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Sustainable College Packing List

Packing for college can be extremely wasteful if you aren’t mindful of the products you purchase. This sustainable college packing list will help you reduce your carbon footprint heading into the school year.   

Pictures of sustainable dorm room.

Mattress Topper 

Many students buy new mattress toppers each year due to mildew, dust mites, and other mold-related issues. Instead of using a synthetic latex mattress topper that contributes harmful chemicals to the environment, try a bamboo mattress topper. Bamboo is an abundant resource and extremely breathable material. This prevents mold and can be reused year after year. 

Storage Boxes 

Before buying new containers to organize your room, try to use what you already own. If you don’t have containers to reuse, fiberboard or cardboard boxes are a great alternative to plastic boxes. Containers made of natural materials like Westerly’s water hyacinth storage baskets are also a more climate-friendly. Keep in mind, these containers may be more prone to breakage when filled with heavy objects.  

Portable Fan 

Air conditioning is responsible for around 120 million metric tons of CO2 every year. To reduce air conditioning usage, invest in a portable fan. Since most college living spaces are small opt for a small to medium-sized fan. The Genesis twin fan is a great option while being climate-friendly.  

Shower Caddy 

Ideally, try and find a shower caddy that will last all four years. A great option is Pottery Barn’s recycled shower caddy which is both durable and sustainable. The caddy is made from 100% recycled polyester and post-consumer water bottles. With four pockets and seven colors to choose from, these handy carriers are perfect for college life.  

Blue laundry basket.

Laundry Backpack 

In addition to the recycled shower caddy, Pottery Barn also makes a recycled laundry backpack made with post-consumer water bottles. It comes with handles that make it easy to carry and the lightweight material makes it easier to lift than a plastic basket. For those delicates, consider Simple Ecology’s organic cotton laundry bag that contains zero microplastics and comes in a variety of sizes.  

Shoe Organizer 

Many people opt for plastic shoe racks, but an over-the-door shoe bag can save space and plastic. The Container Stores’ 20-pocket shoe bag is perfect for dorm living and space saving. Like many of the items on this list it is made of recycled water bottles.  

Waste Baskets 

It can be hard to organize your waste into the proper categories. That is why Modern House made waste bins that organize paper, bottles, and plastic. Made with polypropylene, they are still technically made of plastic, but polypropylene is the most sustainable form of plastic. Proving to have a significantly lower carbon footprint, these bins are a durable alternative to the typical plastic waste bin.  

Bamboo utensil set.

Utensil Set 

Whether your food is provided by a dining hall, or you buy your own food, you will end up eating in your living space. As a result, having reusable utensils is key when trying to reduce single-use plastic waste. Even better than stainless steel, Earth Ethical makes a bamboo utensil set that is biodegradable and chemical-free.   

Water Bottle 

A water bottle may seem trivial, but the benefits of having a reusable water bottle are significant. Besides the fact that most college students carry a reusable water bottle for efficiency and convenience, having a reusable water bottle significantly reduces single-use plastic waste. S’well makes a variety of reusable bottles that come in many different styles and can even be customized.  

Water Purifier 

Contaminated water supplies are an unfortunate reality in the U.S. To make sure you can safely drink your campus tap water free of microplastics, GOpure made a water purifying pod that ensures clean drinking water. When you are done with your pod, it can be sent back to GOpure to make sure it is recycled correctly.  

Buy Secondhand Instead 

College essentials get thrown away every year. Buying sustainable and long-lasting items is great for the environment, but buying secondhand is even better. It can save you a lot of money while reducing the amount of waste entering landfills each year. Many campuses have a Dump and Run where you can find great prices on secondhand items. Simply look up where the closest one is to your campus. 


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