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Whether you or your children are incoming first-year students or returning to campus this fall, pursuing a greener move-in experience is possible if you consider:

  • Coordinating needs with future roommates/suitemates and only bringing what you need. It may be possible to coordinate large purchases such as furniture and appliances. When you do purchase appliances, look for Energy Star-rated refrigerators and microwaves that utilize less electricity.
  • Add items made from recycled and eco-friendly materials to your shopping list.
  • Ensure dorm rooms and suites have a recycling container and students understand when, where, and how to recycle items. Remember, just because it’s recyclable at home doesn’t mean it’s recyclable on campus and vice versa. Universities may also require residents to separate recyclables.
  • Switch incandescent lightbulbs for LED. These use far less electricity than incandescent bulbs.
  • Pack reusable plates, napkins, and cutlery.
  • Bring real, live plants that can cleanse the air verses plastic ones that will one day need to be trashed.
  • New research confirms the recyclability of pizza boxes in some programs. Check locally to see if pizza boxes can be recycled in university communities.
  • Don’t forget reusable shopping bags for groceries and other items.
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Whether you’re shopping online or venturing to the store, keep these tips in mind to be sustainable with your shopping bags, shipping boxes, and packaging:

  • Remember when shopping for back-to-school supplies to take your reusable shopping bags. Plastic retail bags are not recyclable in your curbside carts and should be returned to participating drop-off locations.
  • If you purchase school supplies online, be sure to flatten and recycle your shipping boxes.
  • Check locally and follow directions on packaging before discarding.
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If your local schools are meeting in-person, start and end a greener day by considering:

  • A walking school bus may be a healthy and COVID-safe carpool alternative for those who live close to schools.
  • Turn off your car when waiting in long pick-up lines.
  • Ride your bike to school or work.
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Recycling reduces the need for new, raw materials, protects our planet, helps abate climate change, and creates stronger, healthier communities. Education can help improve and expand local recycling initiatives. Here’s how you can help educate, engage, and empower your friends, neighbors, family, and students to recycle:

  • Encourage your children’s school to pursue and promote recycling.
  • Twin the bin. Whether it’s your kitchen, office, laundry, or children’s play or bedroom, place a recycling container beside the trash can to make it easier to recycle.

When it comes to back to school sustainability, your actions, your voice, and your choices make a difference in the health of your family, community, and planet. Explore other ways to create a more circular, less wasteful economy, one supported by the other three “Rs” reduce, reuse, and recycle by visiting

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There are many ways you can push for sustainability on college campuses. Ideas are included below to help you learn how to build better habits, but what’s very important to remember is that you’re not alone! There are certain to be plenty of other college students going green at your school, and the easiest way to connect with them is by joining a club or group.

These groups will often offer plenty of environmental activities for college students, paths for leading activism, and ways you can volunteer to help your community become more sustainable. Colleges naturally will have their own individual clubs and groups (for instance, schools like Cornell famously have a robust eco-activism section on campus), so you’ll want to check out the list for your specific institution.

Here are a few examples of the types of environmentally friendly student organizations you could join:


Ready to start recycling?

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