12 Easy Steps for Students to Create a Green Dorm Room

By Gloria Kopp

Just because you moved out doesn’t mean that you can’t go green. There are tons of easy ways to reduce your impact on the environment, especially in your dorm room. Here are 12 ways you can reduce, reuse, recycle, and REFUSE single-use plastic while studying.

1. Go paperless

The age of the notebook is over. Students are now much more likely to have a laptop under their arm than a folder full of notes. Take their example, and take all your notes electronically. This drastically reduces the amount of paper you use in your studies. It also means it’s much easier to organize your notes, just remember to back them up.

2. Get a reusable water bottle.

“Disposable” water bottles are quick and easy, but they are devastating for the environment. Current numbers say that up to 80 percent of them end up in landfill, and they use 3 times as much water to make than they can hold! Buy a plastic-free water bottle, and you’ll save money and landfill space.

3. Reuse your bags

Every time you go grocery shopping, you’re collecting more and more bags that will just end up as garbage. “Instead, buy some sturdy reusable bags and take them with you. You’ll be amazed at how much waste you’ll save,” says Laura Lee, research scientist and lecturer at Paper Fellows.

4. Turn off the power

When you leave your dorm room, switch all your electronics off to save power. If you want to make it easier, connect them to a surge protector, then flip that off when you leave.

5. Reuse old furniture

You’re excited about decorating a new dorm room, but don’t run out to the big box stores just yet. Look on eBay and Gumtree to see what you can get for cheap or free. You can decorate for much less money, and you’re saving items from landfill at the same time.

6. Recycle

This one sounds obvious, but remember to recycle any recyclable items in your dorm room. If your housing doesn’t offer recycling facilities, now is the time to convince your college that they should include them. You’ll be a hero!

7. Rent or borrow your entertainment

You can save a ton of money and resources by borrowing your entertainment, rather than buying it. Amber Coburn, a scientific assistant at Essayroo comments: “Most colleges will have a DVD lending section in their library, so take advantage of it. You can even set up a swap of DVDs, books and games between your friends. Get creative!”

8. Use electronic services

Speaking of entertainment, you can get a lot for your money if you use streaming services such a Netflix. They’re cheap, and even cheaper if you share the account with a roommate, or a few friends. It’ll save a lot of DVDs being left behind when you move out.

9. Leave the car at home

Most college campuses don’t really require you to own a car. Leave yours at home, and walk or bike to classes instead. You’ll be saving the environment and living a healthier lifestyle in the process.

10. Use energy efficient light bulbs

Energy efficient light bulbs are brilliant for students. “They last for months and months, are fairly cheap to buy, and use minimal electricity. They’re super friendly for the earth, and they cost almost nothing to run. If you want to save some money and the environment, they’re the way to go,” shares Thomas Greer, a lecturer at Ukwritings.

11. Minimize your water usage

Try turning the faucet off as you brush your teeth, or taking quick showers rather than baths. Making small changes to the way you use water will drastically reduce the amount you use overall.

12. Opt out of junk mail

You don’t want junk mail, but it finds a way of coming to you. You can stop the waste, though, by opting out of it. Check out Catalog Choice. This way, you won’t be bombarded by flyers and you’ll be saving paper.

Remember to think about the life of every item you purchase and reuse materials as often as possible. You’ll be amazed at how much you can save this way.

For more plastic-free tips, check out the P.L.A.N. Plastic-Free Campus Manual. 

See also: Smart Study Room Ideas that are Fun and Focused

Gloria Kopp is an educator and an e-learning consultant from Manville, WY. She works as a content manager at Big Assignments company. She is a regular contributor to websites such as Engadget, Boomessays, and Huffington Post. 

By Joely King

Ah, college. A time when you learn new things, make friends, and stay up ’til 4 a.m. writing espresso-fueled essays. It’s a time to figure out who you want to be. For me, that meant learning I don’t want to be packaged in plastic. But actually lessening the amount of plastic I use has been a challenge because of my situation: being a broke college student.

In college, time and money aren’t exactly on excess, which makes plastic very appealing. Why waste time cooking when I can heat up a TV dinner in three minutes? Plastic makes all kinds of products cheap and convenient, but what is the cost to our environment? 33 percent of plastic is used once and then discarded, where it will never biodegrade. The good news: there are some easy ways to reduce plastic consumption, even on a budget.

My first tip is also a way to save money on textbooks, win-win! After reading My Plastic Free Life by Beth Terry, I realized how much plastic goes into printing books, and textbooks are no different. There are two ways to save plastic (and money) on books. The first is obvious, buy used. Why have a new one made when you can get an old one for cheaper?

However, there’s another way to use even less plastic when it comes to textbooks. You can find most textbooks unbound, usually used too. They’re 3-hole punched, so grab a 3-ring binder you have left over from high school, a different college class, or see if someone you know has some old ones to keep from having to buy any new plastic. I normally get my textbooks unbound and used from Amazon, and just this semester I saved over $400 by doing this.

If Amazon isn’t your thing, school book stores will usually order unbound textbooks if you ask at no extra charge, though they are obviously new if you go this route. Even new, unbound textbooks are still way cheaper, and use less plastic than traditional new textbooks. The only downside is that most school bookstores won’t buy back unbound textbooks, so you’ll have to find something else to do with them once the semester is over. Maybe sell it to the next person on Amazon or eBay, or see if a friend will be taking the same class. Then just reuse the binders next semester.

My second tip for using less plastic involves food. TV dinners used to be my main go-to food, but those are plastic on plastic on plastic—not to mention all the chemicals actually in the food. Instead of overpacked and processed dinners, I’ve switched to cooking in bulk about once a week. I make a large batch of food, usually pasta, and split it up into glass containers I can grab and reheat later. Homemade TV dinners! 

Not only does this use less plastic, it’s also way cheaper. I can get five meals out of one box of pasta and jar of sauce, for a total cost of about $3. Five TV dinners at $2 each would be $10. I use the same method for veggie fried rice and stews. Shop the bulk bins at your local store, or choose foods packaged in glass or paper boxes. 

My next tip is to go plastic lid-less and straw-less. If you’re grabbing a drink on-the-go, bring your own cup (some places even offer a discount!) If you don’t have a reusable cup with you or the coffee bar won’t let you use your own cup, accept the paper cup but forgo the plastic lid and plastic straw to cut down on waste. 

The last tip I’ll share is how I prevent myself from buying any non-essential plastic because, sadly, sometimes there just isn’t a practical alternative. Before I buy any plastic product I ask myself a simple question: Will I use this for at least three years? 

While it would be amazing if I could go completely plastic-free, that’s not possible for me right now. This simple question helps me distinguish between useful plastic products, and those that are nothing but wasteful.

The main thing I’ve learned about reducing plastic consumption so far is that it should be fun, not stressful. It feels good to switch to non-plastic alternatives. That good feeling motivates me to do more, but it’s so easy to feel guilty those times when I do have to buy plastic. With classes, a part-time job, and my League of Legends team, I have enough to stress about. Reducing plastic in my life is a good thing, and the more I focus on the positives, the easier it is to change and spread the word. 

Joely King lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is working toward a BFA in acting.

For more tips check out the Plastic-Free Campus Manual by PLAN. 

Take the Pledge to Refuse Single-Use Plastic.