Before coming to Brown in the fall, check out our green packing list below to learn how you can make sustainable purchases, where you can find green products, and what you can get for free at Brown.

Green Room Packing List at Brown University

Before you head out to any stores, we first recommend that you take stock of all the free and/or sustainable resources at Brown (section 1) that will help you prepare for the fall semester. Once you’ve exhausted all of these resources, see below for some tips on what you can buy and where you can buy it locally to live a green existence at Brown.

1. Sustainable Resources at Brown and in the local community

  • LED bedside or desk lamp - all first-year students receive a desk lamp if they visit the Facilities table at the orientation Resource Fair.  The lamp is compact, super efficient, and features multiple color temperatures, dimming capabilities, and a timer!
  • Reusable Water Bottle – all first-year students receive a reusable water bottle that they can fill up at any campus dining hall or water fountain.  Environmental and personal benefits associated with using a reusable water bottle include: saving money and decreasing the need for plastic to be created, (which involves large quantities of oil and other toxic chemicals).  Reusable bottles also reduce the amount of plastic entering the waste stream. Remember, even plastic that is recycled takes some energy to revert it back to another plastic product.
  • Safe and Delicious City Water Providence Drinking Water is rated among the best and cleanest water in the nation.
  • The Clothing Swap by EcoReps – Every year a student group holds four or more clothing swaps where students can exchange their clothes for other students’ clothes. This swap not only allows students to obtain new clothes for free; it also provides a closed loop system that decreases our consumerist footprint. Follow their Twitter page for event times and locations.
  • Brown Book Exchange – This Facebook group allows students to buy, sell, or trade books. This is considerably cheaper than Amazon or Chegg, plus no shipping necessary! You can often find textbooks online as well! Brown University Buying and Selling – This Facebook group is a forum where students can buy and sell from each other at affordable prices.
  • LED Light Bulbs – All first-year students receive a free LED light bulb from the Office of Sustainability in Facilities. LEDs use at least 75% less electricity than incandescent light bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. EcoReps also hold periodic light bulb swap events throughout the year where students can trade their fluorescent light bulbs for LEDs.
  • Recycling Bin – All on-campus students are given a recycling bin for their room. Brown’s Facilities Management Custodial Department ensures that all students have a bin. If however, you need to request a bin, contact [email protected]
  • Reusable bags - You can get a reusable canvas bag at the Resource Fair during orientation! Otherwise, see below for other places to buy reusable bags.
  • Printing -- Printers can be expensive and hard to transport and store (and refilling ink cartridges is always a hassle). Luckily, you don’t need to buy a printer before coming to Brown. All Brown students receive $30 of free printing each year at any library (at only $0.07/sheet, that’s a lot of printing). You can set up your laptop to print straight to any network printer. Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not you’d like to buy a printer.
  • Second Life -- Interested in taking VISA classes or classes at RISD? Second Life is the RISD student-run second-hand art supply store. (Open to anyone, not just RISD students).

2. Smart Power Strips

Available at: Brown University Bookstore, Alder’s Hardware, Staples, Home Depot

Average Cost: $25-$50

Environmental Benefits:

  • Smart power strips prevent phantom loads (energy being used even if your technology is not on) while giving you the ability to leave electronics, appliances, etc. plugged in.
  • Smart strips know when your computer has been turned off or has gone to sleep and automatically powers down accessories such as speakers, printers, and monitors.  Avoid the hassle of unplugging devices that aren’t in use by using a smart power strip.

***Cheaper option: You can also save energy by turning off or unplugging normal power strips when they aren’t being used.

3. Reusable dishes, silverware, and to-go containers

Available at: Brown University Bookstore, Bed Bath and Beyond

*You can also get cheap used dishes and silverware from secondhand stores such as Savers and Salvation Army!

**The dining halls also have free reusable, green to-go containers if you want to take food with you. You don’t even have to wash them yourself! Just bring them back and they’ll do it for you.

Environmental Benefits:

  • Purchasing a set of reusable dishware could help you avoid using disposable (paper, plastic, styrofoam) dishware and utensils all year. You can also bring your dishware to Jo’s or Andrew Commons to reduce the consumption of disposable plates.
  • The process of creating disposable dishware and plastic utensils requires a constant flow of natural resources (oil, electricity, water, trees, etc)

4. Drying Rack for Clothes

drying rack.jpg

Available at: Brown University Bookstore, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Home Depot

Average Cost: $15-$25

Environmental Benefits:

  • Used twice per week for an hour each time, one clothes dryer consumes 420 kW of electricity each year! Air drying your clothes saves all of this energy.
  • Not to mention -- air drying your clothes saves $1.50 per load. If you do laundry once a week all year, that’s almost $50 saved!

5. Reusable shopping bags

Available at: Almost any store in the area!

*Or, you can pick up a free canvas bag at the Campus Resource Fair!

Average Cost: $1-$20

Environmental Benefits:

  • Save sea turtles and other sea creatures, who eat or are otherwise harmed by the plastic bags that end up in the ocean.
  • Astonishingly, approximately 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. That’s over one million bags per minute! Each one of those bags takes over 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill. That means that we still have 975 years until the very first plastic bag ever used 25 years ago completely degrades. Here in RI, our landfill is going to be full within the next 20 years at the rate we’re going, so plastic bags are a huge problem.
  • Producing plastic bags requires oil -- the amount of oil used to produce 14 bags would drive a car 1 mile.

6. CFL or LED Lighting

Available at: Brown University Bookstore, Alder’s Hardware, Target, Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond

*All first-years receive a free LED light bulb from the Office of Sustainability in Facilities when they move in!

Average Cost: Compact Fluorescent (CFLs) - $2.50 and up. LEDs - $8 and up.

Environmental Benefits:

  • CFLs use up to 70% less electricity than normal incandescent light bulbs
  • LEDs use at least 75% less electricity than incandescent light bulbs
  • LEDs stay 90% cooler than incandescents, thus reducing the risk of fire or burnt fingers
  • CFLs and LEDs last 10-25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs, thus reducing waste

7. Energy Efficient (Energy Star) or Reused Appliances

energy star.jpg

Available at:

  • Energy Star appliances: Home Depot, Target
  • Or, Brown Student Agencies (BSA) rents out microwave/fridge combos to students. Be sure to ask for an Energy Star model! Renting a fridge saves on the raw materials and energy required to make a new appliance.
  • You can also check out Brown Buying and Selling Facebook page for used appliances from students who are living off campus or going abroad.

Average Cost: Varies between appliances (but secondhand is always cheaper and usually still in great condition!)

Environmental Benefits:

  • Energy Star appliances use 10-50% less energy than appliances that are not Energy Star rated.
  • Renting or getting used appliances conserves energy and raw materials used to make new appliances -- it’s also a much cheaper option than buying new ones!

8. Plant-based laundry detergent and cleaning supplies

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Available at: Brown University Bookstore, Whole Foods, Target

Average Cost: $8-$20

Environmental Benefits:

  • The vast majority of detergents, particularly the brand name ones, are not biodegradable. They contain chemicals such as optical brighteners, dyes, artificial fragrances, and a number of other non-natural ingredients.
  • Plant-based detergents are biodegradable and do not have these additives, which means chemicals do not end up in our environment, on your clothes, and on your body.

9. No-chemical cosmetics and personal care items

Available at: Brown University Bookstore, Target, Whole Foods, Eastside Marketplace

Average Cost: Depends on the product

Environmental Benefits:

  • Personal care products such as deodorant, toothpaste, and makeup often contain potentially harmful chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed into the body, cause skin irritation, or lead to environmental contamination.
  • To protect yourself and the environment, purchase all natural and/or organic personal care products such as Tom’s Natural, Burt’s Bees, etc.
  • Check EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to find out if there are harmful chemicals in your personal care products.

10. Second-hand clothing

Available at: Savers, Blackbirds Consignment Shop, GetModa Designer Consignment, Leviathan Exchange

Environmental Benefits:

  • Growing and manufacturing the materials needed to create clothes requires large amounts of natural resources (cotton, water, etc). In addition, clothing manufacturers often do not have high standards of work quality for their employees, exposing them to suboptimal working conditions and wages.
  • Purchasing second-hand clothing can help reduce the need for natural resources to produce these items.

11. Local, organic, and fair trade food and beverages


Available at: Whole Foods, Seven Stars Bakery, Eastside Marketplace

*You can also get local, organic food at Farmer’s Markets during the summer and fall:

  • Brown University Farmer’s Market on the field outside of MacMillan (Wednesdays 11 am - 2 pm, September & October; April & May)
  • Downtown Farmer’s Market at Fulton and Exchange Streets (check website for dates and times)

Environmental Benefits:

  • Buying local supports the local economy and farmers. It also minimizes fuel needed for transporting food, and the need to use pesticides to preserve food over long distances.
  • On average, produce travels 1,300 miles from the farm to your table -- that’s a lot of gas used for items that could be bought closer to home!
  • Organic food does not use harmful pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides and is, therefore, healthier for you and for the environment. The average non-organic apple has 30 pesticides on it, even after washing.

12. Bicycle and gear (eg. helmets, locks, lights)


Available at: Legend BicycleBrown University Bookstore (locks and gear only), REI

*You can also get cheaper used bikes through Recycle-A-Bike, on Craigslist, in the Brown Buying and Selling Facebook group, or on this website!

**Or, rent a bike for free for a week through [email protected]!

Environmental Benefits:

  • Not using a car! The average car generates 19.4lbs of CO2 for every gallon of gas it consumes.
  • Biking is also great for your health and a fun way to explore areas of Providence you may not be able to get to walking. Biking can also help you get around campus more quickly and efficiently!

13. Recycled paper and notebooks


Available at: Brown University Bookstore, Staples, Whole Foods

Average Cost: $4-$20 depending on the amount purchased

Environmental Benefits:

  • Use less paper and harm fewer trees
  • Though somewhat more expensive than normal paper and notebooks, buying recycled materials is a great way to support green companies and recycling markets if you have the resources.
  • For example, Decomposition Books sold in the Brown Bookstore are made with 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper, printed with soy ink, and made in the US.  

14. Refillable Pens

Available at: Brown University Bookstore, Staples

Average Cost: $4-$20, depending on the amount purchased

Environmental Benefits:

  • Just think about it: Every time that your pen runs out of ink, you throw the whole thing away. But why? Refillable pens allow you to keep using a single pen for an extended period of time.
  • Using refillable pens will help you reduce the amount of waste you generate. Just think about the number of pens you go through each semester.

15. Organically Grown Plants

Available at: Whole Foods, Southside Community Land Trust

Average Cost: $15-$100

Environmental Benefits:

  • Plants will bring some life and natural oxygen into your room.
  • Purchasing organic plants will ensure that they were not grown with the use of toxic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.