8 eco-friendly college tips for living on campus sustainably

Green living bby

White bed with green knit blanket
(Image credit: Pottery Barn Dorm)

You may be wondering how to be a li'l more eco-friendly while in college. From wearing sustainable fashion to going vegan, many people today are changing their lifestyles and considering their carbon footprint. 

With the amount of sustainable dorm products on the market, it can be overwhelming to lay down a game plan when it comes to reducing, reusing, and recycling. 

In order to lessen your impact on the environment, one of the best ways to lessen your impact is by considering changing some everyday behaviors as you start your life in college. 

How to be more eco-friendly in college

1) Don’t forget your reusable water bottle

Many campuses feature water filling stations meaning the days of purchasing one-time-use water bottles should be gone for good. By purchasing a water bottle that works for you daily, you can lessen the amount of plastic that ends up in a landfill (or even in the ocean). Another way to lessen this impact is by purchasing a reusable bottle for your morning coffee. The best part about this tip? Not purchasing bottled water is also great for your wallet. 

2) Consider walking or biking to class

College towns and college campuses are typically great places to get in more daily steps. Often these places will have more bike lanes or trails. If you can get to class and your job without a car, consider opting for a bicycle or strapping on some good walking shoes. By reducing your reliance on cars, you can reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted. The upside? Walking and biking are also great ways to stay healthy. 

3) Purchase pre-owned electronics 

If you’re the type who seems to need a new iPhone each year, or opts for the latest technology, consider purchasing refurbished electronics. From pre-owned cameras to refurbished laptops, there is a great variety of reputable stores that resell electronics. Another upside to this tip is that refurbished or used electronics are almost always cheaper than the new versions, and they work just as well.  

4) Reduce your consumption 

“Reduce” is first in the popular slogan “reduce, reuse, recycle” for a reason: Reducing your consumption is many times the number one way you can reduce your carbon footprint. Before going out and buying up all the “green” products you can find for your dorm or apartment, consider whether you’ll get enough use out of these products to make the purchase worthwhile. 

5) Consider a “no buy” on new items 

A trend for Youtubers and influencers, the “no buy” movement consists of setting a time period (one week or one month) where you will no longer buy anything not necessitated. Need a new toothbrush? That's essential, and you can and should absolutely take care of your hygiene. However, a “no buy” declaration can help you avoid buying superfluous items such as shoes you don’t need, coffee you can make at home, books you won’t read, etc. Identify the places in your life where you can cut back on your consumption and consider setting rules for yourself around shopping. 

6) Don’t waste food unnecessarily 

Food waste is a huge problem in many countries. It can be difficult to plan meals ahead of time or create a grocery list that eliminates waste but it’s worth the time and effort to save you time and money. Products such as reusable containers or food wraps made from beeswax can extend your meal and allow you to reduce wasting the groceries you purchased. 

7) Consider reusable straws

Just because straw waste is impactful on marine life doesn’t mean you need to stop using straws altogether. If you like sipping your iced tea or coffee from a straw, consider using a reusable and washable steel or plastic straw instead. These reusable options are available for purchase at grocery stores or online, and can last much longer than a disposable straw. 

8) Thrift vintage or pre-owned clothing 

A trend that has taken over social media, thrifting clothes is a great way to determine your own personal style without breaking the bank. Although thrifting for clothes or purchasing pre-owned clothing can take more time than walking into a mall, it’s a great way to shop without impacting landfills or the health of people in other countries, who often end up with mountains of “fast fashion” clothes from the US. 

Kate Santos

Hello! I’m Kate Santos, a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. In the design world, I got my start working as an Editorial Intern for Dwell magazine in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve written about design and architecture in many national magazines and online publications, including Playboy, Hunker, and The Culture Trip.

I grew up in a very old house in North Carolina and am still influenced by the rustic, charming, antique and aged elements of a home. Sustainability and longevity is extremely important to me and I believe learning to reuse materials or purchasing items you’ll love forever goes a long way. I also lean towards the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi when designing my own home, embracing the perfectly imperfect items I can find.