Living in a dorm can be hard in general, so doing your best with zero waste can seem impossible. But once you fall into a routine it’s awesome- by default, most of your stuff gets a lot prettier when you cut out a lot of plastic. I started my zero waste journey while I was in my sophomore year of college in August of 2019, after I transferred schools. My new school composted, and my dorm was solar powered! I was finally given the push to live more sustainably. However, regardless of how sustainable your school is, you can make a difference by making a space that reflects your values. is how I do my best to live zero waste in a college dorm.
A lot of my storage is used or vintage items that I really love. I keep books, video games, embroidery materials, and colored pencils in this old trunk my parents used to store my old American Girl Doll gear.
I store paper clips and other odds and ends in old yogurt jars, as well as my makeup brushes.
I use a scrap of cotton fabric to blot my lipstick so I don’t stain a handkerchief or towel. My reusable makeup remover pads are one of my favorite zero waste swaps- I love them so much. I mostly use refillable, recyclable, or compostable packing for my makeup: I usually order online because the stores near me don’t have that many green options: I love a lot of the clean at Sephora brands because some of them have recyclable products! I’ll do a post about zero waste makeup in the future .
Bath and Shower Caddy
I use an all metal safety razor I got secondhand from Ebay, a bar of castile soap for body wash and shaving cream, a shampoo bar from Ethique, and a conditioner bar from LUSH: I use American Cream, but I’m thinking of switching to Sugar Daddy-O for my blonde hair. I used to use matrix purple shampoo and I miss it. Don’t love the name though!
I use a bamboo toothbrush (Humble Brush) from walgreens and make toothpaste using baking soda and peppermint extract. I keep my face soap on this thrifted Madame Butterfly soap dish from Goodwill
(please check the secondhand market before buying reusable items)
or new: https://albatrossdesigns.it/
Shampoo bar: https://ethiqueworld.com/
Conditioner bar: https://www.lushusa.com/hair/conditioners/
Bamboo toothbrush: https://thehumble.co/
I highly recommend getting some sturdy velvet hangers. They last much longer than the cheap plastic ones which often break if you pull them the wrong way. Also I made my own jewelry hanger out of an old piece of driftwood from my lakehouse and some nails I found in my basement. Again, I highly recommend making things yourself instead of buying.
I still have yet to get through my box of tide pods: I often do laundry at home. Next, I plan on buying Dropps’ laundry detergent pods. Can’t wait to get rid of that ugly orange! Dropps laundry detergent is biodegradable and ships with no plastic at all. They’re also a lot less weight than jugs of detergent so it takes less energy to ship.
I keep a separate delicate basket to avoid ruining my clothes on accident. I also put my used makeup rounds directly into their washing bag in the delicates basket so they don’t get lost. Even if you don’t usually wash your delicates on that setting, I highly recommend it so your clothes don’t wear out as quickly. One of the core tenants of zero waste is using what you have and making it last as long as possible.
I use reusable wool dryer balls, and scent them with essential oils
Dropps laundry detergent pods: https://www.dropps.com/
I make most of my decorations: even though I’m a neuroscience major, I’m an art minor. I love sculpture, but there’s not much room for that so I cross stitch wall decor and make my own collages from magazines and frames from Goodwill. I also built this lamp using Ikea Nittio light bulbs last year. Making your own decor or shopping for thrifted versions is really satisfying: when people compliment it, you can say, “I made that”.
I buy bulk snacks and use this old microwave cart as a tabletop for food prep. I store all plates and bowls below. I also reused a keurig k- cup drawer as a utensil drawer.
I have a metal drawer set where I keep canned foods like soups and mandarin oranges, as well as some paper wrapped chocolate bars.. I also keep some of my DIY products here and my vinegar cleaning spray. This one is under my bed.
Above my fridge I keep my refillable dish soap and a bar of hand soap, syrup, some compostable dish brushes, and my nutri bullet. I also keep a metal bin on top of my fridge to put dirty dishes in.
Recycling, Compost, Trash Can
I keep my compost in an old tupperware in my freezer, and put it in a compostable trash bag when it’s full and throw it in the composting bin at my school’s cafeteria.
The primary things I recycle is paper, cardboard, steel and aluminum cans. My biggest pet peeve about living in a dorm (besides not having a kitchen) is that people don’t know how to recycle. I see food in the recycling bin all the time, and I know that housekeeping takes the bagged recyclables and throws the whole bag away if there’s one wrong thing For that reason, I take my recycling to my house every other week when I visit. It’s a pain to bring this bin home but I have peace of mind knowing it wasn’t thrown away.
I still make some waste! I don’t keep a real trash bin in my room because it takes up a lot of space and I don’t really use it- also buying trash bags is expensive for something I rarely use. This is my trash from the past 4 months, but I don’t think I’ll continue going with it. The trash jar makes me feel guilty. Once I use up my block of cream cheese I’ll have to throw out the lining- I thought the wrap was made out of foil, but after closer inspection it’s a multi-layer wrap. I’m obviously not going to hold onto that, but I think making a list of my waste so I’m completely transparent about it. But no, sorry, I don’t feel guilty about having a wasteful treat now and then: but that’s for a future blog!
How do you keep your space sustainable?