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Being a 'Student' Is No Excuse for Social Irresponsibility

21/04/2015 09:50 BST | Updated 15/06/2015 10:59 BST

As a university undergraduate, I'm hopefully poorer than I shall ever be again. Actually, that's probably a lie. But negative job and property-ladder prospects aside, as a student, isn't it my prerogative to lament my current financial situation? And is it not, therefore, permitted to be as socially irresponsible as I see fit?

We undergraduates use our 'student' status as an excuse all the time. We're allowed to be as petty as we want with IOU's, and cancel on unwanted plans by pointing to our purses.

With these excuses, I see nothing wrong. But there is a line to be drawn. For many in Britain, being a 'poor student' is not meant to describe an imminent threat of homelessness or hunger.

For lots of lucky undergraduates, 'I have no money' in fact means, 'I'm saving it for my night out/Bestival/travelling/a Masters' (delete as appropriate). All of these are valid investments, but none excuse the loss of social integrity.

Students, as young and undamaged goods, are supposed to be the most ideological and angry of them all. We should be the first to act for the environment, charity or any worthy cause.

Shopping with a friend recently, she automatically picked up Tesco's Every Day Value caged eggs, to save 30p. This friend has travelled most of Europe and Asia, and is off to Camp America this summer. Over a year, 52 boxes of caged eggs might save £15.60, worth less than one night in a hostel. And how much will it cost the battery chickens?

I'm not advocating switching your whole weekly shop to organic. Nor am saying I'm perfect. I often slip up, most memorably on a 75p Sainsbury's Basics Shepherd's Pie. 75p!

But one taste of that and I was cured. And in general, I do try. I rarely buy meat because I can't pay to know it's had a better life, come from Britain, and, well, isn't horse meat.

When I can, I shop in an independent green grocer by the library. Most scoff and assume it's more expensive, but I tell them about the bargain bin. Where else do they sell five sweet potatoes for 50p?

I aspire to the responsible respectability of my friend Lizzie. She only buys sustainable fish according to her Good Fish app; she never buys palm oil in preservation of the rainforest. Or Lily, who always remembers her re-usable shopping bags.

Fellow student journalist, Kate, buys organic milk simply to help out dairy farmers, who are being ever squeezed by supermarkets. Typically, they are now offered only 28p per normal litre.

And there's my housemate Ailsa, whose wardrobe is made up of 90 percent charity shop items. Good for the charity; good for the planet; and good for her pocket. Also good for her appearance - alongside the rest of us Topshop mannequins, she always looks the best.

These friends exemplify how everybody can do something. It is true that many undergraduates have to work all spare hours to pay their way, and have little left after paying rent. It is also true that everyone deserves that night out/festival/holiday.

But if you just focus on one thing, you won't notice the monetary difference. Choose seasonal vegetables, or Fair Trade bananas, and make it your thing.

Let's re-claim the label 'student', and make it a motivation, not a get-out.