Your guide to zero waste dorm living

Easy ways to eliminate waste while living in a dorm room

Your guide to zero waste dorm living
Try using reusable items such as dishware, bags and water bottles to limit your waste in a dorm.

As the fall semester kicks into gear, students living in dorm rooms can easily fall into the trap of buying single-use items that wind up in the trash 24 hours later. Although it can be hard to live a completely waste-free lifestyle while living in a dorm, here are some tips on how to eliminate waste in your everyday life. 

Reusable dishware

One easy way to reduce waste in your everyday life is to buy reusable kitchenware. While stocking up on paper plates and plastic utensils may be easier and reduce your time washing dishes, using reusable dishware eliminates a lot of the plastic that most college students use once and throw away. Try using washable dishware to eat your leftovers or midday snacks. Target has reusable plates, bowls and cups for only $0.50.

Reusable bags

With Target, Wholefoods and CVS right in Tenleytown, another easy way to reduce waste is to bring reusable shopping bags to stores. Not only do they eliminate a lot of the plastic and paper routinely thrown out by college students, but they also tend to be larger, and cheaper in the long run as many stores now have a charge per bag. Most grocery stores sell reusable bags at checkout, making it convenient to pick up a bag that will stay with you.

Reusable water bottles

Although it is easy to buy a case of Poland Springs water bottles to sustain your water needs for a while, it produces a lot of plastic waste and ends up becoming expensive over time. AU’s campus houses many water fountains where you can refill your water at any time of day. Brands like Hydroflask and S’well are among the most popular brands for reusable water bottles, but there are many more inexpensive alternatives that keep your water cold all day long. 


AU’s campus has compost bins in nearly every building, which makes composting such an easy way to eliminate waste. If you have a leftover fruit peel from your meal exchange side or leftover coffee grounds from your early morning class, make sure to throw those in the compost bin on your way out the door. 

Clean with cloth

Cleaning your dorm room is essential to keeping the space a nice place to live, which is why many students put cleaning supplies near the top of their college shopping list. Instead of buying Lysol wipes in bulk to clean surfaces, buy machine washable cloths and your favorite household cleaner. Reusable cloths can also be used to replace napkins, makeup wipes and more. 

Although college dorm living is an easy environment to fall into wasteful habits, there are several simple solutions to reduce the amount of waste you produce and make the earth happy. 

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