How to outfit your dorm room without being wasteful

Last Updated December 2019

We all know that overconsumption is harmful to the planet, but moving from home into a dorm is one of those times when you're likely to need to buy a fair amount of items. It's okay to purchase products when you need them, but it’s important to avoid purchasing anything you don't truly require, for the sake of the planet and your bank balance.

We've come up with these tips on how to outfit your dorm room without being wasteful. It's possible to get all the essentials, and a few extras, while practicing ethical consumption.

1. Avoid unnecessary items

It's easy to turn up to college with items that you won't need, whether because your dorm already supplies them, your new roommate is bringing one, or you simply won't use it. Start by making a list of the items you're planning to bring with you and then go through the list to contemplate whether you really need it.

For instance, a typical undergraduate college student is not likely to need an iron and ironing board, and a printer will take up too much space when you could use your college's printing lab or, even better, just email assignments directly to your professor.

Thanks to modern technology, it's easy to get in touch with your new roommate before your first semester starts to avoid buying duplicate items — after all, no dorm room needs two TVs or a couple of coffee makers.

2. Work with what you've got

Before you buy all new items, take stock of what you already have at home. You might be surprised at how little you actually end up needing to buy. You probably already have sheets and comforters, though they might not be of the correct size for your new bed, so you should check the dimensions of your dorm mattress.

Items such as laundry bags, desk organisers, and lamps are often things you already have at home, so bring them with you as long as your parents don't mind. They'll probably thank you for asking them to buy fewer items for your new dorm room.

3. Buy used where possible

If you're concerned about waste, one of the best things you can do is buy used items over new ones. Of course, this isn't possible with all products and there are some items you might not prefer buying used, but it's a good choice for electronics, decorative items, and hard furnishings. You can even find used items on Amazon and other similar websites.

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Even small changes can help you reduce waste when kitting out your new dorm.


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4. Choose sustainable products

For those items you need to buy new, consider searching for a sustainable option where possible. For instance, you might want to choose a photo frame made out of reclaimed wood rather than plastic, or bed sheets made from bamboo instead of cotton or polyester. These might seem like minor changes, but they add up. You could also consider buying useful items that encourage creating less waste, such as travel mugs, reusable water bottles, and tote bags for shopping.

5. Think about containers

Reusable containers are a great way to create less waste in your new dorm life. They're great for taking to the cafeteria for leftovers, for when you want food on the go, or for storing leftover dinner after cooking in your shared kitchen. Glass containers are preferable to plastic ones if you're trying to reduce your plastic use overall, but they can cost a little more.

6. Dorm room shopping list

  • Bedding: Quality bedding is a must-have in any dorm room, and it’s worth splurging a bit to get a cozy, high-quality bedding set. If you want an environmentally-friendly option, choose bamboo sheets like the Cosy House Collection Luxury Bamboo Bed Sheet Set. Not only is bamboo an eco-friendly option due to its rapid growth and the fewer chemicals used in its production compared to cotton, it's also naturally wrinkle-resistant — a huge plus for college students.

  • Decorative items: Of course, you don't want to be wasteful, but this doesn't mean your dorm room needs to be a bleak minimalist nightmare. A wall-hanging or tapestry, such as the Bless International Peacock Mandala Wall Hanging, will brighten up your room and can also double up as a bedspread, picnic blanket, or sofa throw down the line, so it won't go to waste if you decide you no longer want to hang it on your wall.

  • Travel mug: Choose a quality travel mug that you can use to take coffee from home to class or that can be filled at your nearest coffee shop to avoid using disposable cups. We love the Wazzala Reusable Bamboo Eco Travel Mug, but there are many great options out there.

  • Food containers: There are many benefits of reusable food containers, but you don't need too many, or you won't have space to store them. A small set is ideal for your, such as these four Nummyware Plastic-free Glass Food Containers with Sustainable Bamboo Tops.
Written by:
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer