20 tips for a sustainable living space

Every September, UAlberta students start heading back to campus, filling residence buildings and moving into new apartments. During this exciting and hectic time, sustainable choices can easily be made—chances are you are making many of them already without knowing it!

The Office of Sustainability's outreach interns decided to outfit one of the rooms in Lister Hall residence as a sustainable dorm room. Check out these locations shots for useful tips to make your own living space—in a dorm or not—more sustainable.

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

2) Quilt. This quilt was hand made using old dresses. Reuse old materials to divert waste from landfills. This also reduces the demand for new products.

3) Clothes drying rack. To save energy, air dry laundry using a foldable clothes drying rack instead of using gas or electric dryers.

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

5) Reusable containers. Stock up on reusable dishes. Using reusable dishes and containers reduces waste associated with food and beverage packaging. Plus, many food providers on campus offer eco-discounts when you bring a reusable container!

6) Green cleaning products. Conventional cleaning products may contain chemicals which can harm human and environmental health. Use green cleaners to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and can improve the health of the planet.

7) Choose sustainable food options. Whenever possible, choose seasonal, local, organic and Fair Trade food. Buy seasonal food that’s grown in local climate conditions (without greenhouses) and local food items. 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.

8) Computer or tablet. Purchase an energy efficient computer. Enabling the power-saving features can save energy and reduce your environmental impact. Check out these other green computing ideas.

9) Recycled content school supplies. Recycling is only feasible if there is a market for recycled goods. Purchase school supplies that contain recycled content and close the loop by supporting the market for recycled materials, and reducing the demand for resources to make new products.

10) White board. Erasable whiteboards are reusable products that can replace paper notes, and therefore reduce waste.

11) Water bottles and travel mugs. The Office of Sustainability’s water bottles are durable and reusable. Glass and stainless steel bottles are great, and glass is 100% recyclable at the end of its lifespan. Recycled glass can be used over and over again to make new glassware without any loss of quality.

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

13) Efficient light bulbs. Compact flourescent bulbs use 75% less energy and can last up to 12 times longer than incandescent light bulbs, which have been largely phased out in Canada. LED bulbs are also highly efficient and affordable.

14) Green personal care products. Choose sustainable alternatives over conventional personal care products. This can reduce your exposure to synthetic chemicals as well as reduce your environmental impact.

15) Reusable organic cotton bag. Use reusable bags instead of plastic bags to reduce waste and save space in landfills. It’s estimated that the world consumes a million plastic bags each minute. 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.

16) One Simple Act on Campus commitment. Make a commitment to one new sustainable behaviour. Living more sustainably can be as easy as committing to One Simple Act on Campus. Learn how you can make your own commitment related to waste, energy efficiency, sustainability and water.

17) Bike helmet. Use alternative methods 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!

18) Power bar. Reduce standby power use. This power bar is digitally controlled and has 4 timer-controlled outlets which can be programmed to reduce standby power consumption.

19) Refillable white board markers. Using AusPen refillable markers will replace 240 disposable markers. They are also made from recycled materials, are third party certified and have non-toxic ink.

20) Recycling bin. Recycling helps divert reusable products from the landfills. Did you know that about 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.