When you think of dorm life, you might think of tight spaces, messy corners, and a lot of waste. While dorms can be tight on space, it doesn’t mean you have to use plastic plates for your peanut butter sandwiches each night. You also don’t have to disregard the recycling bin that your school has placed in your room. Instead of using that bin for storage or for throwing out regular trash, consider using it for what it’s made for—recycling.
Most schools have implemented some type of green movement to help lessen their carbon footprint. Have you ever thought about your personal carbon footprint though? If not, this is a great time to get started. With the freedom that comes from moving into your own dorm room, you should start brainstorming how you can make greener choices. Trust me, it’s a lot easier than you think. Going green doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It can actually be a time to get creative with what you can do to be eco-friendly in a dorm. The possibilities are endless. As a second-year college student, I am now realizing how many small eco-friendly changes I made without even realizing it. To make it easier for you, I have rounded up 30 tips for being eco-friendly in a dorm. Toss the throwaway culture, and let’s get green!
- Invest in a reusable water bottle. This tip is a must for any college student. While attending class and walking around campus, you will want a reliable and reusable water bottle to fill up wherever you are.
- Try out washable cotton rounds. Cotton rounds are great for removing makeup and applying skincare items, but disposable ones result in a lot of waste. Thankfully, more brands are coming out with washable cotton rounds that are affordable. Most of them even come with their own mini laundry bag—how cute!
- Turn off the shower when shaving. I started doing this when I realized that all of my shaving cream was going straight down the drain. In an effort to save on shaving cream and lessen the amount of water I used per shower, I began switching off the shower when it came time to lather up and shave.
- Avoid plastic/styrofoam plates, utensils, and cups. I know that the ease of disposable products can be tempting, but try not to get them. Instead, opt for a set of cute plates, cups, and utensils that you can reuse. I had an extra set of utensils at home that I brought to my dorm. It really doesn’t take much to give your things a quick scrub and lay them out to dry. Your wallet and planet will thank you.
- Get a pack of biodegradable toothbrushes. I picked up this tip after watching the Ted Talk by Lauren Singer, better known as Zero Waste Girl. It’s easy to buy a pack of these biodegradable toothbrushes from online retailers such as Amazon. Check out the link to the pack I purchased.
- Use reusable bags when you go grocery shopping. Shopping with reusable bags reduces your personal plastic waste and is a much more secure way of holding your newly purchased goods. I have to walk a few blocks from my grocery store to my dorm, so carrying multiple plastic bags would probably end in my things being scattered on the sidewalk. All I have to do is swing my reusable bags over my shoulder like a tote and walk to my dorm without worrying about any plastic bags tearing.
- Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. I have done this since I was a little girl, and I’m not sure who I picked this up from. I always encourage my family members to turn off the tap. Whether they decide to listen to me is another story. Even those couple of minutes spent brushing your teeth can save more water than you think.
- Go thrifting. Buying clothes second-hand is a way to save money and do something good. Not to mention that thrifting can be a fun adventure, especially with friends or roommates. You never know what treasures you can find at your local thrift shop.
- Choose cleaning products made from natural ingredients. Brands both old and new are pledging to provide all-natural products, so it has never been easier to use harm-free cleaning products. What’s better than removing harmful chemicals from your personal space and environment?
- When doing laundry, choose to use cold water. Before you do anything, make sure to read the washing instructions on your clothing tags. If everything is good to go, then consider using cold water to wash your clothes. Without having to heat the water, your washer will conserve a ton of energy.
- Reuse item containers. Glass containers often make for great flower vases. I reused a mason jar from home and repurposed it as my toothbrush holder. I added a bow made of yarn, and bam, Pinterest-worthy decor!
- Unplug your electronics each night. I use a power strip to power up my computer charger, desk light, and other gadgets. A quick flick of the switch on the power strip will save a ton of energy otherwise lost.
- Consider doing joint laundry runs with your friend or roommate. If you have a small load, then you should see if your roommate or friend wants to add something to the laundry machine. This way, you both are saving some change and conserving energy.
- Don’t print out your syllabi right away. If you like to print out your syllabi, wait until class starts. In my experience, the professor sometimes provides hard copies of important papers such as the syllabus.
- Make sure to turn off all lights before leaving your room. This is an easy one and can just as easily become a green habit. A quick switch off can save more energy than you think.
- Take digital notes in class. Depending on the professor, you may or may not be allowed to use electronics during class. Double check your professors’ policies and then consider taking digital notes to save paper.
- Research brands you purchase from. Supporting brands that support the planet is an easy way to leave a greener mark.
- Use the recycling bins found around campus. Most, if not all, dorm buildings provide recycling bins and may even have recycling areas where you can dump your trash appropriately. Separate your trash and place them in the correct bins to score extra green points.
- Consider skipping the dryer. It’s cheaper and saves energy. Instead, hang up your clothes (if you have the time and space).
- Ditch the aerosol and plug-in air fresheners. This one might seem a little strange, but hanging dryer sheets on your air vents will keep your room smelling fresh and clean. Cutting out plug-ins and reducing the spread of toxic chemicals caused by air freshener aerosols is a huge step to being eco-friendly.
- Purchase school supplies made from recycled waste: If handwritten notes are your thing, then consider purchasing notebooks, index cards, and other paper goods made from 100 percent recycled materials.
- Buy local food items. Check out the local farmers market around your campus. This is a great way to explore places outside of campus (or maybe your campus hosts regular farmers markets), while supporting local produce growers. Plus, buying local lessens your carbon footprint.
- Rent/buy used textbooks. When looking at the required texts for a course, think about choosing to rent your textbooks. This way you save some cash while reducing your pile of waste at the end of the semester. If you need to purchase a textbook, then consider picking up a used version. You can always sell the purchased texts later on.
- Take your cup of joe in a reusable cup. We all know that coffee is essential for many college students. Instead of using disposable coffee cups, opt for a reusable coffee container. You might even be offered a reduced price for choosing not to use disposable cups. Talk about an eco-friendly perk!
- Use washable mop cloths instead of disposable cleaning pads: I definitely know that Swiffer pads are a lifesaver for any dorm. It doesn’t hurt to consider using reusable mop cloths that can easily be popped into the laundry machine, though.
- Next time you hit the mall, use a cute tote to hold everything. Whenever you decide to hit the mall or go thrifting, use a tote bag to carry all of your new finds. This way you reduce the amount of plastic bags under your name.
- Avoid individually packaged snacks and other goods. Although there isn’t much space in a dorm room to buy goods in bulk, that doesn’t mean you have to buy things individually wrapped. Instead, pick up goods that do not come in snack sizes or in multiple packages. I like to portion out my snacks into little containers, which are easy to slip into a book bag.
- Switch out disposable K-Cups for a refillable one. Keurigs are a great addition to any dorm, but using box after box of disposable K-Cups can really add up. Instead, I purchased a reusable K-Cup where I spoon in my favorite coffee. It’s not as annoying as it sounds. Just take a few seconds to dump out the coffee, rinse the cup and you’re done.
- Choose glass over plastic. When I need to repurchase beauty items or other goods, I try to buy products that come in glass packaging rather than plastic. You can also look for packaging that has been repurposed or is biodegradable.
- Make your own beauty products. Now it’s time to get your hands dirty (in a totally good way, of course). Using a few and simple ingredients, you can make things such as face scrubs at a much lower cost and without any packaging waste. My favorite quick recipe for a face scrub is brown sugar and lemon—that’s it.
Share your eco-friendly tips for living in a dorm in the comments!
Opening image by Cassidy Ann.