Plastic Free July on a Student Budget

29 July 2021

Blog post

By Maha Fier,

Plastic Free July has long been a favourite month of mine. In high school it was the time where my mum and I would take extra trips in our suburbs to Binn Inn and think of a new way on how we could become more plastic free within our household with the amenities that were available to us. It was so satisfying weighing our jars and filling them up with the most amazing mango strips and chocolate. I would walk out of there always feeling good about myself, like I had actually done something revolutionary.

Things are a bit different now. I live in the heart of Auckland CBD, studying at the University. I live by myself and do my own groceries. I don’t have a car, so I rely on public transport, and my two legs to get me places. Most importantly, I’m on a budget and usually buy the cheapest foods a person can find. 

The issue is that all the foods I buy come wrapped in plastic!

A student living in the CBD has their singular go to for groceries, and that’s Countdown. The best thing about Countdown is that they do delivery at a convenient time for you, meaning you don’t need to lug six bags of groceries yourself up that horrid hill. Although the guilt is ridden in me when I see the plastic that my chicken and falafel comes wrapped in, I’ve started living by the ethos ‘just do what you can.’

This year, Plastic Free July seemed like a heavily daunting task. The cheap groceries I bought were the key source of my plastic intake and I was unsure of the solutions around me. The CBD in itself contains no Binn Inn of any kind for a zero waste junkie to rely on. 

The University also doesn’t seem to contain many resources on how to become a more eco-friendly student. I remember talking to someone on how cool it would be if the University could set up some form of package-free shop for stationary and groceries where you could buy in bulk. I’m sure it would be a hit considering there’s not many options out there. 

I thought to myself this July that there was no way I could take part in Plastic Free July this year. It seemed virtually impossible for any student living in the CBD and I was yet to find a student in the same situation as me who had some plausible answers. 

However, something I had to take note of this year is that participating in Plastic Free July and giving yourself this label that you are partaking in this movement, doesn’t mean you have to do it perfectly. Doing what you can in whatever situation you’re in, is just how everyone should do it. 

Even small changes in your student life can make a difference. You’re buying a coke? Choose the aluminium can instead of the plastic bottle at the dairy. You’re sending something through NZ post? Choose the cardboard box instead of that plastic postage bag. There are a lot of ways I can reduce plastic within my lifestyle beyond just my groceries because unfortunately, plastic is everywhere. 

And, you don’t have to beat yourself up for choosing the cheapest, convenient option for groceries in your position as a student. We may have no car or no money or even no time because we’re stressing about getting a degree that is apparently going to shape our lives. And that’s okay.

I was still curious though. Surely there was some package-free grocery business out there that could deliver to my accommodation, even though there was inherently nothing I could see in the CBD. 

After asking around, last week I was introduced to the business ‘Good For’. Good For has several locations within Auckland, and luckily one is in the suburb over from where I am, meaning delivery isn’t an obstacle. Good For offers a range of food products at a reasonable price, where groceries are packed in home-compostable packaging when it’s being delivered to you. How cool is that? It only took me the majority of the year to find this out. I’m so glad I did. 

Plastic Free July does offer the student a chance to question and wonder just how much more eco-friendly can I be with the situation I’m in. Not every student is going to have access to a package free business that can deliver to their door-step (and more Auckland students need to know about ‘Good For’).

We may not be the Lauren Singer we want to be, but we don’t have to be Lauren Singer to deem ourselves as wanting to live a better eco-lifestyle. Even the small changes can make a difference.