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Much attention is given to living a green lifestyle, but if you’re a student with a limited budget, you’re most likely unable to buy green products for your dorm or apartment. We have some helpful tips for students who want to make small changes to lead a greener lifestyle.

Products: Quality over quantity

Kate Storey, EDA president of the Green Party of Canada and organic farmer sees that “we live in a consumer society and there’s so much pressure to buy, and the most effective way to reduce your ecological footprint, and also to watch your budget, is to just buy less stuff. So look for quality and try to buy things that are going to last.”

Storey suggests avoiding products made outside of North America, but she acknowledges that locally made products will naturally cost more. “[North American stores] can’t compete on the labour cost...but they’re competing on quality.” She suggests looking at where a product’s made, keeping where it’s made and of what materials. “It’s OK to go home and look it up and then go back and buy it later.”

Visit independently owned stores for your purchases, and even though you may be paying more for a product “you know that that store is in competition with the Wal-Marts of the world. So the only way they can compete is on quality and customer satisfaction.” Local stores will have done the research for you about greener products, but they are also willing to go above and beyond to keep your business.  

Food: Go fresh and local

When it comes to what students put in their bodies, Storey advises that the same ‘go local’ rule applies for food. “I really try to make sure that everything I buy comes from North America because I happen to know that food standards are better here. I also happen to know that they’re using pesticides and chemicals in the other countries...which have been banned here.”

Visiting a local farmers market is a great way to ensure that you’re buying food that has been grown within the country. You can easily spend $20 to provide yourself with food for a week. Farmers markets provide you with a variety of products, such as meat and fish, breads and baked goods, and local products like maple syrup. Almost all towns and cities in Canada have their own farmers market, so you’re bound to find one near your school. They also encourage you to buy produce that’s in-season. “If you eat in-season, you’re also eating more healthily because, for one thing, the food has more nutrients because it’s fresh,” Storey adds.

Of course, you may want to buy produce that’s out-of-season, so Storey advises to buy it fresh frozen, (meaning picked locally then frozen immediately), rather than buying it off the shelf because “if you buy green beans at the store, how long has it taken, in February, [for] that green bean to get to you? There aren’t a lot of nutrients left in that green bean.”

Many grocery stores also specify where their food comes from, so just read the labels before you buy apples from America versus Ontario. Alternatively, if you want to buy something that’s not necessarily produced in Canada, many independent stores also offer organic and fair-trade products.

Storey also believes that “we do need to start revaluing the labour it takes to cook a meal. Right now we’re buying a lot of prepared food in packages” because of tight schedules we have as students, but “if you’re on a budget, you can make a pizza—a very healthy pizza—for a fraction of what it takes to buy it prepared.” She’s not suggesting that you should make everything from scratch, “but if you figure out how to make something [like pizza] quickly and do it well, then you’re saving yourself a lot of money and you’re feeding yourself better, too.”

A greener life

The David Suzuki Foundation is a great resource for tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint within several aspects of your daily life. The website has pages of tips, including taking public transit to get around, unplugging electronic devices when not in use, turning your heater off when you’re not home, and even going for a walk rather than watching TV.

If you’re thinking of taking a trip during school, the David Suzuki Foundation offers information to keep in mind while travelling. If you’re going to fly, they suggest traveling light in economy class during the day. You could even take a vacation in town using public transit and stay in a green hotel.


In addition to eating locally, travelling light, and buying for quality, a small change in your personal care products can also make a huge difference. The David Suzuki Foundation lists “The Dirty Dozen,” 12 ingredients found in cosmetics that have either health or environmental risks. The foundation conducted a Canadian study in 2010 asking participants to read the ingredients of their cosmetics, and the results found that toxics were in 80 per cent of cosmetics, with more than one Dirty Dozen ingredient in more than half of all products. What’s worse, participants of the survey couldn’t find ingredients lists on over 1,000 products, meaning people don’t even know what’s going on or in their bodies.

Remember to always read the labels of products before you buy and visit your local health food store because they carry hundreds of all-natural cosmetic products.

Being environmentally conscious goes hand-in-hand with being health-conscious. Doing small things during school will help you live a greener lifestyle to ensure the betterment of your health and our future.