The Green Book: Living@Duke

PART I: Dorm Living

Shopping List for a Green Dorm Room

  • General Items
    • Clothes drying rack
    • CFL or LED light bulbs
    • Smart powerstrip
    • Organic blankets, sheets and pillows
    • Reusable shopping bags
    • Bike
    • Bike helmet
  • For the Kitchen
    • Durable plates, bowls, cups and silverware
    • Filtering water pitcher
    • Reusable water bottle
    • Travel coffee mug
  • For the Desk
    • Recycled content paper
    • Recycled content notebooks and binders
    • Lamp & CFL or LED light bulbs
  • Personal Care
    • Organic shampoo and conditioner
    • Biodegradable soap
    • Organic lip balm
    • Aluminum-free deodorant
    • Recycled content tissues
    • Organic or bamboo towels
    • Hand towels (use instead of bathroom paper towels)
  • Green Cleaning
    • Biodegradable laundry detergent
    • Biodegradable all-purpose cleaner
    • Recycled content paper towels (or make your own rags)

Check out Duke’s model Green Dorm Room!

Live Green

So, you’re here, you’re unpacked, and it’s time to start getting comfortable with dorm life! Follow our tips to go green in your new room.

  • Electronics
    • Unplug when not in use to avoid sucking “vampire energy”
    • Use a powerstrip to easily shut off power to many electronics at once
    • Use the sleep or hibernate setting on your computer, not the screensaver
  • Energy
    • When you leave your room: turn off the lights, fans and the air conditioning (if you have it)
    • Leave your radiator off if at all possible--go with an extra sweater!
    • If you can control your room’s temperature, set the thermostat to a few degrees higher in the summer (76 degrees F) and a few degrees lower in the winter (68 degrees F)
    • Get a drying rack or put up a clothes line along your bed, and air dry your clothes
    • Wash your clothes on the cold setting
  • Water
    • Take back the tap! Skip the bottled water, and bring your own reusable bottles
      • Tap water is safe, convenient and saves you money!
    • Shorten your showers to 5 minutes or less! (1 minute = 12 bottles of water)
    • Only wash full loads of laundry
    • Report any leaky plumbing to the appropriate HDRL office

Think your room’s as green as can be? Apply for Green Dorm Room Certification!

Sustainability Signs

Have you noticed little reminder signs around the dorms and campus for everything from recycling to turning off the lights?  These sustainability signs are a project of the Students for Sustainable LivingLearn more about the signs.

PART II: Off-campus Living

Once you’ve settled in to your new abode, there are plenty of ways to reduce your footprint. Follow our tips to make your new home eco-friendly.


  • Avoid pre-rinsing
  • Air dry your dishes as an energy saving option
  • Run only full loads in the dishwasher


  • Dry full loads, but avoid overloading
  • Air dry clothes on a rack or clothes line


  • Use the smallest appliance possible to accomplish the task


  • Turn off the lights if not in use
  • If your landlord allows, consider purchasing a programmable thermostat
  • Wash your clothes on the cold setting
  • Avoid using large electronics during peak energy hours(from 5-8 p.m.) to lessen demand on the grid
  • Use a powerstrip to easily shut off power to many electronics at once
  • Use the sleep or hibernate setting on your computer, not the screensaver


  • Use a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic waste
  • Shorten your showers to 5 minutes or less if possible
  • Only wash full loads of laundry
  • Report any leaky plumbing to your landlord


  • Set the thermostat slightly higher in the summer (78°F) and slightly lower in the winter (68°F)
  • Use ceiling or box fans to keep cool and turn them off when you are out of the room
  • Open windows on cool evenings on both sides of your living space to create a cross breeze

PART III: Purchasing

What you buy (or don’t buy) sends a powerful message--make it one you believe in.

  • Buy used.
    • Duke Free Store – Duke Recycles and Students for Sustainable Living bring you the Duke Free Store each month throughout the semester at the Bryan Center.  Free items include include school supplies like binders, notebooks and pens, as well as dorm room items. Contact for a specific schedule.
    • The Scrap Exchange (923 Franklin Street) – Bring any odd items that you aren't sure how to recycle to in The Scrap Exchange in Durham.  You can ride the Bull City Connector to the Golden Belt complex, where this facility is located.
    • Thrift Shops
      • Examples: Nearly New Shoppe (2525 Erwin Rd), Fifi’s Fine Resale Apparel (1000 West Main St. 1-B)
  • Buy local, organic and fair-trade.

PART IV: Studying

Homework? May the Forest be with you!

  • Save money (and trees): buy used or local books
  • Printing
    • Use ePrint instead of your own printer
    • Print less! Do you really need a hard copy?
    • Only print double-sided
      • Use this guide to set your computer’s default settings to double-sided
    • Format your pages with smaller margins and smaller font
      • Times New Roman and Arial are the best fonts to print in because they use less ink and paper because they are narrower fonts
    • Print multiple slides per page for PowerPoints
    • Read articles on your computer or other device
    • Ask your professor if you can turn in assignments online


Part V: Get Involved: Living @ Duke