13 Money Saving Ways to Be a Greener College Student

It’s back to school season for college kids too. This year, pledge to be a greener college student with these 13 money saving ways to be more eco-friendly.

College student on campus

Going away to college is an exciting time, and between classes and social activities, making conscious sustainable living decisions can fall to the wayside. Thankfully many college campuses have entire departments dedicated to sustainable practices like composting in dining halls and energy saving hours in dorms. Before heading off to college this fall, consider adopting some simple green lifestyle choices that are both eco-friendly and cost-cutting.

Pledge to Cut Out Bottled Water

Reusing a water bottle throughout the day saves on plastic bottle consumption which is good for the environment and your bank account. Your college book store most likely has a selection of reusable water bottles for sale. There’s no better way to show off your school spirit than with a reusable water bottle in your school colors! An added bonus: water will stay colder longer in a quality reusable water bottle.

Work on Your Green Thumb

Keeping a small plant in your room will not only help purify the air of any toxins, it will provide you with a mood booster. Studies have shown that the presence of plants has been linked to improved mood and focus, reduced chance of sickness, and, in general, just creates a better environment to be in.

Get Biking

Bikes are finally cool again. Depending on the size of your school, getting from the dorms to class can either be incredibly quick and easy or can seem like an exhausting journey. Many college campuses are bike friendly and encourage students to bike to class as opposed to driving or relying on (oftentimes late) buses. It’s better for the environment and promotes a healthy lifestyle!

Bike on college campus

Reusable Dish Ware

It’s rare to find a dorm room that doesn’t have a mini fridge or microwave, so when you need a break from dining hall food, consider making that microwaveable dinner or bowl of cereal in reusable dish ware. And yes, this does mean you’ll need to do the dishes!

Speaking of Cleaning, Opt for Natural or Eco-Friendly Cleaners

Choose cleaning products made with safer ingredients that will be healthier for you, your air quality and the environment. Many green cleaners can be made DIY as well. Check out this list of easy DIY alternative natural cleaners!

Reuse Notebooks and Other Course Materials

Some courses require an arduous amount of note taking. Others, not so much. Take this opportunity to reuse a barely used notebook or binder for another course next semester, saving paper and another trip to the book store.

College homework school supplies

Go Paperless

If your professor allows it, bring your laptop to class to take notes. It’s easier to compile notes from over a semester when everything is all in one place. If you have the opportunity, email or turn essays in online to your instructor. Although not entirely common, look for electronic or online versions of any textbooks you may need for a class.

Use a Smart Power Strip

Between desk lamps, laptops, mini-fridges, microwaves and phone chargers, there are a lot of electronics in the typical dorm room. Smart power strips save power by automatically shutting down a product to standby mode when it detects a drop in an appliance’s power consumption. This greatly reduces the amount of “phantom loads” and “vampire power” that electronics often consume. Phantom loads and vampire power refers to the energy an electronic is using when plugged into an outlet regardless of whether it is turned on or off.

Install LED or CFL Light Bulbs and Turn Off Lights!

Create good habits by turning off lights when you’re not in your room and switch light bulbs to energy-saving bulbs like CFLs and LEDs. If you’re venturing into the exciting world of your first college apartment, LED bulbs will also save you money on your electric bill.

Rethink Your Laundry Routine

While you may not have realized it, quarters and an available washer and dryer were a luxury before college.  Doing laundry at college makes you an expert at saving (and finding) quarters and strategically planning your laundry night. Rethink your laundry routine by waiting until you have larger, more complete loads of laundry rather than several small loads to head to the laundry room. Wash on cold water rather than hot, as up to 90% of the washing machine’s energy is used to heat the water. Consider air drying your clothes on a drying rack and be conscious of the amount of detergent you’re using.

College student life laundry basket


Become familiar with the campus recycling procedures and recycling centers that take plastic, glass, paper and cardboard products. This also goes for academic papers including essay drafts, handouts, notes, etc. Take advantage of the recycling bins in lecture halls and classrooms. Colleges all over the country are making conscious efforts to make recycling on campus easier.

Ditch Plastic Bags

Keep some reusable shopping bags handy for your trips to the grocery store. Many grocery stores now charge for plastic bags and offer discounts for those who bring their own bags. It’s a no-brainer for helping the environment and your wallet.

Get Involved!

Sustainability in higher education is a hot topic these days and many colleges have student organizations dedicated to sustainability initiatives. If you want to know more about how you can make your college greener and save costs on energy consumption, consider getting involved in one of these organizations.

College students meet about sustainable practices

Have another idea on how to go green on campus? Let us know in the comments!