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By Giselle Pagunuran

Here at Carolina Housing, we’re all about living sustainably and taking care of the earth. We want to share some sustainable habits that you can use in your residence halls and in your everyday life!


Every residence hall room has a blue recycling tote for you to put all of your recyclable materials! If you don’t have one in your room, you can go to your community office to ask for one, or put in a Fix My Room request and say you’re missing your recycling tote. You can put things like plastic bottles, glass bottles, aluminum and steel cans, and mixed paper in those blue bins. But remember never to put plastic bags, cups, food-contaminated items, lids, or straws in those bins. These things contaminate the rest of the recyclable items in the bin.

Did you know you can recycle your batteries, printer cartridges, and fluorescent bulbs, too? You can bring these things to your community office and recycle them in the bins there. 


Another way to reduce waste is to compost! You can go to the front desk of your community office and ask for a personal compost bin. Once you have it, you can fill it up with food waste, paper products like paper towels, compostable packaging, tea and coffee grounds, and hair and nail trimmings. When it’s full, you can take it to the green or black compost carts next to the other garbage and recycling bins outside your residence hall. (Hot tip: To keep your personal compost bin from smelling weird, line it with newspapers you can get for free around campus!)

Watch your water!

Did you know that with a standard showerhead, a ten minute shower uses up 25 gallons of water? I have to be honest, I’m not always thinking about that when I’m standing still under a hot shower thinking about my life. Save some water by making a habit of turning off the water when you don’t need it – like when you’re soaping up or scrubbing your face or putting conditioner in your hair. You can still stand in the shower and contemplate your life – just not with the water running the whole time. You can do the same kind of thing with the sink. When you’re brushing your teeth or washing your face, turn off the faucet when it’s not in use! (Another hot tip: put containers outside to collect rainwater, which you can use instead of faucet water to hydrate any cute little succulents or other plants in your room!)

Use what’s reusable

What’s even better than recycling plastic water bottles? Not buying them at all! To avoid that unnecessary plastic waste, just use your own reusable water bottle! There’s a bunch of events on campus where you can get free water bottles, but if you never seem to get there early enough to catch the freebies, invest in your own water bottle! It doesn’t have to break the bank – there’s a ton of great options out there. Just find a good bottle that can last you a long time – longer than the plastic ones you just use once and throw away! And the same goes for grocery shopping. Instead of using the plastic bags at the register, bring your own reusable totes or throw some things into your backpack!

Buy Less, Shop Sustainably

Do your best not to buy things when you don’t need them – not only will your wallet thank you, but so will the environment. Constantly producing new things to keep up with consumer demand uses up a lot of resources and creates a lot of pollution. If you can, think twice before buying something you know will just end up in the trash. And, when you can, try to buy things secondhand. This works great with clothes – there’s a lot of stylish people on campus, and there’s a bunch of Facebook groups that sell and trade secondhand clothing. Not to mention thrift stores like Rumors and Clothes Mentor in Chapel Hill.

You really do vote with your dollars, so make them count!

You’re making a difference – now multiply it!

One plus one equals two, right? Easy math. The small actions you take alone can make positive change, but imagine if more people were doing the same thing with you. Remind others- friends, family, roommates – of easy ways to reduce waste in their everyday lives.

You can grow your impact even more by getting involved in your community. There’s a bunch of clubs on campus that do awesome work to support sustainability. Edible Campus and the Carolina Community Garden give students, employees, and community members access to fresh, locally grown produce. Carolina Thrift is a project that combats clothing waste by collecting donations and hosting discount sales. And every year, Carolina Housing hosts the Green Games, which is a student-led competition between housing communities that involves programs, contests, and events to promote environmental education.

Lastly, you can make your voice heard through environmental activism. Activism is a great way to reach more people and create a bigger impact. There are resources on campus, like at the Campus Y, that you can use to help spread your message. Not to mention social media, which is another great way to increase awareness. You can also encourage change by researching your local representatives and voting for candidates who care about the environment as much as you do. Get involved and urge your representatives to support policies that protect the environment. Your voice is powerful – use it!

These are just some of the ways you can live sustainably every day. If you have any other tips we haven’t thought of, let us know in a comment or on social media!

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