Here’s How To Pack Smart

Stuff. We have a lot of it, and the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling has tips for packing with sustainability in mind. Try their tips below.

First, talk with your roommate to compare notes on items you can share. Once you have a packing list, look around your house and bring your own stuff from home; don’t buy new unless you have to. When you do need to buy something, think about the life-cycle of products you bring on campus and remember that NC State has great reuse, recycling and composting programs. Remember you can also take your time. Live on campus for a few weeks to determine what you can’t live without.

Here’s a sample packing list:


  • Toiletries (toilet paper provided in residence halls): Check the labels and try to purchase environmentally-friendly items.
  • Bathrobe: Only buy one if you think you’ll actually use it. If you buy one, make it last.
  • Towels and washcloths: Take some from home. No need to buy new.
  • Shower shoes: Ok, you need these. But, if you already own simple flip-flops, don’t buy more.
  • Shower caddy: Check the thrift stores to make this purchase or upcycle an old sand-pail.
  • Toothpaste/Toothbrush: Check out zero waste options for these items. Remember at NC State, we can compost bamboo toothbrushes.


  • Twin extra-long sheets, 36”x80” : You probably don’t already own these, but if you move into a bigger bed next year, donate these sheets during move-out or find a great DIY project to reuse them (Hint: the flat sheet from this set can be split and made into curtains).
  • Pillows and pillow cases: No need to buy new; reuse the ones you already own.
  • Bedspread, comforter or blanket: Rather than buying one of those coordinated bed-in-a-bag sets, consider making a t-shirt quilt out of all of your beloved high school tees. Or make your room feel like home by bringing your bedspread, comforter or blanket from home instead of buying new.
  • Alarm clock: Don’t we all use our phones now anyway?


  • Small house plants: Plants are great for indoor air quality.
  • Pictures and posters: Remember to recycle prints when you are done.
  • Area rugs: Talk with your roomie first. Remember to donate rugs during move out at the end of the academic year.
  • Curtains: Wait to see if you need them first. If purchasing, consider making them from old sheets from a thrift store.


  • Dishes, cups and cutlery: Bring only what you need, and consider purchasing items that can be reused across campus such as a reusable cup, straw and spork. Remember University Dining provides reusable containers for those times when you need a to-go meal. If you want to keep items on-hand, bring a spare single set from home or buy them cheap from a thrift shop.
  • Can opener: Does ramen come in a can? Unless you think you’ll be cooking and buying canned goods, you may be able to leave this home.
  • Coffee/tea maker: Coffee is offered at almost every NC State Dining location, so use your meal plan and avoid the mess and expense of brewing your own. If you need that late-night java in your room, purchase reusable K-cups or filters and buy fair trade, shade grown coffee! Plus, check with your roomie so you both don’t bring one.
  • Reusable water bottle: This is an absolute must. Many locations on campus now have water-bottle refilling stations available.
  • Sealed plastic containers/ bags (food storage): Instead of plastic, consider glass or some other form of reusable container.
  • Napkins or paper towels: Forget the paper towels and bring washable hand towels and dish rags that can be thrown in with your laundry. Or, remember to compost your paper towels in a compost dumpster on campus.

Doing Laundry

  • Laundry basket: For your roomie’s sake, yes, you might want this. But think about how you can upcycle a box or bag or perhaps use an item for dual purposes.
  • HE Laundry detergent: Choose biodegradable and environmentally friendly brands or make your own.
  • Dryer sheets/fabric softener: Consider a reusable dryer ball or a DIY alternative.
  • Clothes hangers: You can find these in abundance at thrifts stores and yard sales.
  • Iron with auto-off/ ironing board: The number one item that students say they NEVER used! If you still think its a must, at least check with your roommate so you only bring one to share.
  • Lint roller: If you don’t use this now, then don’t bring it.
  • Closet organizer: Don’t buy new until you’ve lived in your room for a bit. You’ll get a better feel for how you want to organize your space and can make smarter purchasing decisions.


  • Desk lamp: Try an energy efficient bulb and get your lamp used or second-hand.
  • Computer printer: You may not need your own since you have access to printing through your All Campus Card and Wolfprint stations are located all over campus (several of them in the residence halls). If you do want a room printer, consider sharing one with you roommate. Look for EnergyStar or EPEAT certifications.
  • Backpack: Consider using the same backpack from high school (it’s not a big deal).
  • Desk supplies (paper, notebooks, binders, etc.): Be on the lookout for Free School Stuff Bins the beginning of each semester. We give these (gently used items) away for free (hint: we place them between Bragaw & Sullivan).
  • Calendar or planner: Go digital with your NC State Google calendar. Link your class schedule to your calendar and link your calendar to your phone.
  • Bulletin/dry-erase board: Find these at thrift stores.


  • Cell phone and charger: Definitely.
  • Power strip with a surge protector: Look for “smart” strips that save energy.
  • Plastic bins w/ lids (under-the-bed, on wheels, tubs, etc.): Upcycle boxes from home or check out local thrift stores before buying new ones.
  • Cleaning supplies (dust rags, sponge, multipurpose cleaner): Choose products that are environmentally friendly and multi-purpose. Bring cleaning cloths from home that can be washed.
  • Small vacuum or broom: Check with your roommate so that you can share.
  • Portable fan: All residence halls have air conditioning and climate control, so only bring a fan if you think you’d use it.
  • Batteries for electronics: Purchase rechargeable batteries. Remember, NC State can recycle batteries and electronics in the yellow electronic-recycling bins on campus.
  • Bicycle with U-bolt lock:Not a regular bike-rider? Check out NC State’s convenient and popular bike-share program: LimeBike.