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Cheap and sustainable lifestyle for students

Rachel Tan
Rachel Tan
Rachel is a PhD candidate at the Higher Education Development Centre, University of Otago. She likes to meet people and is a big fan of nature and photography.

Not long after I came to Dunedin, I enrolled in the sustainable living course held by the Dunedin City Council. The ad about the free course in the weekly Star paper attracted me because I associated sustainable living as being financially prudent, an important lifestyle for a student.

Sustainable living in New Zealand

The knowledge would be important to me because I come from a tropical country and I had little idea about “the art of flatting” in New Zealand.

I immediately emailed the tutor, Dr Maureen Howard and was warmly welcomed to attend the lessons at a community centre in the city. She is very passionate about the environment and encourages people to live sustainably but never made judgemental comments on people’s choice of living.

My favourites were the excursions such as visiting a community garden at the Kaikorai Valley and making recycled items at the Green Island Landfill.


Being the only international participant, I learnt a lot from the other seven participants about living in Dunedin. In addition, I gained a deeper insight into the local community through interactions with each participant coming from different age group.

More importantly, these energy saving and green living practices are very suitable for a student like me.


How to use power wisely for heating

The electric blanket became my best friend because it has low power consumption and efficiently heats up a cold bed. I learnt to turn on the electric blanket two hours before sleep and turn off after being in bed. The hot water bottle became a necessary companion in bed.

Living space

I learnt that mould is a health hazard in flats. Being alone in a foreign land, one has to take good care of her health. Since then, I made sure my future flats are airy and the bathroom has ventilators. Being vigilant helped me to spot the mould growing on the ceiling of my first flatting room and alerted my landlady to solve the problem.


Cycling was advocated which led me to buy used-bike from the generous people at the Crooked Spoke. More interestingly to me was, I could bus with my bike because there are bicycle racks on the front of public transport.


Reducing my expenses

The class had a community spirit of sharing made small positive changes in my lifestyle. I received live culture yoghurt that I used to make my own; learnt about the Bokashi bucket to compost food waste, minimising my trash bag cost; identified the pungent lemon balm that became my favourite soothing tea from the garden at my flat. All these contributed to reducing my expenses.


For 8 weeks every Wednesday evening, I looked forward to attending the course at a community centre in the city. Integrating with like-minded people, who were accommodating to my lack of local knowledge.

I am thankful to the City Council, Maureen and all participants because they introduced me to a greener lifestyle while being financially savvy.

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