To see more sustainability tips, visit the Guide for New Students and follow the Wustl Sustainability Instagram to stay updated.

Do you want your move-in and housing experience to be less bulky, less confusing, and less impactful on the environment?

Keep reading to figure out what to pack, ways to buy second hand, and actions you can take to live more sustainably on campus.

We all know that game of Tetris you play to fit as much stuff as you can in a box when moving.

There are about a bajillion First-Year Packing Lists out there on the internet, and each seems to add another item to your list. Unfortunately, many items first-year students buy for their dorms will end up being unused and in a landfill after 1-2 years (after littering our campus and cramming dumpsters). We consulted some upperclassmen who told us things they wish they did differently, so you can reduce your waste and stress levels while packing.

Things You Might Think You Need, But Probably Don’t
Item(s)Why You Don’t Need
Desk, Bookshelf, Trashcan, & Recycling BinEach dorm room includes these. For a comprehensive list of all that WashU provides within the dorms, see pg. 15 of Bear Essentials 2022.
Microwave, Fridge, Printer, TV, & VacuumResidential buildings have these as communal items and printers are also in most buildings on campus.
Iron + Ironing BoardFold and hang your laundry to avoid wrinkles.
Mattress PadsWashU has a reputation of having some of the comfiest mattresses! Try out your mattress without a pad for a week or so. If you don’t need it, don’t get it—foam is made from petroleum and takes a very long time to break down. Most non-profits do not accept foam mattress pads as donations.
Decorative PillowsThese take a lot of space and many students end up leaving them behind.
Dry Erase Board + MarkersMany residential buildings have these in their study rooms.
CalendarConsider using an online version instead.
Board Games, Sports Items, & ProjectorsThe CS40 offers equipment rentals from a long list of items. Just request in advance and then have fun!
Brita Filter & Pre-Packaged WaterUse the free & filtered water filling stations provided in residential halls, dining halls, and academic buildings.
Individual Servings of SnacksLate nights studying require some snack sharing! You can also find a variety of snacks through WashU’s many dining outlets.
CarsFirst-year students cannot buy a parking pass. Campus shuttles can take you around campus and off-campus. The Metro is also a valuable (and free!) resource.
Eco-Friendly Alternatives
Reusable Water Bottle & Coffee Travel MugIt’s fun to cover them with stickers and show your personality while staying hydrated (and caffeinated).
Reusable Grocery BagsTotes environmentally friendly.
Reusable KitchenwareThe Office of Sustainability provides reusable bamboo utensils sets to students who request them.
Reusable RagsDitch those paper towels!
Bamboo ToothbrushYou may or may not feel like a panda every morning and night.
LED Bulbs & String LightsIf you’re going for the “fairy aesthetic” with your dorm lighting, remember that real fairies would be eco-conscious.
“Smart/Green” Power StripsThese automatically turn off electricity to all the things you don’t need.
Rechargeable BatteriesE-rase your E-waste.
Solar Portable ChargerOn-the-go vitamin D energy.
Green Cleaning ProductsFight dust with the power of sustainability!
Green Laundry ProductsPro tip: dryer balls work great for juggling.
Feel free to do your own research and search for more sustainable products!
Other Sustainable Packing Tips
Coordinate with your roommate so you don’t end up having two of the same thing (awkward . . .)
Collapse your cardboard boxes and store them under your bed to use again for move-out.
For dorm decorations, consider supporting local artists in your hometown or the St. Louis area and buy artwork from them. Or, stop by Gallery 314, a student-owned art shop on the South40 that supports student artists and also carries art from local artists in Missouri.
If you plan on using a Keurig, bring a reusable K-cup and/or use recyclable k-cups to reduce waste. Avoid single-use cups at all costs.
If you’re lost in the woods, going around in circles isn’t a good thing. But here, it is!

Even items that you typically do need, you can avoid bringing them when you first arrive because there are multiple avenues to buy second-hand goods in great condition. This saves you the hassle of lugging more stuff to school, will cost you a lot less than buying new, and is more sustainable!

A Sharing Economy: Why this is Important

All of this supports a sharing economy, which is a model that encourages the sharing of goods and resources within a group of people, allowing materials to be more fully and effectively utilized. This reduces environmental impact, can create jobs, increases access to goods, and builds a greater sense of community for all involved. It’s flexible, adaptive, and well suited to transient populations, like students!

Additionally, sharing economy systems can create equity, providing access to tools and resources that may otherwise be out of reach. It lowers barriers of entry and can increase experimentation and exploration of new things. It builds trust.
More info: before you buy, share!

The following are WashU programs and resources.

Share Our Stuff (SOS): WashU’s Own Thrift Store For & by Students

SOS was first established in 2010 as an initiative to minimize waste. When students graduate and prep to move, stuff they no longer need can escape the unethical—not to mention, smelly—dumpsters. Instead, they are organized for resale to other students in need of affordable practicality and pizzazz for their new or existing dorms and apartments.

There is a warehouse on North Campus that serves as a cornucopia of STUFF! Some of the things there are drawers, tables, desks, lamps, sofas, chairs, rugs, pillows, comforters, shelving, office supplies, mirrors, dishes, décor, clothes, and more! 

Prices range from $5—$20, and you can fill small and large boxes full of items. There are also delivery options available.

For SOS sale dates, address/directions, prices, and additional information, see here.
For donation pick-up requests, see here.

Sharing with a Purpose (SWAP) + Swamp Move-In Sale

Free For All

SWAP is a student-owned and operated non-profit organization founded in 2008 whose mission is to facilitate the open exchange of physical materials as well as knowledge-based resources among members of the WashU and larger St. Louis communities. 

SWAP annually collects reusable items left by students during the spring move-out season and stores them over the summer. Then, at the beginning of the school year, SWAP resells the gently-used, donated dorm essentials at drastically low prices. Dorm supplies include mini-fridges, microwaves, shelves, bed-risers, storage bins, shower caddies, kitchen supplies, school supplies, and so much more. This is called the Swamp Sale because it takes place on South40’s “Swamp” field.

SWAP also runs the Trading Post, an exchange store on the South40 where all of the available items are free! Students donate a variety of things ranging from clothes to dorm decorations, and others can come and take whatever they want. 

You can follow SWAP on Instagram at @swapstl.

The following are non-WashU options to buy second-hand.

Local Thrift Stores

There are a variety of second-hand stores in the St. Louis area that are great options to consider. Here are a few stand-outs:

Thrift Store# of Nearby LocationsClosest LocationGreat For
St. Vincent de Paul11South St. Louis—Christy
4928 Christy Blvd.
Furniture, Clothes, Glassware, Books, Records, & Decor
Goodwill10University City
7531 Olive St.
Clothes, Fabric, Glassware, & Decor
Salvation Army Family Store3Forest Park
4121 Forest Park Ave.
Furniture, Clothes, Glassware, & Decor
+ more!

Bring a reusable bag and enjoy your sustainable shopping spree! Make sure to check if there is a MetroLink or MetroBus stop near a location you are considering.

Facebook Marketplace + St. Louis Free and For Sale Facebook Group

Facebook isn’t just for moms—Marketplace is a bustling forum where people sell used goods for a discounted price. Some perks include setting a price range and being able to private message questions to sellers. If you meet up with the person, however, take precautions and be sure to bring a friend with you and ask to make the exchange at a safe and public location.

In particular, we suggest joining the St. Louis Free and For Sale private Facebook group which is very often used by WashU students, especially during move-out periods. This is a great way to furnish your place with items used by someone within your same university community.

Unless you’ve got your own hamster wheel connected to a power source (or…solar panels), your electricity is from burning coal!

In Missouri, 70–83% of electricity comes from coal, an incredibly carbon intensive fuel source. According to the EPA’s eGRID, our region has the 3rd most carbon intensive energy in the nation. This means you are positioned to make an especially large impact on reducing CO2 emissions by mindfully utilizing energy efficient technology.

Here are some tips to reduce your consumption in multiple utility areas.


Using a programmable thermostat can save 10–20% of your heating and cooling energy usage

How to Work Your Thermostat
Thermostat StyleHow to Work
ProgrammableSet the temperature to change automatically according to your schedule and preferences.
TraditionalEasily adjust these temperatures manually when you go to sleep and leave.
For more directions based on your WashU residential building, see here.
Recommended Temperatures
Season(s)Temperature RangeTips
Spring & FallFor warmer days: 78 or above

For cooler days: 68 or below
If open windows and ceiling fans are sufficient, turn off your heating/cooling system.
WinterAt home: 68–70 or below

Away or sleeping: 65 or below
Warm socks, long sleeves, and warm bedding can go a long way.
SummerAt home: 76–78 or above

Away: 80 or above
Ceiling and plug-in fans increase comfort and save energy.


The average AC unit uses 3,5000 watts but the average fan only uses 60 watts

Using Ceiling Fans
SummerIf you do not feel a cool breeze, reverse the direction of the fan by flipping the switch typically found on the base of the fan. The blades should rotate in the counterclockwise direction as you look up at them.
WinterRemember that heat rises. Use the ceiling fan in the clockwise direction to bring the warm air down. Set the rotation speed on low.
Using Portable Fans
Position the fan close to where people are in a room to take full advantage of the cooling effect.
Turn off when you aren’t occupying the space. Fans cool people, not spaces.

Ventilation increases indoor air quality and is the most energy-efficient way to cool your apartment.

Cross Ventilation
You can create air movement on warm days by opening windows on opposite sides of your home.
When your windows are open, make sure to turn off your heating and cooling system.
Type of DayTips
WarmClose your blinds to keep your home cool and reduce the need to use your AC.
ColdOpen your blinds when the sun is out to take advantage of natural light and heat.
Cloudy / NightClose your blinds to limit heat loss through windows.

On average, lighting accounts for 15% of a household’s energy consumption.

Use LED Light Bulbs
Only 10% of a conventional incandescent light bulb’s energy consumption goes towards lighting, while the other 90% is wasted in heat generation.
Contact the Office of Sustainability to find out how you can swap incandescent and CFL bulbs for free LEDs.
Turn Off Lights When Not in Use
Open the blinds to maximize natural lighting.
Do a quick walk-through of your home to turn off lights before you leave or go to bed.

Even when electronics are turned off, they can account for up to 10% of a household’s total electricity consumption.

What Causes This
Plug Loads This is the energy consumed by devices that are plugged into outlets.

They can account for up to 25% of a building’s energy consumption. A clothes dryer is the greatest energy consumer annually.
Phantom LoadsThis is the energy use by plugged-in devices that are not in use or are powered off.

Ways to identify phantom loads are to look for lights, feel devices and plugs for heat, or listen for fan noises.
Get in the Habit of Unplugging
Going on a break? Unplug all electronics that have a phantom load (esp. desktop computers, DVRs, monitors, speakers, phone chargers and printers).
Identify and eliminate electronics that are duplicates or no longer needed/used.
Use a power strip (ideally, a “smart” one) for electronics that do not always need to be plugged in. Turn off the power strip when not in use.
When possible, buy ENERGY STAR labeled appliances.

Drying one load of laundry in a dryer is equivalent to running 450 LED light bulbs for one hour.

Rinse Responsibly
Do full loads of laundry.
Wash clothes with cold water
Use a drying rack or clothesline instead of your dryer.
Avoid over-drying clothes by using shorter cycles. Dryer balls can help with this, too.
Clean the dryer lint filter before each load.
Kitchen + Bathroom

More than 20% of a household’s water usage comes from showers.

Use a dishwasher—it is often more efficient than hand-washing. Fully load before using.
Use electric kettles to boil water rather than the stove.
Use a toaster oven.
Conserve cold by keeping your fridge/freezer doors closed.
Take shorter and colder showers. Aim for 3–5 min long.
Decrease the flow rate of your shower head.
Turn off the tap when brushing teeth, cooking, or doing dishes.
Report leaks. Submit a housing maintenance request (on-campus residents) or contact Quadrangle Housing (Quadrangle off-campus residents).

All of this information and more can be found at The Guide to Energy Efficiency & Sustainable Living.

If you’ve read this far, you’re well on your way to being a “resident that reduces!” Now, here’s a few other programs tips to go above and beyond.

Go Green for the Red: Reusable Period Product Program

Sign up for FREE reusable menstrual products through this program sponsored by Habif Health and Wellness Center and CS40. Learn more here.

Green Cup

Every spring since 2011, WashU’s South 40 Residential Colleges compete to reduce energy use and adopt more sustainable lifestyles, preventing hundreds of metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere and helping the university save money on electricity costs with the Green Cup program.

ResColleges compete against each other across several categories including energy use, green events participation, answering weekly quizzes, and logging actions via the platform. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements in the spring!

  • Consider taking digital notes.
  • Do not buy your textbooks right away; oftentimes they are not necessary for the course. If you do end up needing them, download a PDF version or rent a used one from the WashU bookstore.