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Tips For Staying Eco-Friendly in a College Dorm

Earth Day is coming up this April 22nd (also my roommate’s birthday, Happy Birthday Rory!). Earth Day spreads awareness and support for different environmental protections. Many countries around the world come together to celebrate and join in on activities to help the environment. They help remind everyone how important being eco-friendly is! 

Being a freshman in college, it’s my first time away from my family. I’ve learned so much about how to live on my own, but I’ve also learned and realized some tips for staying eco-friendly in a college dorm. It’s important to try to stay aware of the environment and your ecological footprint. So here is my list of things we’ve done to try and stay eco-friendly in a college dorm, which can also be used anywhere to help protect the Earth!

The first thing that everyone can do is recycle! Recycling is easy and so helpful to the environment! I think when everyone is young, they learn about what can be recycled and what the different bins mean, hoping everyone would keep up the good habit their whole lives! 

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When my roommates and I first moved into our new dorm, the first thing we noticed was that there was no recycling bin in our room. It was a little disappointing, especially since our floor had an area for recycling anyways. We designated an old bin that we had from moving to be our recycling bin, making sure to put all our soda cans, used bottles, plastic, and anything else in there that wasn’t food contaminated. We finally got a recycling bin from the college for our room, but the semester is almost over. But that didn’t stop us from trying our hardest to recycle as much as possible before that.

I also learned from my roommate that I need to be rinsing my cans and bottles out with water before I put them in recycling. I had no idea that was needed, but it does ensure that the item will pass inspection and be recycled. Now I can’t stop the habit of rinsing items out, and it’s an easy step that everyone can start as well!

Recycling is something everyone can do to help stay eco-friendly, but it’s also one of the biggest things that can be approved on. So much trash and waste are building up in landfills, stuff is being thrown away that can be recycled, and stuff that is being recycled might not actually pass through certain checkpoints because people aren’t recycling in the right bin. A way to help with this is by checking the bottom of different items before you throw them away, checking for that little number in the arrow triangle. Each number means a different thing! 

Plastics 1 can be recycled, with items like plastic soda bottoms and peanut butter jars! Plastics 2 can also be recycled, like milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles! Plastics 3 through 7 might or might not be able to be recycled, it just depends on local guidelines! Check them out here if you want clarification! 


Another thing that people can do in dorms to help stay eco-friendly is making sure to reuse plastic bags! At home, we always reused plastic bags from grocery stores for our cat’s litter or carrying things to school. But now at college, I did not realize the amount of plastic bags we would actually end up having considering we eat a lot from the dining hall. From the convenience stores up on campus, and when shopping for snacks off-campus, plastic bags pile up. 

We keep them in a little storage area to be used again for different uses! We should probably start bringing our own bags to the store to help minimize plastic bag use, which is something everyone can do as well! But for incoming college freshmen or fellow college people, making sure we reuse and save plastic bags is something easy everyone can do to help minimize plastic bags getting into the ocean or filling up the landfill! 

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In our dorm, we also found that buying our own silverware from Walmart was an easy alternative to using the plastic silverware from the dining hall! We keep the cheap set of spoons, knives, and forks in our dorm, and use those when eating food from the dining hall or take-out! Because of the pandemic, food can be eaten in the dining hall or brought back to dorms. When we bring it back to our dorms, we can use our own silverware instead of the plastic ones. It helps reduce plastic waste, even if just a little at a time!

We also have our own cheap bowls and plates from Target that we reheat food in! As a college freshman, I’m glad we thought ahead and bought them so we can just reuse those instead of constantly using the plastic dishes and silverware from the dining hall. Because the dining hall items have food on them, they sometimes can’t be recycled. Because we use our own kitchen utensils in our dorm and clean them ourselves, it helps reduce the waste! 

So much of our trash is full of plastic to-go containers from the dining hall. Because of the pandemic, all of the food is served in these plastic containers for safety. I understand health and staying safe, but the amount of plastic is way more than it should be. I can’t imagine the amount of trash that is going to the landfill from just our dorm building alone. But the first step that everyone, including us, can take to stay eco-friendly is trying to minimize plastic use by buying reusable items, even in college! So many places sell cheap silverware and bowls that you don’t need to worry about if they get damaged! So to stay eco-friendly in a college dorm, try investing in some cheap silverware and plates!! It is definitely worth it! 

Another easy thing that everyone can do to try and stay eco-friendly is just remembering to turn the lights off when they aren’t needed or you leave the room! Living at home, I’m sure everyone has been reminding constantly by parents or guardians to turn off your lights before you leave. But now living alone at college, it can sometimes be hard to remember the little things like that. Remembering to turn off lights in bathrooms or closets or rooms and lamps that are not being used, is an easy way to help conserve energy and stay eco-friendly!

Also, we like to use fairy lights in our living room of our dorm! The light is more friendly on the eyes compared to the harsh overhead light, but also more friendly to the environment! It saves energy and some of our fairy lights are LED! LED lights use less energy and reduce the amount of CO2 admissions!! We also don’t keep them on all the time, only at night when it’s dark, and we unplug them when we go to bed! So using eco-friendly lights and just remembering to turn lights off when you aren’t using them is an easy step that everyone can take to staying eco-friendly!

Thrifting is big in college!! I love to thrift and so do my roommates. Thrifting clothes can save energy and overall waste (and your money), and it’s so much more eco-friendly. Finding a local thrift shop near you can be a fun way to spend the day and also save money. I think thrifting is coming back in style anyways, but if you haven’t given it a try, I totally recommend it! It’s a hit or miss in many stores, but something you can find steals of a lifetime! Also, many fast fashion brands online are bad for the environment. But so many cute, fun clothes can instead be found in thrift stores. Donate your clothes and thrift if you can! 

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Also, just an incoming college freshman tip, you don’t need as many clothes as you think when you come to college. I brought way more than I need and my closet is way too full. You also don’t need as many shoes as well. Bring less than you think, as you always end up finding more (especially if you do end up going thrifting)!

When in my HerCampus meeting, another great way to reduce your waste use was brought up, which is using recyclable K-Cups! K-Cups are the coffee cups that are used in Keurigs and coffee machines. Coffee is vital for survival I think, but K-Cups are such a waste of plastic and money. A great alternative is reusable K-Cups! They are solid, plastic cups that can be filled with grounds of your choice and used in the Keurig machines. We use them at home and they have saved so much waste and money! You can buy them online and in most stores, and all you need to do after you use them is clean the grounds out yourself! 

Right now, the whole K-Cup can’t be recycled, only the plastic part. If you separate the plastic from the grounds, filter, and aluminum, then the plastic can be recycled! But Keurig is on the path to making the cups 100% recyclable! I’m not sure if that goal is here yet, but until then, try using the reusable K-Cups if you too want to try and stay eco-friendly!!


Finally, the last thing is making sure to use a reusable water bottle. I think most people do, but it’s always a good reminder! The cheap, thin plastic water bottles can be recycled, but there’s a much better way to help reduce plastic waste, which is using a reusable or metal water bottle! There are many water fountains around campus, or you can just refill from the sink. But if you don’t feel comfortable with that, I suggest investing in a cheap water filter as my roommate did! 

All these tips and tricks are things that I think most people do anyway, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded of all the ways that you can contribute to helping save the Earth! Coming up with this list helped remind me as well on how I personally can improve. There are so many macro-scale things that can be improved on, but as individuals, our actions can impact the world as well. It just starts with ourselves making sure to recycle into the correct binds or remembering to turn off the lights.

It might not seem like it now, but those actions can help in the long run! It creates good habits and reminds people of how valuable our Earth is. Teaching young kids the importance of being eco-friendly is a big step in helping reduce carbon dioxide admissions and reducing waste by encouraging them to want to help the environment when they grow up.

Us as adults now in college, we too can help our Earth! We are the ones who will be taking over businesses and running the country and world in a few years! Our actions impact the world now, and our future actions will as well! Remembering the little things, even while living in a dorm, is the first step towards a better future!

Earth Day is an important holiday that everyone should celebrate by going outside to plant trees, clean up the trash on the side of a highway, or donating! But if that isn’t available to people, planting a garden, taking a walk outside, or just spreading awareness is something easy that everyone can do this Earth Day! Being eco-friendly in college, or in life, can be done with just a few small steps! I know I will make sure to be aware of my plastics being recycled and trying to lessen my waste! Happy Earth Day everyone!

Hi! My name is Alex Corbin and I'm a sophomore at KU majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience in the Pre-Med track! I'm a huge movie and TV show fan, and my life has been taken over by TikTok. I hope you like reading my articles!
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