How to Make Dorm Life Sustainable AF

College is one of the best times to build habits and find out what’s important to you. It’s also an opportunity to dial into being environmentally conscientious. If you live on campus, this could be the first time in your life everything is conveniently within walking distance or viable to get to with public transportation. You might be wondering, can it get any more eco-friendly than that? Yes, yes it can!

1. Take the stairs

The first and easiest change you can make is skipping the elevator. Waiting for the arrival of an elevator often takes more time than getting up to the first or second floor in your building. In addition to saving electricity, you’ll fit in some extra cardio and build up those leg muscles. Consider the stairs a scenic route: an opportunity to check the weather or meet more people in your building.

2. Bring your own utensils

Our dining halls are super sustainable with reusable dishware and composting facilities that make it easy to feel good about your time at South Side or Ike’s. But when you’re out on a Chipotle run it’s easy to forget that single-use forks and straws contribute to the million tons of plastic piling up in landfills. Bring your own utensils (like this bamboo set on Amazon) and a stainless steel drinking straw to keep it smart and sustainable.

3. Get a cute tote

Have I mentioned the plastic crisis yet? The plastic bags you get when grocery shopping help contribute to the 14.68 million tons of plastic container and packaging waste produced annually (as recorded by the EPA). To put that in perspective, in 2015 the total generated amount of plastic waste was 34.5 million tons. And to put that in perspective, only 3.14 million tons were recycled. Whew. One thing you can do is bring a canvas tote or two whenever you shop. Most grocery stores sell bags at the register for your convenience. For those full of patriot pride, both the Barnes and Noble on campus and Walmart carry a GMU tote.

4. Revamp laundry

The good news is putting your laundry off for a week (popular among college students) helps with doing less loads as a total. Just make sure you select the correct cycle to limit water usage and waiting time. It doesn’t hurt to purchase some eco-friendly laundry detergent. If you like using dryer sheets, consider switching to dryer balls, made of wool and sometimes infused with essential oils. They help soften fabric, absorb water and keep away static. Bonus: they can be reused a couple hundred times before needing replacement.  

5. Open your window

To save electricity and help your plants photosynthesize (see #8), open the blinds and let light in once the sun comes up. The natural light will help orient your day towards being more productive, and in doing so, will indirectly improve your sleep by minimizing artificial light.

6. Bring a bottle

As college students, we go through more plastic bottles than intended just by attending all the events involving free food on campus. According to data from the International Bottled Water Association, the average American consumes 318.86 single-use plastic bottles of water every year. Look for a BPA-free water bottle or stylish metal flask like this one from S’well to feel good about staying hydrated. A reusable bottle is both a great investment for the long term and a perfect canvas for these eco-friendly stickers from Redbubble.

7. Recycle

One of the tenants of the three Rs, recycling is something we’ve all been told to do since elementary school. If you haven’t already, check out the trash room on your floor. There are separate bins for glass, cans, and plastic containers, mixed paper, and white paper. Additionally, the Johnson Center has bins labeled for recycling phones, batteries, and ink cartridges. It only takes a minute to separate your recyclables, and honestly, I’d really appreciate it. Check out this guide to make sure you’ve got it down.  

8. Be a plant parent

Everyone knows you can’t be eco-friendly if you don’t have a plant in your room. But seriously, plants clean our air (hello carbon dioxide) and are shown to improve mood and productivity. The garden center is your oyster. I recommend air plants, succulents, bamboo, aloe, or cacti.

9. Shower Smarter

Step 1: take shorter showers. Step 2: buy some sustainably sourced soap and shampoo products. Step 3: get a water-saving showerhead.

10. Get Outside

This one can get convoluted, but, leave your dorm room. Go for a walk instead of draining your phone battery scrolling down Insta and Twitter feeds for 3 hours. Grab a few friends and volunteer with one of the many environmental clubs on campus. That disconnection is free, electricity saving and impactful. Joining a student organization or hanging out in otherwise large groups shares collective goods and decreases personal electricity usage. My personal favorite is movie nights with everyone on my floor.

Living sustainability isn’t just about being more compatible with the greater environment, but also sustaining a healthy and happy life for yourself. Although the majority of this list focuses on decreasing your carbon footprint and overall environmental impact, some are more simply a reminder to be mindful of this gorgeous campus we’re living on and all the opportunities available for growth.