Downtown Tucson skyline during the day with A Mountain in the background


Evaluate your everyday activities and find where you can incorporate more sustainable practices.


by Courtney Barnett


Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo


The Lorax
directed by Chris Renau

Generally speaking, dorms, apartments and other cohabitation arrangements are more sustainable in terms of energy efficiency and reduced consumption of materials through shared areas. How you want to live and with whom is a personal decision, but keep in mind some of the eco-friendly benefits of having roommates, a smaller living space and/or shared amenities with others. Beyond that, having positive and consistent interactions with others that you enjoy being around, such as your roommates, can lead to happiness and emotional well-being.

If you are living off-campus, create a good relationship with your landlord. If the communication between you both is positive and open, your landlord may listen to suggestions you have for sustainable improvements to their home, ideas for which are listed below. These changes will benefit your landlord's property, your life in the house and future tenants.

For questions about apartment complexes and sustainability, email

Electricity can seem pretty harmless on its own; however, keep in mind that electricity coming from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, emits more carbon into the atmosphere than any other sector in the U.S. Our air conditioning, swamp cooling, outlets and other electrical entities pollute the air more so than all of the transportation on U.S. roads! ( Here are some tips to ease electricity's harmful impacts:

  • Choose to live in a dorm, house or apartment that already uses renewable energy.

  • Use your electric appliances more efficiently:

    • Switch to LED or CFL (compact fluorescent) light bulbs (75% less energy use with 10 times the lifespan).

    • Use fans instead of AC when the temperature difference is minimal.

    • Open doors and windows when using a swamp cooler.

    • Turn off lights, chargers and appliances when not in use.

    • Get a power strip for electronics not always in use.

    • Set the thermostat two degrees cooler in the winter or two degrees warmer in the summer. It will save a lot of energy without a noticeable difference in temperature.

  • Use fewer electric items in general or use Energy Star appliances.

  • Look into becoming a part of Bright Tucson Community Solar.

  • If you live in a house with a Tucson Electric Power or TRICO account, apply for the Trees for Tucson program to buy shade trees and reduce the cooling costs of the house. (This would definitely require the landlord’s consent!)

While not every house uses gas, some do still have it for heating air and water. If you’re unsure if your house, apartment, or dorm uses gas, ask the landlord, your RA, or email, then follow these tips to lower gas usage:

  • Use heated water only when necessary.

    • Take cool showers in the summer.

    • Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees.

  • Use a crockpot instead of a gas oven for cooking.

  • Before turning on the heater, try dressing in warmer clothing first.

  • Use a space heater instead of heating an entire room.

  • Turn off the air heater when you leave, and turn it down while you sleep.

  • Use the orientation of your windows to your benefit. If windows are south, east or west facing, open the blinds or curtains so sunlight and heat can pass through and warm the room naturally during winter. During summer, keep the blinds closed to conserve cool air.

  • If your landlord or dorm is planning on replacing the water heater, talk to them about choosing a more efficient model. If the current water heater is becoming ineffective, bring it up with them as well.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we live in a desert. Deserts are defined by having a greater rate of evaporation than condensation, meaning that they are structurally water scarce. While there are many regional and local efforts to conserve water, there are many actions you can take to reduce water consumption on your own as well.

  • Choose to live in a place that already conserves water via:

    • Watersense appliances

    • Greywater

    • Xeriscaping

    • Rainwater Harvesting

  • If you have an account with Tucson Water, sign up for a water audit with the Zanjero Program.

  • Increase the efficiency of water sources around the house:

    • Report or fix leaking toilets and faucets.

    • Take showers that are under five minutes long.

    • Turn off water while brushing teeth, washing your face, shaving, etc.

    • Do full laundry loads to maximize water use.

    • Create a rainwater harvesting system for house plants or cleaning water.

    • While washing dishes, only turn on water to rinse.

    • Use tips from Water Use It Wisely.

  • Support or join the Students for Sustainability Hydrocats committee

  • Volunteer with the Watershed Management Group.

  • Talk to your neighborhood association or homeowner association about curb cuts around your neighborhood so that you can passively water plants and hedgerows.

  • Use environmentally friendly detergents and fabric softeners.

  • If the choice is available, install an EnergyStar washer and dryer.

  • Do full washer loads with cold water.

  • If you need to do a partial load, reduce the amount of water accordingly.

  • Air dry clothes in the sun. It’s a dry heat; take advantage of it!

  • Wear clothes more than once; they aren’t always dirty after a single use.

  • Clean the lint filter after every use. This reduces fire risk and increases efficiency.

  • See EWG's guide to find loads of eco-friendly cleaning supplies!

  • Use less harmful chemicals or cleaning supplies, such as Apple Cider Vinegar or water and baking soda mixtures. Not only are they more environmentally friendly, they’re more people- and pet-friendly too.

  • Use less cleaning supplies in general; not every surface needs to be specially treated. Antibacterial soap and water can do the same job as more potent chemicals. Steam cleaning tends to kill the most bacteria.

  • Choose multiple use cleaning supplies that can be washed and reused instead of thrown away (i.e. mops, vacuums, rags).

  • Cut up old clothes to make household rags.

  • Keep your freezer full, even with jugs of water. Freezers are more efficient when full.

  • Know what you're going to get from the fridge or freezer before you open the door.

  • Raise the temperature of the fridge or freezer to the warmest or second warmest settings.

  • If you have the choice, choose to use an EnergyStar fridge or freezer.