15 Great Green Tips for College Students

January 7, 2011 View all articles in General

College is actually a great time for you to start implementing green living habits. Whether you're participating in a campus recycling program or practicing conservation in your dorm room , there are lots of ways students can be environmentally friendly. Because you have an education, a job, and a social life to maintain, we've compiled a list of the quickest and easiest ways you can be good to the planet from campus.

Eco-Friendly College Student Tips


  • The University of Maryland estimated that 34 percent of its total greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 were from transportation. Evidently, students who live off campus and drive to and from class several times throughout the day are making a huge environmental impact. Shuttle buses, carpools, and bicycles are all great alternatives to single-driver cars. If you live on campus, however, make sure you keep your car parked and walk or bike to class instead.


  • Breaking down wood fiber to make paper consumes a lot of energy, which usually comes from coal plants. Therefore, the production of brand new textbooks contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. New textbooks also cost an arm and a leg! If some of your courses don't require a new edition, take advantage of used bookstores or websites that specialize in used textbooks, such as Half.Com or Amazon's textbook department . Both of these sites also offer easy-to-use options for selling back your old textbooks. Don't forget to borrow, trade, and sell textbooks among friends and acquaintances as well.


  • College courses depend on a lot of paper: syllabi, study guides, test outlines, notes, term papers, blue book exams, handouts, etc, Fortunately, more and more colleges are beginning to utilize online course management systems to post class materials and save paper. If your professors haven't already caught on to this practice, encourage them to do so.
  • For your own work, learn to proofread essays and term papers on your computer as much as possible instead of printing out multiple copies. And to save even more paper, ask your professors if you can turn your homework in on double-sided pages. If they prefer one-sided copies, make sure you print them on recycled paper.


  • If you're buying a new laptop for college, look for one that's Energy Star qualified. These computers use 70 percent less electricity and come with a sleep mode that uses 4 watts or less of electricity, which helps the computer last longer.

Taking Notes:

  • Why not take your laptop to class with you and take notes that don't require any paper? In addition to saving waste, electronic notes don't require any physical space and are usually harder to lose in your dorm room. Most students can type faster than they write so taking notes on your computer might even help you get more out of your professors' lectures.


  • Be sure to utilize your dorm's recycling program and recycle items like unusable textbooks, old class handouts, and that tower of beer cans in your room. If your dorm doesn't have a recycling program in place, however, help start one.
  • When you leave your dorm for the summer, get rid of your old items through sites like Craigslist and Freecycle, or take them to your local Goodwill or thrift store.


  • If you're moving into your first dorm room, you might be tempted to buy disposable plates and cups in order to save time. But a semester's worth of Styrofoam, plastic, or paper dishes will only accumulate unnecessary waste and expense. Buying inexpensive dishes from a secondhand store and washing them in your dorm's kitchen is a more practical option for students and a more responsible choice for the environment.


  • College students eat out a lot, which inevitably means a lot of paper napkins. The easiest way you can decrease unnecessary waste when dining out, bringing fast food back to your dorm, or eating in your school's cafeteria is to simply use fewer paper napkins. In fact, just one will probably do the trick. Dishtowels and cloth napkins won't add so much to your weekly laundry cost that you can't replace your paper towels and napkins either.


  • If you live in a dorm, it's not very likely you'll have much say in which light bulbs are put in your room. So why don't you get yourself an overhead lamp with an energy efficient bulb to do your studying beneath? These light bulbs might cost more initially, but they'll last longer and ultimately save you money in the long run.

Food and Water:

  • Read our article on going meatless once-a-week to learn how you can reduce your carbon footprint in your school's cafeteria.
  • If you're unwilling to go meatless once-a-week, at least be more aware of your portions and don't get more food than you're able to eat. If you usually take leftovers from the cafeteria to your dorm room, take your own Tupperware or reusable food storage containers with you to avoid the waste accumulated by disposable, Styrofoam ones. And if you make regular visits to a coffeehouse on campus, take your own travel mug that can be reused over and over again instead of using a disposable paper or Styrofoam cup each time.
  • Save waste and money by carrying a refillable water bottle to class instead of buying a disposable one every day.
  • Since you're usually never very far from your backpack, keep a reusable shopping bag in it for unexpected trips to the market or bookstore.


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