Green Residence Hall Room

Macalester students are sustainability-conscious in general, and this is no different when it comes to residence hall rooms.  From reusing one-sided paper to taking shorter showers and simply turning off lights when leaving common areas, residence hall living provides a wealth of ways to save energy, reduce waste, conserve resources and generally live in a sustainable way.

Interested in ways to green your room?  Check out the following tips and ideas for sustainable products and easy ways to reduce your impact.

Thinking more generally about what it means to be sustainable at Mac?  See the following sections for area-specific ways to live conscious of the environment.


  • Reuse things you already have, and if you need to buy, try looking at local thrift stores to find cheap, interesting stuff.  By not buying new ones, you will save money and space in a landfill.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs – which last longer and use much less energy than incandescent bulbs . The Ace Hardware down the street from Mac has them!  The Sustainability Office has a drop off for used CFLs, and if you happen to break one, the Mac custodian will know how to cleanup it up.  Home CFL safety tips can be found here.
  • Try looking at local thrift stores to find cheap, interesting stuff.  You can also check out the annual Habitat for Humanity sale at Mac, which has everything from clothes to mattress pads to books.  Or look into eBay Local, Craigslist and Freecycle.
    • Consider buying Fair Trade stuff – you can get really beautiful handmade things (like kitchenware, pillows, decorations and lamps) knowing that your purchase will support fair prices for artisans.  Check out the local fair trade store Ten Thousand Villages with a location on Grand.


  • Consider going without a fridge in your room - these things are huge energy hogs.  Freshmen get all 19 meals at Café Mac first semester, and snacks like fruit, granola bars, nuts and popcorn can all be stored fridge-less.  If you feel you need a fridge, look for one with an Energy Star rating, like this Danby model
  • If you want to be able to cook meals, try microwaveable instant soups, mac ‘n cheese and oatmeal, or think about investing in an energy-efficient rice cooker ($14.99 at Target!).
  • Mac has a few different groceries close by to keep you stocked.  Whole Foods is just a quick walk down Grand Ave towards the river, Kowalski’s is five blocks down Grand in the other direction, and Mississippi Market on Selby is a little further but easily accessible by bike, bus or foot.  All three are a good choice for nutritious and more environmentally-conscious (including local and organic) foods.
  • Use reusable water bottles!  Refilling a bottle with tap water is healthier, cheaper and much more sustainable than buying bottled water.  And St. Paul tap water is some of the healthiest in the world!  If you feel the need to drink filtered water, think about buying a Brita or similar brand water filter.  The smaller versions are relatively affordable ($19.49 at Target), and the only maintenance is replacing the filter (three for $19.99 at Ace) every couple months. Also, the Mac Free Swap keeps a good stock of water bottles so stop by to get a FREE water bottle!

School & Computer Supplies

  • Using extension cords and a power strip will allow you to switch off all your appliances when not in use and save a lot of energy.
  • Printers use a lot of energy and it’s awesome if you can avoid bringing your own, but if you do, look for post-consumer recycled paper and always print double-sided.


  • Plants add cheerful green to a room and are natural air fresheners.
  • If you want cleaning supplies, try an environmentally friendly all-purpose solution, but keep in mind that even the least harmful products often contain toxic preservatives and other problematic ingredients.
  • If you’re feeling ambitious, buy some vinegar and baking soda for cheap and mix them with water to create an easy all-purpose cleaner.  Or even just use the vinegar to wipe down surfaces.  Baking soda can also be sprinkled on carpets and then vacuumed up to counteract odors.
  • Try opening the door instead of the window when the room needs airing out.  You will save energy and get to talk to all the interesting people who wander in.

Linens & Bedding

  • Sheets made from organic cotton are good for your skin and don’t have the huge chemical impact of conventional ones.  They can be found at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, or ordered from Pottery Barn Teen, Pristine Planet or Elite Linens.
  • Target also sells bamboo and organic cotton towels for an incredibly low price.
  • Look for a wool mattress pad and wool or cotton blankets.  If you’re getting a comforter, try to find one with a non-synthetic (wool or cotton) filling.
  • Pillows can be made sustainably from bamboo, hemp, natural latex, wool, kapok fiber, buckwheat or millet.  Target sells a bamboo option, and Comfort House has a relatively reasonable buckwheat pillow for $34.99.

Personal Care

  • Many groceries, especially the ones mentioned above, carry sustainable alternatives.  For example, Whole Foods labels products as Premium Body Care if they fit certain environmental and health standards, and their Whole Foods Market brand can be surprisingly affordable.  
  • Try washing your face with only water (no cleanser or soap!) for a while and see how it goes.  Some claim that this is better for your skin and will result in a clearer complexion.  If it works for you, you will save money, space in a landfill, and the impact of conventional cleanser toxins!
  • Consider using single-ingredient products, like tea tree oil as an acne treatment or almond oil as a moisturizer.  Plus, these are cheaper!
  • Get good at checking labels.  Products with fewer and more-pronounceable ingredients will generally have a lower environmental (and health) impact.
  • Unscented products are usually more sustainable.  If you want your shampoo or lotion to smell sweet, look for products scented with essential oils.
  • Look for lip balm made without petroleum, like Burt’s Bees or the Whole Foods brand.       
  • Consolidate.  Look for products that can be used for more than one thing, like two-in-one shampoo and body soap bars or washes.  For example, could you use soap (or some even say conditioner) instead of shaving cream?
  • If you shave, think about investing in a reusable razor and blade refills (sold at Whole Foods).
  • It can be really hard to find sustainable alternatives that aren’t ridiculously expensive.  Experiment, do research if you’re curious, but remember that this is not an easy task and simple awareness of what you’re buying makes a difference.


  • Good eco-friendly detergent brands are usually pretty easy to find.  A few different kinds can be found at Ace Hardware down the street.  7th Generation is a good bet.  For other solid options check out
  • Go without fabric softener, or buy one from Ecover, 7th Generation or another reputable green brand.
  • Buy a clothes rack!  They can fold up to fit easily in a corner, dry clothes overnight or within a day or two, save you money on dryers and result in less wear on your clothes.  Plus, dryers use a TON of energy and it’s great if you avoid them.


  • Turn off lights when you leave a room, laptops when not in use, and power strips when appliances don’t need to be on.
  • Use compact florescent lightbulbs in your room.
  • Make sure to buy Energy Star computers, monitors and printers.
  • If possible, use cold water to do laundry and only wash and dry full loads.
  • Consider every appliance in your room and weigh how much you use it against its energy use.
  • Avoid leaving windows open for a long time, especially in the winter when heat is on.  (This is especially true before leaving for breaks!)


  • Try avoid using plastic bags, Styrofoam takeout containers and bottled water.  Instead, carry around a cloth bag and an aluminum water bottle and bring Tupperware for leftovers when you go out to dinner.
  • Collect plastic silverware, cups and plates from parties.  They’re easy to wash and reuse, and you will never be at a loss for utensils.
  • Use an air dryer or dry your hands on your pants and you will save paper towels and trees!
  • If you get tired of your clothes, switch with friends!  Or start a swap box on your residence hall floor – all you need are a sign and a box.
  • Keep a trash can or box in your room for recycling paper, cardboard, plastics, cans and bottles (it’s really easy to stuff it in the lounge kitchen’s bins) and ask your RA where to put cardboard boxes for recycling – usually behind the garbage in the trash room.
  • E-waste collection for broken computers and printers is available in the Sustainability Office in Kagin.
  • Used CFLs are also collected in the Sustainability Office.  However, if you break a CFL, contact Facilities Services as they need to be cleaned up in a special way because of the mercury.               


  • Bring a bike!  Or check one out from MacBike at the library. 
  • Buy a bus pass!  They’re available highly subsidized from the Info Desk, meaning you can get a $40 card for less than $27 (among other options)!
  • Walk around!  The path to the river is gorgeous, especially in the fall, and Grand Ave is full of interesting shops and restaurants.  Take your friends and explore.


  • Experiment with taking fewer and shorter showers, and you will save time and water!  Race yourself to see if you can get done in five minutes (or, say, two songs on your iHome) and turn off water when shaving.
  • Turn water off when brushing teeth and be on the watch for leaky faucets.

And Beyond...

  • If you’re interested in learning more about sustainability in general, take advantage of the many related student groups and events on campus.
  • Figure out what sustainability means to you.  Look up things you’re interested in.  Make connections.  Have fun.  Experiment.  Claim it.  
  • Apply for a job as a Sustainability Network Student Worker!  This is fun and meaningful work.  You get to collaborate with amazing people and you’re constantly learning.
  • Talk to people – about clothes racks, what you’re passionate about and what kind of world you and they want to live in.

Other Resources

  • How To Be a Sustainable Scot student-written guide is available in the Sustainability Office in Kagin.  This booklet is incredibly comprehensive, thoughtfully written and inspiring.
  • Climate Counts Scorecard - Check out how different companies stack up against their competitors as far as sustainability.