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Green Living Guide

Climate change is a global problem, one that will require action and solutions from every level of government, from our institutions and the private sector, and from individuals like you. It can be challenging to know where to start and how to make a difference; this guide can help you get started.

Reduce Your Footprint

  • Use Less
    • “Reduce” is the first of the three “Rs” for a reason (reduce, reuse, recycle). Reducing the amount of waste you generate is one of the most impactful things you can do as an individual to decrease your footprint. Next time you’re at a store, or shopping online, ask yourself: Do I need this? You might be surprised at how many things you don’t.
  • Switch to Reusables
  • Minimize Food Waste
  • Recycle Thoughtfully
    • Confidently say “no” to single-use items by consistently using alternative, reusable options. A few examples: Carry a reusable bag to the store so that you can refuse plastic bags at checkout. Bring a reusable water bottle and reusable utensils when you eat out at fast-casual restaurants. Go plastic free by participating in Plastic Free July (spoiler: you don’t need to wait until July!). Purchase a reusable coffee mug through the Dav Mug Club and receive discounts at the Davenport Coffee Lounge.
  • Shorten Your Shower
    • Fresh water is a precious and limited resource, and our global supply is decreasing. If you reduce your showering time by 5 minutes for an entire year, you could save more than 4,500 gallons of water annually
  • Wash Clothes Cold
  • Turn Off the Tap
    • It’s super simple and effective: Turn the faucet off while you brush your teeth.
  • Shut It Down
    • Turn off the lights when you leave a room and unplug appliances and electronics that are not in use. Even when they are not being used, these "energy vampires” still suck energy from the outlet.

Reducing your meat consumption, even for one day a week, can have a positive impact on our planet. AU offers vegetarian and vegan options in dining locations across campus. Cooking at home? Try out these easy vegetarian recipes.

Walking, riding a bike or scooter, and utilizing public transportation are easy ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint. AU’s U-Pass program provides full-time students with unlimited Metro and Metrobus rides. Staff and faculty members can earn commuter benefits for biking to work or allocate pre-tax dollars for commuting with WMATA, MTA, MARC, VRE, uberPool, and Lyft Line.

Advocate for Action and Change

  • Exercise Your Right to Vote
    • Registering to vote and then showing up at the polls is the best way to help ensure that our communities are represented by leaders who will act on climate change. Encourage your friends and family to exercise their right to vote, too.
  • Reach Out
    • Contact your elected officials to let them know what issues concern you and what you’d like them to act on. Have an idea for campus sustainability? Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Office of Sustainability at
  • Sign a Petition
    • Signing a petition is a great way to make your voice heard and participate in a movement, especially if you’re unable to attend regular meetings or marches.
  • Volunteer
    • Use your talents and skills to support a local environmental initiative or nonprofit organization. Sustainable DC offers year-round volunteer opportunities.
  • Join a Campus Org
    • American University hosts a variety of environmental clubs, ranging from the Zero Waste Club to the Beekeeping Society.
  • Join a Movement
    • Washington, DC is a hub for social movements and marches, such as the Peoples Climate Movement and Sunrise Movement. Join a movement to raise your voice about climate change and the environmental issues you care most about.

Sign-up to receive the AU Sustainability and Sustainable DC newsletters and be in the know about environmental initiatives and opportunities on campus and beyond.

Maintain Personal Sustainability

  • Move Your Body
    • Taking a walk, attending a campus exercise class, or simply stretching at your desk can help your body feel energized and refreshed.
  • Eat Mindfully
    • Meet your body’s needs by eating regular, nutritious meals. AU’s dining service provides a variety of options to meet a wide spectrum of dietary restrictions and preferences. 
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Get Some Sleep
    • Lack of sleep can affect your mental state, mood, and academic performance. Schedule time within your routine to unwind, take a nap, and catch some Zzzz.

Carbon Footprint Calculator

Take a few minutes to calculate your current impact on the environment with the Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Calculate Your Footprint