By Kiana Stevens
One of the main issues I have encountered when working on shopping more sustainably as a student, is the problem of cost. Most well-known possibilities that avoid plastic and are more ethically sourced come with a price tag that most students can’t afford to maintain. Buying your peanut butter from Tesco for £5 a jar rather than 52p in order to avoid palm oil often is a difficult choice when you’re living off a student loan and a part-time job. However, despite how difficult it may seem to maintain a more sustainable lifestyle, in a city as wonderful as Cardiff it is much easier than you think! Cardiff is a growing city that holds contemporary opportunities whilst also remaining relatively eco-friendly and humble. This combination is a fantastic chance for students to decrease their carbon footprint without increasing their monthly expenses!
Your weekly food shop
The best place to start is with the obvious: groceries. With Lidl in the heart of Cathays and the monster Tesco by Talybont, it’s difficult to motivate yourself to try anything other than their plastic wrapped bananas and individually wrapped snack bars. However, the absolute easiest way to shop more locally and use less plastic is to head to Cardiff Market! The market is without a doubt the most underrated place in the city. With locally sourced fruit and veg available all throughout the year, it is such a simple and easy way to grab all the vitamins you could need without using any plastic or preservatives. I have often found the market’s fruits and vegetables last longer, are much fresher and taste better than anything wrapped in plastic. They have everything you could need, and even if you forget your reusable bag don’t worry, theirs are biodegradable! The bakery stall provides what can only be described as the best bread…since sliced bread. A large fresh crusty bloomer will cost you less than £1 and last you much longer than a loaf from Lidl’s bakery isle.
Due to the market being run by small businesses and their little use of packaging, the prices are surprisingly cheap. A week’s worth of groceries including a variation of fruits, vegetables, carbs and all your herbs and spices will come to under £10 if you plan your meals in advance. The market is a totally realistic place for a student budget, and is a fantastic way to support your local area, and overall live much more ethically when it comes to your weekly food shop.
Snacks and Meals out
The market is also a fantastic place to go for a snack or meal on the go. With a crazy cheap breakfast bar and an Italian pizzeria upstairs, you can easily sit down for a hearty lunch with zero guilt about where your food is coming from and who is gaining the profits. The locally sourced produce means these aren’t corporate business paying their staff minimum wage. These are local business being supported by your sustainable choices. However, it is impossible to mention local small businesses in the market without mentioning the wonderful and increasingly popular Clancy’s stall. In the centre of the market, Clancy’s provides vegan pies, sausage rolls (sorry Greggs), wraps and all the herbs, teas and spices imaginable. With less than a handful of staff they get to know their customers very quickly and are always happy to chat. Their food can be heated or taken cold and is perfect for a snack on the go or something to keep you going in the library later. Consistently delicious and with zero waste or meat, there is no better option.
Another wonderful way to save some pennies is to invest in a reusable coffee cup. Many cafes around Cardiff very much encourage the concept of bringing your own cup or mug for them to use, and will often give a discount to those that do. This includes places in town, Cathays and even the ASSL cafe on the bottom floor (the barista there is very keen on sustainable living so be sure to have a chat with him!) Not only will you save money on coffee, but you’ll reduce the use of non-reusable coffee cups too.
In my experience, one of the most unethical traps that people fall into is the temptation to online shop. With places such as Asos and PrettyLittleThing offering free deliveries and simple refunds, it is very easy to fall into the habit of buying new clothes online. Browsing through stores is slowly becoming less popular and as this continues, more and more packaging is being used unnecessarily to send a strappy halter neck crop top to Woodville road, wrapped in four layers of plastic. The easiest way to update a wardrobe is to take up a creative hobby and get recycling. Plain old jumpers and t-shirts you don’t wear anymore can be easily transformed with a needle and thread. Embroidery is hugely popular at the moment and is such a brilliant way to use some cheap thread and a needle from your mum’s quality street tin to transform your old jumper into something completely unique and hand-designed. Skills like this can be learnt from YouTube tutorials and are simple once you get the hang of it. It is so much cheaper and more sustainable to buy some thread and get creative than to order yet another t-shirt online just because it’s got free delivery. Make something unique and be proud of your resourceful thinking!
The (non-essential) essentials
Finally, there is no better way to save money and the planet than to head on over to the recently opened ‘ripple’ store on Albany Road. As a huge supporter and regular customer at Ripple I cannot recommend this enough. A completely zero waste store, ripple encourages customers to bring their own non-plastic reusable containers and fill up on whatever you need. From rice to shampoo and a nut butter machine, this place has everything you would usually struggle to find without plastic. It is so ridiculously cheap that you’ll do a double glance at the check-out. They also stock fantastic gift ideas and treats for yourself, including handmade earrings, gorgeous recycled backpacks and more. For ladies, the essentials such as reusable sanitary towels and menstrual cups (seriously research them they’re so amazing) are also available, providing you a long term solution to that additional £10 a month you spend on taxed tampons that end up in the ocean.
Overall, Cardiff is a fantastic place to get into a habit of doing your part for the environment. With streets of charity stores, locally sourced food sprouting up in every corner, and places like Ripple becoming more popular, it is definitely possible to live sustainably on any budget. Take advantage of the resources we have living in a capital city, use a NextBike to cycle to the bay rather than take the train, buy a plant to decorate your room rather than plastic bunting, or pop over to the market for a fresh warm welsh cake when you’re getting hangry rather than going to Starbucks. I guarantee you’ll find you have more food in the fridge, more money in your pocket and of course that little voice inside your head saying ‘you did it, well done!’