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Eco-Friendly Dorm Tips Every College Student Should Know

Being one student at a college or university can feel overwhelming. It might seem impossible to reduce your environmental footprint if your school doesn’t have a compost system, or if the institution you attend invests in fossil fuels. However, you are in control of plenty of things that can make your college experience more sustainable. 

Moving in

If you’re driving from far away, contact students in your area to carpool with on move-in day if you have space. It’s a great way to make new friends while reducing gas emissions. If you’re really serious about reducing emissions, you can buy carbon credits or offsets for your trip to campus.  


Plug electronics into a power strip (if your dorm allows one) and switch off the power when not in use; some electronics draw energy even after turning off. 

I am a firm believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If your laptop, phone, or tablet is still in functioning condition, there is no need to buy the latest version for an arm and a leg. If you must get new electronics, look into Staples’ free electronics recycling services

A student typing in their dorm room. Image: Sincerely Media

Air quality

Decorate a drab dorm with plants to brighten the room and help filter indoor air pollutants.  Here’s a list of common houseplants that are effective in cleaning indoor air and much less noisy than an air purifier.


Make use of natural light during the day to save energy and boost your productivity. Or find a place outdoors to study on sunny days. 

School supplies

Finish up half-used notebooks and pencils and continue using your old backpack before considering buying new ones. 

Students studying in a cafe. Image: Brooke Cagle

Daily habits

Recognize habits in your life that may create waste. If you go to Starbucks every day, purchase a reusable coffee cup and straw. This gives you 10 cents off Starbucks orders!

Furniture and textbooks

Check out student Facebook groups for students selling furniture, textbooks, calculators, and other products (usually at a discount). Check Library Genesis for PDF versions of academic textbooks and journal articles to go entirely paperless. If paper textbooks are needed, find rental options and look into textbook buyback programs.


There are many ways to get around campus instead of bringing a car. Most colleges offer student discounts on semester public transportation passes. You can bring a bike or use the nearest public bike share program. Zanier options include using a skateboard, electric scooter, or hoverboard to get to class. 


Talk to your roommates or suitemates to see how they feel about making more sustainable changes! That may include using reusable options instead of single-use items, creating a recycling or composting system, or even consolidating grocery shopping to reduce food waste.

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