This webpage is a starting point to think about how to live sustainably on campus. There are many suggestions and resources that will help you save money, reduce waste, and generally live more sustainably!

Buying Second Hand

At the beginning of the school year, SWAP (Sharing with a Purpose) sells 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 as it takes place on the “swamp” on South40.

The Trading Post is another great resource on campus for students looking to shop second-hand. This shop operates as a thrift store where all of the available items are free! Students donate a variety of items ranging from clothes to dorm decorations, and others can come and take whatever they want. Make sure to check out these great second-hand options at WashU before purchasing new items.

Sustainable Alternatives

Reducing waste and energy consumption are two focal areas for sustainability. Unfortunately, many items first-years buy for their dorms will end up in a landfill after 1-2 years. To avoid that, here are some suggestions about how to reduce your waste while on campus.

Change Your Coffee Practices

Here are some sustainable coffee practices, as listed from greenest to the least alternative:

  • Getting the Bottomless Coffee Mug from the cafes on campus is an easy and cost-efficient way to reduce the waste of to-go cups at WashU (disposable to-go cups are not recyclable or compostable). Forgo a coffee maker for your dorm room!
  • Manually brewed coffee, like a French Press, is a sustainable alternative to a Keurig and auto drip coffee makers. Make sure to compost the coffee grounds!
  • 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.
  • Check out this resource on sustainable and ethical coffee.
Dorm Decorations

The best practice for dorm decorations is to buying local and second-hand, such as purchasing at SWAP or from upperclassmen. Keep it simple!

Also consider:

  • Supporting local artists in your hometown or the St. Louis area and buy artwork from them.
  • Stop by Gallery 314, a student-owned art shop that supports student artists and also carries art from local artists in Missouri.
  • Explore sustainable alternatives to fairy lights, like those with rechargeable batteries or fairy lights with LED bulbs. Avoid lighting choices that use excess amounts of energy like Christmas lights.
Items for Your Sustainable Shopping List

These are some other sustainable alternatives. Try to keep these options in mind as your purchase items for your dorm room.

  • Dryer balls are the eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets because they are are not single use and can be used over and over again. They also help dry clothes more quickly and thoroughly.
  • Choose environmentally friendly light sources like LED light bulbs.
Purchases to Avoid

At the end of move out, there are some items that we see ALOT of and they are particularly difficult to rehome, so they end up in the landfill:

  • Mattress pads – 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.
  • Decorative pillows – these take a lot of space and many students end up leaving them behind.
  • Avoid buying unnecessary items by coordinating first with your roommate (on things like TVs, mini-fridge, and small appliances) and also checking to see which items you have access to via your ResHall (see below). Less to buy, less to store, and less to pack or dispose of at the end of the school year!

We Got You Covered: University-Provided Essentials

The Residential Halls at WashU already provide many dorm essentials, so be aware of what comes with your room and what is available for common use.

Within your room, you can expect: a bed frame, mattress, dresser, closet, desk, bookshelf, trashcan, and recycling bin. For a comprehensive list of all that WashU provides within the dorms, see page fifteen of  Bear Essentials 2021. This resource also contains a full list of dorm floor plans and pictures of each space. Each Residential Hall also has its own variety of communal items, such as a microwave, a communal fridge/freezer, stove/oven, printers, TVs, and even a vacuum cleaner. Look to see what your Res Hall provides before purchasing any big items like these!

To find out more about all of the options that WashU provides for more sustainable dorm shopping, visit Sharing Economy.

Tips From Upperclassmen

WashU students chimed in with a variety of useful tips. These are things most people had to learn from trial and error. Avoid that time-consuming/expensive process and learn from their mistakes!

  1. Be aware of what you can share. Check with roommates and floormates before purchasing unnecessary items for yourself.
  2. Aside from the Delmar Loop, the Central West End is home to many restaurants and art galleries (as well as the School of Medicine). Clementine’s Creamery on De Mun Avenue is also a popular gathering spot for WashU students. All of these places are accessible by Metro or on foot.
  3. Don’t buy a mattress topper or excessive comforter sets. Many students find the beds are more comfortable than they expected, so don’t buy a mattress topper until you’ve verified you need it. Having several comforters takes up a lot of space, it’s costly, and it’s unnecessary.
  4. Bring reusable cutlery, mugs, to-go cups, and other reusable kitchenware. The Office of Sustainability also has their own bamboo reusable to-go utensils. It is very fun to have mug collections.
  5. Speak to the people on your floor, especially your roommate. Communicating with your roommate allows you avoid buying duplicates and reduce your waste. People who live on the same floor as you also have resources you may be able to use if you ask.

Additional Resources for Sustainable Dorm Life

Various groups across campus can help you be more sustainable on campus. Check out a few of them below.

Congress of the South 40

The Congress of the South 40 acts as the programming body for students living on the South 40. Their goal is to create a supportive and inclusive home for students through advocacy and programming designed to create a connected campus and community. Within their programming, they have helped launch several sustainable initiatives across campus.

  • Composting in your dorm has never been easier! The Washington University Green Ambassadors launched a composting program that allows students living in the South 40 to collect compost in their residence! The South 40 Residential Composting Program provides a simple way to make big impact.
  • The CS40 also offers equipment rentals that range from board games to folding tables! Before buying new, make sure to check out this page for more information as well as a full list of available items.
Alternative Transportation

The emissions from cars have a negative impact on the environment and that impact can multiply quickly when everyone’s on the road. To mitigate the environmental harm caused by cars, choose a different form of transportation. Some of the many options are listed below!

  • Biking: Bear bikes is a student owned and operated bike rental service. WashU’s Danforth Campus is incredibly bike friendly, so renting a bike is great option for transportation. You can also use their service for bike storage and repairs.
  • U-pass: As a full time student, you have the option to receive a free U-pass. This pass lets you ride all of Metro St. Louis’ public transit options for free. You can travel all over the St. Louis metropolitan area using the light-rail system, Metro buses, and Call-A-Ride Paratransit service with your U-pass. Request your U-Pass here.
  • Carpooling: If there’s a place you cannot get to by foot, biking, or with public transportation, try to carpool with other people headed to the same area. You can coordinate via WashU Rides. WashU Rides is especially helpful for getting places over holiday breaks.
  • Carshare: If you don’t have access to a car and have exhausted the options above, you can rent a car by the hour and pick it up at one of the designated parking spots on campus.
Green Living

These are a few general tips and tricks for completing day-to-day in a more sustainable way.

  • Check out this green cleaning resource on reduce your own and your environment’s exposure to toxins in sustainable ways.
  • Wash your clothes with cold water.
  • Unplug appliances and other electronics when you’re not using them.
  • Learn more through Office of Sustainability’s Sustainable Living Guide.