goes to local homeless shelters and their on-site waste is either recycled, composted or incinerated – zero waste goes to landfill.

Get Involved

Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol

If you’re looking to get more involved in sustainability initiatives, you are definitely in the right city. You might have already been to an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest on College Green or seen the famous pink boat in the city centre; it’s no surprise that our Green Capital has one of the strongest arms of XR in the UK. Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol, an autonomous wing of XR Bristol specifically for those under the age of 30, is a great entry point to meet like-minded people passionate about social and environmental justice. Tag along to one of their meetings to see what they’re about and how you could get involved.

Volunteering Opportunities

If you’re not quite ready to jump straight into activism, why not try your hand at volunteering for an environmental organisation? City To Sea is a Bristol-born but internationally-recognised organisation campaigning to stop plastic pollution. They recruit volunteers to help with their people-powered, community-serving campaigns, and are currently actively diversifying their team, recognising that ‘protecting the planet is everyone’s work’.

Bristol Environmental Activists Together (BEAT)

Keep up with many of the environmental organisation groups in Bristol through the BEAT community group on Facebook. This loose affiliation of some 40 local groups is a great, non-committal starting point to find info, events, and action to kick-start your eco-activism in Bristol.

Community Gardening

Roots

For the more green-fingered, why not join one of the various community gardening groups in our green city? Roots is a group of students and community members committed to making Bristol a wilder, greener place. They run regular workshops and action days in gardens around Bristol where they plant flower beds, sow seeds and help to conserve green spaces. Keep up to date with them on Facebook. You could also join Incredible Edible Bristol. With over 40 gardens in parks, street corners and train stations, they’re reclaiming food production in the city, turning urban spaces into places where fruit and vegetables are freely available.

Incredible Edible Bristol

With over 40 gardens in parks, street corners and train stations, Incredible Edible Bristol is reclaiming food production in the city, turning urban spaces into places where fruit and vegetables are freely available.

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