Top 10 easiest plastic free swaps for students

With the world drowning in plastic, we've put together a top 10 of easiest plastic free swaps for students.


We’re in 2022 now, and last year I pledged to cut a tonne in 21. 

This meant I challenged myself to reduce my carbon footprint on the world with the aim to cut one tonne of carbon emissions from my lifestyle. The way I did this was to reduce my plastic use, and on the way I found some amazing plastic free products, so I thought I’d share them with you, along with some facts to encourage you to make the change.

Did you know…

Almost all the plastic ever produced is still on this Earth today? Due to the way plastic is made up, it takes such a long time to decompose. A plastic bag can take up to 20 years, a throw away coffee cup 30 years, a plastic straw 200 years and a plastic toothbrush 500 years.

These figures are astounding and quite scary, but there are things we can do to help our planet, and they are easy, inexpensive and can be quite fun.

Check out the top 10 easy plastic free swaps below, and see how you can make a difference.
  1. 1 Shampoo and conditioner bars


    Shampoo and conditioner bars are popping up everywhere now, and there's a good reason for this. They are amazing! Instead of purchasing a plastic bottle filled with shampoo or conditioner, they come in bar form and are used just like a bar of soap.

     Everything you want from a shampoo or conditioner, just in a bar. They're easy to use, last much longer than a bottle and can quite often end up being cheaper. Win, win right?! You can purchase them online and supermarkets now, or at shops like Lush.

  2. 2 Plastic free highlighters


    Pencil highlighters are perfect for highlighting important notes, colour coding your lists or just doodling with. They are completely plastic free and work the same as your normal highlighters. 

    The OU Students Shop sells recycled pencils.

  3. 3 Beeswax wraps


    Chuck out your cling film! These reusable beeswax or vegan wraps are perfect for wrapping up sandwiches, left overs or snacks. Warm them gently in your hands and then wrap whatever you fancy, once finished with give them a wash in cold soapy water and use again and again. 

    They come in all different sizes and patterns, so not only do they keep your food fresh, they make your fridge look pretty too!

  4. 4 Recycled notebooks


    Instead of buying a notebook made from virgin paper, why not buy a notebook that's made from recycled paper? It will work just as well and you're doing your bit for the planet by not having a tree cut down.

    The OU Students Shop will soon be stocking recycled notebooks with our brand new 50th anniversary branding. 

  5. 5 Bamboo toothbrush


    Made from super fast growing, sustainable bamboo, these toothbrushes are a nice and easy bathroom swap. No longer do we need to have plastic toothbrushes sitting in landfill not decomposing (studies show that they take around 500 years to decompose). 

    When you've finished with your bamboo toothbrush, pop into your waste and it will decompose in as little as 3-4 months.

  6. 6 Bamboo desk tidy


    Following the bamboo theme - get your study station set up with a super chic, super sustainable bamboo desk tidy. Instead of using a cup, a bamboo desk tidy is perfect for organising your pens, pencils and (pencil) highlighters. They're available from most stationary or DIY/home improvement shops. 

  7. 7 Natural deodorant


    Natural deodorant is an excellent way of cutting out plastic, but also a great way to reduce the amount of nasty chemicals on your skin. 

    They come in stick, bar or cream form and contain all natural ingredients. But most amazingly, they work! I have tried a fair few and can safely say they are no worse performing than my previous roll on. It holds up to a gym class, a run or general day to day parent life (think wrestling the kids into the car)! 

    I dare say it would hold up to the dreaded exam sweats, too.

  8. 8 Reusable coffee cup


    Reusable coffee cups have been around for a little while now, but I think they still deserve a mention. They're excellent to have on hand during a lecture or sat at your study station keeping your favourite beverage hot, whilst you're busy writing up an essay. I even keep a spare one in my car in case I fancy an impromptu Starbucks trip. 

    They come in all sorts of sizes and materials, from bamboo, recycled plastic and even glass. 

    If you're more of a cold drink lover, why not grab an OU reusable water bottle from our shop?

  9. 9 Soap and shower gel bars


    My easiest plastic free swap has to be soap bars. I remember when I was kid, thinking how funny it was that my grandparents used bars of soap for everything, I can still smell the Imperial Leather. 

    Now I'm older, I realise how great they are. Soap bars can be used to replace your handwash or shower gel in the bathroom. They last loads longer then a handwash or shower gel, and I mean loads longer! And, depending on what brand you go for, they can be much cheaper too. 

    You're not throwing away tons of plastic bottles away each year so you're safe in the knowledge that you're reducing your impact on the planet. 

  10. 10 Sustainable laptop bag


    Laptop bags are a must for a busy student, and I have found a range of bags and sleeves that are made from sustainable or recycled materials. 

    These vary from hemp, paper and even leaves (yes leaves!). They are often made from recycled plastic bottles and most are Vegan Society accredited. So keep an eye out for one of these and keep youe laptop protected whilst protecting the environment. 


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