Green Tips for Everyone


General "Green" Tips for Student Living

In the apartment/residence hall:

  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs or LED lights, which last longer and use less energy than regular bulbs.
  • Use one of the hydration stations around campus or buy a water filter and refill a reusable container instead of buying cases of bottled water. This saves money and reduces waste!
  • Buy furnishings and clothes from thrift stores instead of buying new from department stores.
  • Turn off unnecessary electrical devices when you leave a room for more than 10 minutes.
  • Enable your computer to go into "sleep mode" when not in use.
  • Do not leave computers on all night.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use.
  • Unplug cell phone charger when charging is complete.
  • Use natural light rather than electric whenever possible.
  • Pull down window shades during the day in the summer to keep cool, closed during winter nights, and open during winter days to let heat & sun in.
  • Turn off and defrost refrigerator over long breaks.
  • Don't use power strips to turn on your computer and desk equipment all at once.
  • Buy inexpensive mugs, plates, and utensils that you can wash rather than disposable ones and avoid over-packaged takeout food.
  • Reuse envelopes, advertisements, and previously used paper for notes.
  • Share magazines and books.

In the bathroom:

  • Take shorter showers; don't run the water before getting in, and turn off the water when lathering and shaving.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth and shaving.
  • Report leaky faucets and showerheads.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead in your apartment.  They're cheap and will save you money on your water bill.
  • Don't use the toilet as a garbage bin. Toss tissues and waste in trash cans.

In the laundry room:

  • Only wash full loads of laundry.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water.
  • Air dry whenever possible.
  • Use products containing the least amount of bleaches, dyes, and fragrances.

In the classroom:

  • Rent books instead of buying them when possible. Buy used when you can.
  • Use refillable binders instead of notebooks or use a laptop.
  • Use recycled paper.
  • Take notes on both sides of paper.
  • Recycle notes from old notebooks and use the unused pages for another class.
  • If it’s OK with your professor, hand in assignments by printing on both sides of the page, or ask if you may submit assignments electronically. 
  • Unless you’re handicapped, don’t use automatic handicap doors.
  • Avoid printing unnecessary items.  Try to read assignments digitally if you can.

In the kitchen/dining hall:

  • Eat locally grown foods.
  • Carry a reusable cup or water bottle. Some water bottles come with built-in filters if you're worried about the quality of the tap water.
  • Limit the use of paper napkins.
  • Only take what you will eat to limit food waste.
  • Dispose of waste in the correct container. Recyclables should not contain any food or liquids.

In the store:

  • Carry a tote bag for shopping so you don't have to use a plastic bag.
  • Purchase durable rather than disposable products.
  • Look for locally grown produce and USA products.  This stimulates you regional economy, and the more local the item, the more fossil fuels saved.
  • If you get a plastic bag, reuse it.
  • Go vintage. Buying used clothing saves money, decreases the use of resources to make clothing, and puts a dent in the problem of sweatshops.
  • Also buy used furniture and books.
  • Buy recycled products, such as paper, and get environmentally safe cleaning products.
  • Check to make sure plastic items are labeled 1-7 and are recyclable. 

In the workplace:

  • When you print or photocopy, use both sides of each sheet of paper.
  • Save pages that you've printed and use the backs to print out drafts and other things you don't have to turn in.
  • When possible, use your printer's low-quality setting to save ink.
  • Bookmark webpages instead of printing them for research.
  • Edit on screen, not on paper.
  • Use e-mail to minimize paper use.
  • Advertise events using e-mail or by posting on NIU Today through NIU's calendar or in mass publications such as the Northern Star rather than papering the campus.

In the laboratory:


  • Never pour hazardous chemicals down the drain.
  • Use as small an amount of chemicals as possible by following instructions and being exact when measuring out starting materials.
  • Reuse cleaning solvents such as acetone and alcohol for initial cleaning of dirty glassware, using fresh solvent for the final rinse only.
  • Prepare chemical waste for disposal as per instructions in the hazardous waste management program.


  • Always provide proper waste minimization and disposal instructions to students
  • Redesign experiments to minimize hazardous chemical waste and to replace toxic reagents with less hazardous substances.
  • Order reagents in exact amounts to avoid leftovers.
  • Distill and recycle solvents for use in demonstrations.
  • Make sure chemicals are clearly and properly labeled.

In the art and photography studio

  • Use nontoxic, biodegradable art supplies.
  • Replace oil-based paints with water-based paints.
  • Modify spray-painting techniques to minimize over-spraying.
  • Use biodegradable, nontoxic cleaners.
  • Minimize use of cleaning solvents for brush cleaning by reusing dirty solvents for first rinse and fresh solvents for final rinse only.
  • Clean brushes with lavender oil instead of turpentine.