Guide to Green Living

NIU strives toward environmentally sustainable policies and practices that promote responsible stewardship of existing resources and the environment. The NIU green living guide is a resource for both staff and students designed to promote green living and sustainability practices for life both on and off campus. In this guide you will find easy ideas and sustainability practices that are designed to reduce the overall ecological impact on our environment and the DeKalb community.

Apartment/Residence Hall

  • Guide to Sustainable Living in the Residence Halls
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs or LED lights, which last longer and use less energy than regular bulbs.
  • Use one of the hydration stations around campus or buy a water filter and refill a reusable container instead of buying cases of bottled water. This saves money and reduces waste!
  • Buy furnishings and clothes from thrift stores instead of buying new from department stores.
  • Turn off unnecessary electrical devices when you leave a room for more than 10 minutes.
  • Enable your computer to go into "sleep mode" when not in use.
  • Do not leave computers on all night.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use.
  • Unplug cell phone charger when charging is complete.
  • Use natural light rather than electric whenever possible.
  • Pull down window shades during the day in the summer to keep cool, closed during winter nights, and open during winter days to let heat and sun in.
  • Turn off and defrost refrigerator over long breaks.
  • Don't use power strips to turn on your computer and desk equipment all at once.
  • Buy inexpensive mugs, plates and utensils that you can wash rather than disposable ones and avoid over-packaged takeout food.
  • Reuse envelopes, advertisements and previously used paper for notes.
  • Share magazines and books.


  • Take shorter showers; don't run the water before getting in, and turn off the water when lathering and shaving.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth and shaving.
  • Report leaky faucets and showerheads.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead in your apartment. They're inexpensive and will save you money on your water bill.
  • Don't use the toilet as a garbage bin. Toss tissues and waste in trash cans

Laundry Room

  • Only wash full loads of laundry
  • Wash your clothes in cold water
  • Air dry whenever possible
  • Use products containing the least amount of bleaches, dyes and fragrances

Kitchen/Dining Hall

  • Eat locally grown foods.
  • Carry a reusable cup or water bottle. Some water bottles come with built-in filters if you're worried about the quality of the tap water.
  • Limit the use of paper napkins.
  • Only take what you will eat to limit food waste.
  • Dispose of waste in the correct container. Recyclables should not contain any food or liquids.


  • Carry a tote bag for shopping so you don't have to use a plastic bag.
  • Purchase durable rather than disposable products.
  • Look for locally grown produce and USA products. This stimulates you regional economy, and the more local the item, the more fossil fuels saved.
  • If you get a plastic bag, reuse it.
  • Go vintage. Buying used clothing saves money, decreases the use of resources to make clothing, and puts a dent in the problem of sweatshops.
  • Also buy used furniture and books.
  • Buy recycled products, such as paper, and get environmentally safe cleaning products.
  • Check to make sure plastic items are labeled 1-7 and are recyclable.


  • When you print or photocopy, use both sides of each sheet of paper.
  • Save pages that you've printed and use the backs to print out drafts and other things you don't have to turn in.
  • When possible, use your printer's low-quality setting to save ink.
  • Bookmark webpages instead of printing them for research.
  • Edit on screen, not on paper.
  • Use e-mail to minimize paper use.
  • Advertise events using e-mail or by posting on NIU Today through NIU's calendar or in mass publications such as the Northern Star rather than papering the campus.


  • Rent books instead of buying them when possible. Buy used when you can.
  • Use refillable binders instead of notebooks or use a laptop.
  • Use recycled paper.
  • Take notes on both sides of paper.
  • Recycle notes from old notebooks and use the unused pages for another class.
  • If it’s OK with your professor, hand in assignments by printing on both sides of the page, or ask if you may submit assignments electronically.
  • Unless you’re handicapped, don’t use automatic handicap doors.
  • Avoid printing unnecessary items. Try to read assignments digitally if you can.


  • Never pour hazardous chemicals down the drain.
  • Use as small an amount of chemicals as possible by following instructions and being exact when measuring out starting materials.
  • Reuse cleaning solvents such as acetone and alcohol for initial cleaning of dirty glassware, using fresh solvent for the final rinse only.
  • Prepare chemical waste for disposal as per instructions in the hazardous waste management program.
  • Always provide proper waste minimization and disposal instructions to students
  • Redesign experiments to minimize hazardous chemical waste and to replace toxic reagents with less hazardous substances.
  • Order reagents in exact amounts to avoid leftovers.
  • Distill and recycle solvents for use in demonstrations.
  • Make sure chemicals are clearly and properly labeled.

Art and Photography Studio

  • Use nontoxic, biodegradable art supplies.
  • Replace oil-based paints with water-based paints.
  • Modify spray-painting techniques to minimize over-spraying.
  • Use biodegradable, nontoxic cleaners.
  • Minimize use of cleaning solvents for brush cleaning by reusing dirty solvents for first rinse and fresh solvents for final rinse only.
  • Clean brushes with lavender oil instead of turpentine.

Find online lists of ways to go green at school, such as this one about choosing to be sustainable while in college. Learn more