How to reduce plastic on a budget - Zero waste tips - Shorebox

How To Go Plastic-Free On A Student Budget: Part 1

Believe it or not, heading back to uni is fast approaching. Between balancing your degree, social life, and everything in between, you may feel you don’t have much time or budget for living sustainably.

But reducing plastic doesn’t have to be expensive. More often than not, cutting down on plastic actually saves you money in the long run — particularly when you switch from single-use items to reusables. So, we’ve rounded up the best tips, hacks, products and DIYs to help you reduce plastic in all aspects of university life!

Our guide is divided into two parts:

Part 1: On Campus, Bathroom & Toiletries, Cleaning & Laundry

Part 2: Kitchen, Skincare, Reduce Reuse Recycle

So without further ado, let’s make David Attenborough proud.

By the way, you can get 10% off everything on our plastic-free shop with the code BACKTOUNI until the end of September! 

On campus

Reduce plastic when out-and-about - Shorebox


  • Keep your eyes peeled for freebies at events — It can be expensive to buy reusable water bottles and coffee cups. Many companies give them out for free at student events, such as Freshers Fayre and careers events, so keep a lookout! 

Bonus tip: Download the Refill app to find free water refill points in and around campus.

  • Make your own cutlery set — Put a set of metal cutlery in a zip bag, or wrap it in a cloth napkin to fashion your own cutlery set. You can always put a reusable bamboo set on your Christmas list!

Shop here: Bamboo cutlery set

  • DIY hand gel — Refill the same squeezy bottle over and over with homemade hand gel. Follow this simple recipe to keep freshers’ flu at bay:


Isopropyl alchohol (90-99% alcohol content) (kills germs)
Aloe vera gel (soothes skin)
Lavender essential oil (antibacterial)
Tea tree essential oil (antibacterial)

Packaging suggestion:

Reused squeezy bottle


  1. Fill bottle with 2 parts alcohol.
  2. Fill the rest of the bottle with 1 part aloe vera gel.
  3. Add 3-5 drops of each essential oil.
  4. Give it a shake!


  • Bring your leftovers — Packing your own lunches can help you avoid a lot of unnecessary food packaging. In general, cooking in bulk is a great way to save on waste and money. Save tupperware from takeaway nights-in to pack your lunches!
  • Take a small bag — For impromptu shopping trips, keep a small tote or produce bag in your uni bag so that you never have to ask for a plastic one.

Bathroom & toiletries

Eco Dental Care - Natural Toothpaste - Shorebox


Dental care

Switching to eco dental care may feel daunting, but there are brilliant eco-friendly alternatives out there.

Bamboo toothbrush — Put your flat mates’ plastic toothbrushes to shame with a bamboo toothbrush. At the end of its life, you can compost the handle or use it as a stake for house plants!

Shop here: Bamboo toothbrush

DIY toothpaste — For a really simple recipe, check out this popular one by Trash Is For Tossers:


Read more: Everything you need to know about eco dental care

Soap bars

Switch your plastic packaged hand soap and shower gel for soap bars. Bars of soap save so much plastic in comparison to plastic pumps. They also last way longer, as they don’t contain as much water — so they’re far more cost effective, too!

Shop here: Paper-wrapped soap bars

Bonus tips

  • Store your soap bars on a soap dish to ensure they last as long as possible. You don’t need anything fancy. You could use pebbles or copy this clever DIY:
DIY Soap Dish - Reduce Plastic on a Budget - Shorebox
Photo credit: @rocket_science on Instagram
    • Use soap bar scraps (the small bits you get at the end of your bar’s life) to wash makeup brushes and reusable cotton rounds, or collect them up to make your own liquid soap!
    • To create the best lather, use a body sponge with your soap bar.

Shop here: Organic cotton & bamboo body sponge

Read more: Clever soap bar tips and tricks

DIY air freshener — Reuse a plastic container to freshen up your bathroom with this easy recipe:


10x drops of an essential oil of your choice (e.g. lavender)

Packaging suggestion:

Reused spray bottle


  1. Fill the spray bottle with water.
  2. Add 10x drops of essential oil.
  3. Spray! Freshen up the bathroom, bed linen, and furniture.

Source: Madeline Olivia

DIY Air Freshener - Reduce plastic on a budget - Shorebox


Loo roll — Plastic-free loo roll is tricky to comeby in supermarkets. Who Gives a Crap is a brilliant subscription service for plastic-free loo roll (plus, it’s made from 100% recycled paper). You could split the cost with your housemates — you’ll never get caught short when someone forgets to stock up!

Browse more zero-waste toiletries, including toothpaste (from £3.90), deodorant (from £3.50), organic face cloths (£2.99), and more.

Cleaning & Laundry

DIY Cleaning Products - Reduce plastic on a budget - Shorebox


All purpose cleaner — Reuse a spray bottle to make your own eco-friendly all purpose cleaner. This is a great way to reuse the same plastic packaging over and over again — think of how wasteful it is to buy a new spray bottle each time your cleaning product runs out.


White vinegar (cuts through grease, dirt, odours, mould and mildew)
Your choice of essential oil (10 drops)

Packaging suggestion:

Reused spray bottle


  1. Combine equal parts white vinegar and water.
  2. Add 10 drops of essential oils.
  3. Shake!

Don’t be put off by the smell of vinegar — it fades very quickly!

Source: Madeline Olivia

Lemons — Got half a lemon in the fridge? Is your housemate about to throw one out after making a G&T? Collect up spare lemons and put them to work! They are a natural disinfectant, and are perfect for…

  • Getting rid of hard water marks that build up around taps and showers.
  • Polishing stainless steel to leave it sparklingly clean.
  • Disinfecting chopping boards.

Just squeeze the lemon directly onto the area and wipe with a cloth. You could reuse old toothbrushes to scrub nooks and crannies.

You can also use lemons to clean your microwave.

Laundry — Have you heard of soap nuts? They’re dried fruit shells from India. They contain natural soap called saponin, and are a natural, plastic-free laundry detergent. You put a few nuts into a cloth bag, and throw it into your washing machine with your laundry. They clean brilliantly, and even better, you can use the same bag of nuts multiple times, so your cost per wash is a bargain!

Shop here: Soap nuts 

Read more: More plastic-free cleaning hacks

Soap Nuts - Reduce plastic on a budget - Plastic-free laundry


So, there you have it — part 1 is complete! Head here for part 2. Don’t forget, you can get 10% off on our plastic-free shop with the code BACKTOUNI.

Plus, our Back To Uni plastic-free gift box (free delivery) is the perfect settling-in pack if you know someone heading to uni this month.

Let us know which tips you find helpful, and join our mailing list, Instagram and Facebook for more.

Oh hello! Just a quick note to say, we’re an eco-friendly subscription box helping our subscribers reduce plastic waste step-by-step. If that sounds exciting, enjoy 10% off your first box today with the code FIRSTBOX. That’s all for now, cheerio.

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