20 tips for a sustainable living space

Every September, UAlberta students start heading back to campus, filling residence buildings and moving into apartments. A new year means a new opportunity to make sustainable choices—chances are you are already making some of them without even knowing it!

The Office of Sustainability's outreach interns decided to create a sustainable dorm room in Lister Hall. Check out these photos for useful tips to make your own living space—wherever it may be—more sustainable.

Sustainable dorm room features, including used books and a clothes drying rack

1 ) Buy used text books. This reduces the demand for new ones, creates a market for reused products, and helps to divert waste from landfills.

2) Stay warm with a unique quilt. This quilt was handmade from old dresses; you can also make one from old band t-shirts! Reusing materials keeps waste out of our landfills and reduces the demand for new products.

3) Hang your clothes to dry. This simple drying rack saves energy and reduces wear and tear on your clothes, prolonging their lifespan.

4) Hit the switch. Put reminders by light switches to remind yourself to turn off the lights when you leave the room.

Sustainable dorm room features, including green cleaners and reusable food containers

5) Choose sustainable food options. Whenever possible, choose seasonal, local, organic and Fair Trade food. This will reduce the distance traveled from the farm to your plate and strengthen the local economy. Organic foods are produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Fair Trade certification is a way to identify products sourced using equitable and ethical trading and sustainable practices.

6) Stock up on reusable containers. Reusable dishes and containers reduce waste, and many food providers on campus offer eco-discounts when you bring a reusable container!

7) Use green cleaning products. These eco-friendly products can reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and improve the health of the planet.

Sustainable dorm room features, including a whiteboard and travel mugs

8) Make the most of your computer or tablet. Enabling the power-saving features on your computer can save energy and reduce your environmental impact. If you're in the market for a new computer, consider getting an energy-efficient model.

9) Buy school supplies made from recycled materials. Recycling is only feasible if there is a market for recycled goods. Close the loop by buying recycled materials and reducing the demand for resources to make new products.

10) Use a whiteboard. Erasable whiteboards are reusable products that can replace paper notes and reduce waste.

11) Carry a water bottle and travel mug. Disposable water bottles and coffee cups are huge sources of waste, so this simple act can have a huge impact.

Sustainable dorm room features, including a bamboo hairbrush and efficient light bulbs

12) Try a bamboo brush. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass that removes carbon dioxide from the air, and its cultivation does not require the use of pesticides. It is a sustainable and renewable resource.

13) Use efficient light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs have been largely phased out in Canada. As your bulbs burn out, replace them with LED bulbs or compact flourescent bulbs—both are efficient and long-lasting.

14) Choose green personal care products. These alternatives can reduce your exposure to synthetic chemicals as well as reduce your environmental impact.

Sustainable dorm room features, including a bike helmet and reusable bag

16) Make a commitment to do One Simple Act on Campus. Commit to one new sustainable behaviour. Learn how you can make your own commitment related to waste, energy efficiency, sustainability and water.

15) Carry a reusable bag. It’s estimated that the world consumes a million plastic bags each minute, and it can take about 1,000 years for plastic to degrade in a landfill! The Office of Sustainability’s bags are made from 100% organic cotton and represent a durable, reusable product.

17) Choose a sustainable method of transportation, such as cycling. You will reduce carbon emissions and your environmental impact. Cycling also saves money and is a great form of exercise. Don't forget your helmet!

Sustainable dorm room features, including refillable whiteboard markers and a recycling bin

18) Use a power bar. Reduce standby power use by flipping the switch after you turn off your computer, TV and other appliances.

19) Try refillable white board markers. AusPen refillable markers can replace 240 disposable markers. They are also made from recycled materials, are third-party certified and use non-toxic ink.

20) Keep your own recycling bin. Recycling helps divert reusable products from the landfills. Did you know that roughly 92% of campus waste is recyclable or compostable


Caltech. (n.d.) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Retrieved from: http://sustainability.caltech.edu/documents/71-recycling.pdf/ on August 22, 2012.

Green Computing (PDF). One Simple Act on Campus backgrounder.

Bright GreenTM 60 Watt Replacement Bulb box.

Bamboo Fencer. (n.d.). Bamboo and Sustainability. Retrieved on August 22, 2012.