Living in college dorms can be a tough transition, especially when most dorms don’t have kitchens or ample storage. Here are four ways to be eco-friendly in your college dorm, plus two recipes to try:
1. Try to use reusable items as much as possible
Reusable items are key to being more eco-friendly with college dorm food. In my dorm room, I use 10 piece metal cutlery, three coffee cups, two travel mugs, two water bottles, a metal tumbler, three cloth napkins, one plate, and one bowl. This has helped me to cut back on pounds of waste would have created if I used all paper plates, disposable napkins, and cups. By creating less waste, you are ending the disposable society loop.
A big misconception about having most/all reusable items that it is expensive and difficult, but in reality, you actually save money in the long run by buying a reusable item once rather than buying a disposable item for every day of the week. Using reusable cups will also help you to save money if you buy a coffee from a Starbucks on campus, they’ll give you a 10¢ discount on your drink for bringing a reusable mug or cup.
2. Stay away from single-use food items
Using single-use items are one of the worst things humans can do to the environment, especially plastic items because they don’t decompose. The best way to combat single-use items from ending up in a landfill is to not buy them at all. The most common single-use dorm foods are single person meals, K-cups, fruit cups, and individually packed bars. Instead of buying bars, fruit cups, and single person meals, buy a bag a rice (if you have a rice maker), cans of beans, corn, fruit, and tomatoes, a bag of tortillas, bread, peanut butter, and jelly, a bag of oranges or apples, and foods to add flavor like salsa, sriracha, and soy sauce. As for coffee, try buying coffee grounds and a reusable metal K-cup.
3. Buy in bulk whenever possible
Buying in bulk is a really easy way to reduce your waste by using reusable containers and increase your savings. Bulk shopping is where you buy in larger quantities, usually at a lower price, and generally, you can use your own containers too. Bulk shopping doesn’t have to be super fancy, Tupperware from home works just as well as high-end glass jars. My favorites to buy in bulk are rice, banana chips, nuts, and cereal. Many co-ops allow you to bring your own containers, but be sure to call ahead to make sure you have permission to use your own containers. For more information on how to buy in bulk, check out my post How to Shop Zero-Waste: Bulk Shopping.
4. Recycle, recycle, recycle
Most college dorms have a recycling program, which makes it even easier to recycle the inevitable plastics and metal cans you will use in your dorm. Recycling is one of the easiest things you can do to start living more eco-friendly in your college dorm. Most cans, wrappers, and cardboard cereal containers can be recycled at a typical recycling center, but make sure to lightly rinse what you want to recycle if it has leftover food in it.
5. Two dorm food ideas to try
Teriyaki rice + canned tuna
This recipe is one of my go-to recipes because I buy rice and canned tuna in bulk, so it is very cheap per meal and the only waste that is left is the metal can, the plastic bottle of sriracha, and the glass bottle of teriyaki sauce, both of which are recyclable.
Rice maker/instant pot
1 can of tuna (lite or regular)
1.5 cups of dry rice
1 T of teriyaki sauce
1 t of sriracha sauce (optional)
- Put 1.5 cups of rice in the rice maker along with 1.5 cups of water and set it to either white or brown rice depending on what you’re using
- When the rice timer says five minutes left, empty the tuna into a bowl.
- Add the teriyaki sauce and the sriracha sauce (optional) to the bowl of tuna and mix evenly
- Once the rice is done, scoop it into the bowl and mix evenly.
If you’re in college, you probably know the feeling of having ramen on a regular basis. This is one of my favorite recipes to spice up ramen. For this recipe, I buy the almond milk and vegetable broth in milk cartons or terra packs, so they are recyclable and shelf stable. For the butter/ghee, wipe the wrapper clean when done. Sometimes ghee comes in a glass jar, if that’s the case, clean the jar and reuse.
1 packet of chicken ramen (I prefer creamy chicken ramen, but all chicken ramen works)
4 oz. of water
4 oz. of vegetable broth
1 oz. almond milk, unsweetened
1 t of sriracha
1 t of butter or ghee
A pinch of salt and pepper
- Break up the block of ramen and put it in a bowl. Add flavor packet to bowl as well.
- Put under Keurig without a K-cup in it so just hot water is being dispensed.
- Set Keurig to 4 oz of water and push the button. While the hot water is going into the bowl, pour the vegetable broth in.
- Cover ramen and let it sit for 5 minutes, stirring every other minute.
- Add almond milk and butter/ghee to the ramen
- Put ramen in the microwave at full power for 2-3 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed.
- Cover ramen and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Uncover ramen and stir.
- Add the sriracha and the salt and pepper to the ramen
- Stir the ramen until evenly mixed and let it sit uncovered for 1-2 minutes