Living Sustainably in the College Houses

College Housing and Academic Services works with Penn Sustainability to promote environmental sustainability in residences. Our shared mission is to increase awareness of waste reduction, energy conservation, and best practices for living a sustainable lifestyle at Penn. The University is prioritizing waste reduction and energy conservation through our most recent Climate and Sustainability Action Plan, but we need your help to advance these goals!

Tips for Residents in the College Houses

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

  • Learn what can and cannot be recycled on-campus in Penn’s single-stream recycling. Learn specifically where to take single-stream recycling, as well as specialty items like light bulbs and batteries, in your specific college house using the Recycling In Your Residence Guide.
  • Establish a waste reduction ethic — minimize unnecessary copying, reuse scrap paper and envelopes, print double-sided, etc. 
  • Avoid purchasing products that are heavily packaged; when packaging isn’t avoidable, know how to properly dispose of it!
  • Purchase green products when possible, including products with high recycled content, bio-based cleaning products, and local or certified products.
  • Support the PennMOVES collection drive instead of trashing unwanted items when you move out.

Water Conservation

  • Refill personal water bottles with tap water; locate refill stations on campus using this map.
  • Take shorter showers and don't leave the water running when you're not using it. College House bathrooms have been equipped with water-saving showerheads. The overall impact for Penn is a significant conservation in water.
  • Report leaks or faucets that won’t turn off to Facilities by entering an AiM maintenance request through the Penn Portal, or call Facilities Work Control at 215-898-7208 to report a maintenance problem.

Energy Conservation

  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or LED bulbs — they use up to 70% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb. 
  • During the daytime, use natural lighting when possible - open your blinds to brighten up the room. During the night, close your blinds or curtains to keep heat or cool air in your room. 
  • Turn off the lights when you're not using them — especially in places like closets and hallways where you only need the light momentarily. 
  • Turn off your computer, lights, TV, and other appliances when not in use. 
  • Unplug adapters (like your cell phone and laptop chargers) when not in use, as the charger will use energy 24/7, even when your item is not connected + charging. 
  • Use a power strip for multiple items (like an entertainment system), and turn the power strip off when it is not in use. 
  • Save energy by enabling your computer's energy-saving features. Always turn your computer off if you will not be using it within the next hour. 
  • If you have control over your thermostat, set the AC and heat to reasonable temperatures. Better yet, turn them off! A list of recommended temperatures are below.
  Heating Cooling
When you are in your room 68 76
When you are out for the day 60 85
When you are away for the weekend 55 off
  • Use cold water for the wash cycle (instead of hot) when you do your laundry, and always rinse in cold water. Colder water also ensures your fabric colors will not run! 
  • Only do laundry when you have a full load. Running machines half full uses just as much water and energy as a full load. 
  • Consider using a clothing rack or hangers to air-dry your laundry inside your College House instead of using the dryer. This will save energy and help your clothing last longer!


Food and Food Service

Other Resources in the College Houses and at Penn

Social Media
Want to learn more about sustainable practices? Check out the Penn Sustainability website, and follow Penn Sustainability on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  

Green Living Certification
The individual decisions you make on a daily basis, even if seemingly small, play a critical role in the University’s sustainability initiatives. Penn Sustainability seeks to recognize these choices and provide students with an opportunity to reflect on their environmental impact through the Green Living Certification program—an environmental certification available for residents living on and off campus. Check out Penn’s Green Living Certification to get recognized for the sustainable actions you take!

Green Fund
Penn’s Green Fund welcomes ideas from students, faculty, and staff about ways to improve the University’s environmental performance and reduce campus emissions. Proposed projects must support goals and objectives outlined in Penn’s most recent Climate and Sustainability Action Plan, to reduce the University’s carbon footprint and enhance its overall sustainability. Learn more about the Green Fund on the Penn Sustainability website.

Student Sustainability Association at Penn (SSAP)
As the official umbrella group of environmental sustainability student groups on campus, the Student Sustainability Association at Penn (SSAP) was founded in 2010 to foster cohesion among environmentally-focused student groups, develop strategies for impacting campus sustainability, and create a unified student voice on green issues at Penn.

Residents of the Eco-House program community in Harnwell College House work together to reduce their environmental impact and to engage the campus and broader community on sustainability issues through personal choices, projects, and events. Students interested in living in the Eco-House must complete a short application, including a personal statement outlining their interest in this unique living environment. While Eco-House is well-suited for students who are considering studying environmental science, environmental studies, biology, geology, or other natural science related fields; no experience with sustainability is required as residents must merely have an interest in learning more about sustainability and sustainable living habits.

Student Eco-Reps
Penn's Student Eco-Reps is an environmental leadership program for students interested in advancing sustainability through the implementation of campus-based projects. Each year, a cohort of 10-20 students are selected to participate in the Eco-Reps program. Students meet weekly with staff in Penn’s Sustainability Office and work in small teams throughout the year to develop in-depth projects aimed at solving environmental challenges on campus. Initiatives may focus on topics ranging from energy conservation to waste and recycling, water conservation, academic initiatives, local foods, environmental literacy, and more. Learn more about the Student Eco-Reps program here.