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Tips & Tricks

A variety of sustainable habits can be easily adopted into anyone's life to help reduce our impact on the environment and assist us in building our personal and communal health. Ultimately, it goes back to the basics: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Empower through education and involvement. 

Planning an event? 

Check out this handy one-page guide to help you host a more sustainable event and might even save you money! 


Conserve Energy

  • Use power management settings on your computer to save energy when you're away from your desk or your computer is idle.
  • Only use the power-assist doors if you have an accessibility need. Same with elevators! Taking the stairs saves electricity & maintenance costs.
  • Dress for the weather, both outdoors and in your office so you can be comfortable without extra AC or portable heaters.
  • Close blinds/shades in summer to keep out the sun and reduce heat gain.
  • Power down at the end of the day: shut off computers, lights, office equipment, lamps, and power strips.
  • In labs: close fume hoods and turn off non-essential lab equipment when not in use.
  • Upgrade light bulbs/fixtures to LEDs which use significantly less energy.
  • Look for an Energy Star rated model for any appliance you purchase.
  • Limit your technology upgrades.  By reducing the number of devices (such as computers, phones, tablets) that we own or upgrade each year, we can significantly reduce our personal demand for resources used in the production, use, and disposal of these products.

Conserve Water

  • Don't let the water run while washing your hands/face/dishes, brushing your teeth, or shaving.
  • Take shorter showers: each minute you shave off your shower time saves 1-3 gallons of water, depending on your showerhead.
  • Report/fix leaking sinks, toilets, urinals, or faucets as soon as possible.
  • Wash full loads of laundry and dishes -- avoid small/partial loads.
  • Install low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and sink aerators to cut water usage instantly.
  • Catch rainwater in a bucket or barrel for watering plants and gardens.

Reduce Food Waste

  • Avoid wasting food by taking only what you can eat and eating all you take.
  • Eat what you already have in the fridge before you go buy more.
  • Make a plan before you go grocery shopping.
    • Look in the fridge and cupboards before shopping so you only buy what you need.
    • Shop with a recipe in mind -- that way you'll be able to make a meal when you get home instead of having a bunch of random ingredients.
  • Eat leftovers! Whether it's from take-out or something you made at home, make a point to eat your leftovers or mix them into something new.

Reduce Paper/Office Supply Usage

  • Review and distribute documents electronically using email, flash drive, or Google Docs.
  • Remove yourself from unwanted mailing/catalog lists and sign up to receive bills/bank statements electronically.
  • When printing is necessary, choose to print double-sided and select to print only the pages you need
  • Reuse inter-office envelopes, folders, and storage boxes
  • Opt for purchasing paper with at least 30% recycled content (access at discount through UMD Stores)
  • Offer up extra/no-longer-needed office supplies, equipment, and furniture to others on campus through free2depts email list.

Reduce Single Car/Single Occupant Usage

  • Take the bus! It's free for students with your UCard and only a small annual fee for faculty and staff.
    • Save yourself the cost of a parking pass, gas, time, and carbon emissions by getting dropped off at the front door, rather than struggling to find a parking space!
  • Use other alternative transportation like biking or walking (good for your health and the environment!).
  • Going out of town? Join the UMD Ride Share Facebook group or use the Jefferson Lines Bus for long distance transportation.
  • Carpool!
  • Reduce unnecessary travel by working from home (if possible) or using video conferencing/virtual meetings.
  • When traveling on University business, request a hybrid from the UMD fleet or use Jefferson Lines Bus to let someone else drive you to your destination!


  • Bring your own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store or retail store to eliminate using single-use plastic bags
  • Bring your own coffee mug to eliminate to-go cup trash (many places offer discounts if you do, including our own Northern Shores coffee shop)
  • Bring your own water bottle to eliminate buying water and stay well-hydrated!
  • Pack zero-waste snacks and lunches to bring with you to work or class. Tupperware and mason jars are great reusable packaging -- add utensils and a cloth napkin to your lunch kit and you're set!
  • Donate items you no longer want/need so they can have a second life with someone else!
    • On campus: donate professional clothing to Champ's Closet and non-perishable food items to Champ's Cupboard in the Student Life Office
    • Off campus: there are thrift stores, shelters, food shelves, and donation centers. Use your favorite search engine to find the most appropriate place to donate your gently-used, still working items.


    • Sort recyclable items and compostable material from your trash and put them in the right bin - it's worth the effort! 
      • You can recycle paper, cardboard, plastic bottles and containers, glass, metal, aluminum cans, and more -- all in the same blue bin!
      • You can compost food scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, meat, dairy, bones, spoiled leftovers, napkins, and BPI certified compostable products
    • Specialty Recycling includes: plastic bags, batteries, light bulbs, ink/toner cartridges, electronics, etc.  


      • Advocate for sustainable choices on campus, in the classroom, at home, and in the community.
      • Take classes relating to sustainability -- see the current list of UMD sustainability courses.
      • Attend UMD and local community sustainability events -- check out our Calendar.
      • Join a sustainability-focused Student Organization or Committee.
      • Encourage others to get involved, start a club or organization, or pursue a sustainability-focused class project.