Keeping green isn’t nearly as involved or expensive as many people believe — the key to staying eco-friendly lays more with doing whatever’s possible rather than doing everything possible. College students hoping to protect the environment on a gossamer-thin budget may want to look into the thousands of upcycling projects available online. A goodly portion of them work beautifully in a dorm room setting, providing them with an almost fully personalized space they can feel proud over. The following list only showcases a small sample of the imagination and resourcefulness available out there. Be sure to explore all the other offerings up online as well!
- Block Clock: Students handy with woodworking and just happen to have some bits of pine and maple laying around may want to challenge themselves with this delightful timepiece.
- Bowl Full of Monkeys: It may not work so hot for serving chips, but this bowl made from a Barrel of Monkeys game still makes for a quirky, fun decorative piece.
- Glass Bottle Lamp: Upcycle last night’s party leavings into a definite conversation starter using a few easy-to-gather materials.
- Jar and Cup Picture Frames: This popular project reuses clear jars and plastic cups as viable, creative holders for personal magazine cutouts, art or photographs.
- Cereal Box Clock: Immortalize a favorite treat or mascot by creating a kooky, but thoroughly usable, timepiece from an empty cereal box.
- Tennis Ball Photo Holder: A small slice in a weighed-down tennis ball is all it takes to create a clever, ecologically sound solution for displaying photos and art.
- Baby Food Jar Snow Globe: Tiny toys, glitter, water and — of course — a baby food jar come together in an absolutely adorable project that adds personality to any space, no matter the size.
- Scrap Wreath: Fabric scraps left over from other projects don’t have to end up in the bin! Use them to slap together adorable wreaths for year-round style.
- Styrofoam Cup Vases: Wash out used Styrofoam cups and transform them into some seriously cool decorative, waterproof vases.
- I Love Blender Lamp: Rescue ancient blenders with busted insides and give them a second chance as amazingly creative desk lamps. Just make sure the glass isn’t cracked or chipped.
- Cardboard Chairs: Pick up any free bits of cardboard — political signs work well for this project — and fashion some unique chairs for lounging, gaming or unexpected guests.
- Tripod Stool: Students lucky enough to get their hands on a tripod can use some plywood and woodworking equipment to make themselves a lovely (and viable!) little drafting stool.
- Plywood Chairs: Crafty college students with access to old-but-workable slabs of plywood may find this chair project an eco-friendly way to create sitting space.
- Scarf Pillows: Especially when one uses vintage silk scarves, these pillows look great on beds and couches and keep residents and visitors comfortable.
- Towel Bath Mat: If the room- and suitemates don’t mind, get creative with some old towels and prevent them from slipping when exiting the shower. This solution keeps them safe without causing environmental harm.
- Sweater Pillows: Old, stretched-out sweaters whose material hasn’t disintegrated or succumbed to Lepidopteran horrors provide dorm dwellers with something to cut, sew and stuff for decorative, comforting pillows.
- Stacked Book Table Leg: College students lucky enough to have room for small tables may like the idea of recycling their books to take the place of faulty legs.
- Scaffold Bench: Upcycle scaffolding into a seriously cool bench for seating multiple guests — and the expandability of this particular pattern makes it particularly excellent for dorms and other small spaces.
- Sweater Blanket: Match this accessory with the sweater pillows to create a warm, homey environment for cold nights or sleepovers.
- Carpet Sample Rug: Construct an interesting bit of home d–cor using carpet and rug samples stitched together into interesting designs and patterns.
- Coffee Conditioner: College students slurp down obscene amounts of coffee, and the pile of leftover grounds actually make hair softy and shiny when used as a conditioner.
- Twine Scrubs: Leftover twine from Christmas trees and other holiday or craft projects can easily become useful, cheap scrubs when pulling dish duty.
- Onion Bag Soap Holder: Safe for body and kitchen alike, these repurposed onion bags assist dorm dwellers in getting their sanitation jobs done right.
- Recycled Soap: For obvious reasons, this project isn’t terribly great for gift-giving or sharing. But from a practical standpoint, students looking to save money can recycle their personal soap scraps into bigger, more manageable bars and shapes.
- Toothbrush Toothbrush Holder: Put a meta twist on the familiar caddy by using a toothbrush twisted into a decorative shape. When using old ones that have been in peoples’ mouths, it’s best to remove the bristles and thoroughly sanitize.
- Altoids Potpourri: Fill an old Altoids tin with a lovely potpourri to fill a dorm room with a lovely scent, making it smell clean and welcoming.
- T-shirt Rags: Not every used t-shirt will necessarily be accepted by charities, so any unworn, unacceptable ones laying around easily serve as cleaning rags.
- Toothbrush Scrub: Painstakingly clean a used toothbrush and keep it as a quick tool for making grout sparkle as much as possible.
- Bowling Shirt Dust Cover: Recycled bowling shirts (or similar apparel) keep desktop monitors from attracting dust — a valuable time-saver for cash-strapped students with little time to clean.
- Old Spices as Potpourri: Treat everyone to a lovely spicy scent by upcycling old spices in a coffee can with holes punched in the lid — though that’s hardly the only contained one could use!
- Plastic Bag Coasters: Use old grocery bags in exciting, creative new ways by ironing them with illustrations and fashioning some adorable, viable coasters for sweaty drinks.
- Blue Jean Potholders: Dorm dwellers fortunate enough to have a microwave, hot plate or other heating and cooking implement can show off their upcycling skills while simultaneously protecting their hands.
- Office Furniture Entertainment Center: Watch television or listen to music in style by re-appropriating old office furniture pieces that fit within the dorm’s dimensions.
- Amazingly Old School Speaker Set: Extra or old funnels and earbuds come together in a surprising way — a viable set of speakers perfect for entertaining and impressing.
- Ornamental Napkin Rings: Upcycle holiday decorations into napkin rings worthy of serving guests straight from the microwave or tiny fridge.
- Upcycled Jigsaw Puzzle: Have fun and get creative by painting a new scene on the back of an older jigsaw puzzle for a challenging, eco-friendly way to entertain guests on the cheap.
- Light Bulb Shakers: Washing out old light bulbs and fiddling around with them for about an hour produces usable salt and pepper shakers sure to delight guests hoping to spice up their microwave meals.
- Bottle Cap Memory Game: These fun little game pieces boast myriad applications for college students hosting a cheap gaming get-together in their dorm rooms.
- Belt Coffee Cozies: Warm the hands of friends dropping in for coffee or tea by upcycling old cloth or leather belts unsuitable for donation.
- CD Coasters: Scratched or annoying promotional CDs don’t have to end up in a landfill. Use them as coasters for keeping furniture safe from condensation.
- Scrabble Tile Magnets: Turn an unused game of Scrabble into a personal expression to liven up dorm fridges or whiteboards.
- Altoids Magnet Box: Store extra homemade magnets for whiteboards and dorm fridges in an equally adorable, handmade box upcycled from an Altoids tin.
- Magnetic Key Holder: Any old, strong magnets laying around can easily be pressed into service as a key holder for quick, easy access — great for college students on the go.
- Decorated Jar Lid Magnets: Magnets make for a lovely way to personalize a dorm room, and jar lids provide creative students with a canvas to make theirs and proudly display.
- Bottle Cap Magnets: This crafty classic can take a few minutes or all day depending on how many magnets are desired, but no matter what it results in a neat, cheap, ecologically sound way to decorate a dorm.
- Marble Magnets: Mancala stones and other decorative flat-backed marbles in need of a home are incredibly popular and economic materials for adorable, fully customizable magnets.
- Painted Ad Magnets: Those flimsy promotional items may not seem worthy of much attention, but a little time, paint and creativity turns them into easy d–cor pieces.
- Magnetic Monopoly: Play this classic board game without fear of shakes, or modify the instructions here to make a fridge or whiteboard play homage to the iconic houses and game pieces.
- Fabric Button Magnet: Crafty college folk with button makers and more than a few fabric, magazine or newspaper scraps should put all their resources to good use making upcycled magnets to keep or give away.
- Cut and Embossed Can Magnet: Upcycle cleaned soda and beer cans into any desired designs, but be sure to avoid cuts in the process and round off the edges.
- Book Hook: Turn Chaucer into a coat rack by securing hooks onto old, unwanted or unread hardcovers and hanging them on the wall for extra, easily accessible storage.
- Side Hoe Storage Unit: A simple upcycling concept perfect for books and small items, requiring a little work for a huge payoff.
- Plastic Bag Laptop Case: Planet Green’s creative plastic bag pattern helps students store their technology in style — and best of all, its portability allows them to just grab and go before work or class.
- Can Organizer: After thoroughly cleaning out old cans, adhere them together in eye-catching, artistic patterns doubling as storage units.
- Shipping Pallet Shoe Rack: Shipping pallets are easy bits of trash to find, and a cleaned (perhaps varnished) one makes for a useful storage solution for shoes.
- Oatmeal Box Ribbon Holder: College students who enjoy crafting either for class or fun can store any ribbons they may need in a lovely little re-appropriated, decorated oatmeal box.
- Cheesy Pencil Holder: Hang an old, upside-down cheese grater on the wall and store writing implements in it — a nice way to clear up valuable desk space!
- Spool Coat Rack: Sewing spools, preferably the industrial variety, help clear up clutter when utilized in a coat rack project.
- Blue Jean Organizer: When Ol’ Reliable starts growing a bit too ragged and unacceptable for donation, transform it into a quirky little organizer for storing supplies.
- “Invisible” Bookshelves: A hardcover book painstakingly adhered to the wall — with permission, of course — creates both a conversation piece and a clever way to store books.
- Wine Corkboard: Class up the traditional corkboard by leaving notes and reminders on upcycled wine corks set in an eye-catching pattern.
- Wine Bottle Vases: Once the corks have been removed, wash out those wine bottles and use them as incredibly elegant, striking vases.
- Wood Floor Wall Art: Old, stylish bits of wood flooring, when shaped right, can make for an interesting way to introduce interesting design elements into a dorm room.
- Jewel Case Frames: Hang up photographs and works of art to add color and life to a dorm and clear up some of the clutter unused jewel cases create.
- Cookie Sheet Calendar: Not everyone recognizes Advent like the creator of this project, but even then this calendar has plenty of uses in the secular world or other faiths.
- Book Cover Frame: A few alterations can easily transform an old hardcover book into an incredibly interesting, creative frame for pictures and art.
- Fabric Panels: Use this pattern when recycling old clothing or slabs of fabric into splashes of color and design that greatly liven up a drab dorm room.
- Scrabble Bulletin Board: The next inevitable phase of Scrabble d–cor involves setting up an entire bulletin board using almost every piece of the game.
- Shiny, Shiny CD Light: Multiple CDs strung shiny-side-out, when hung on a wall combined with a lighting source, can create an incredibly striking effect for tiny dorm room parties.
- Coloring Book Paintings: Fans of kitschy and lowbrow art can repurpose coloring books from their childhood as art pieces to paint and proudly display on a wall or dorm fridge.
- Soda Bottle Herb Garden: Dorm denizens with communal kitchens, microwaves, hot plates or friends with apartments and houses can grow their own tasty, herbaceous ingredients right there in the windows.
- Shoe Planters: Give widowed shoes a second chance at usefulness by using them as planters. Not only does this project clean out landfills, it also adds a nice spot of color and life to frequently drab dorms.
- Dresser Drawer Planter: College students wanting some green in their room, even at the expense of some space, should check out this amazing self-watering planter fashioned out of discarded drawers.
- Bird Feeder: Not everyone who lives in a dorm would be able to enjoy watching birds flock to their feeders, but this project using an easily-upcyclable Frisbee, plastic jar, PVC pipe, length of rope or cord and a few other items will delight the ones that do.
- Sheet Curtains: Glam up dorm windows by taking used sheets and cutting and sewing them into gorgeous curtains to add color and block out the sun for maximum sleep time.
- Little Light Bulb Greenhouse: For the college student with a green thumb comes an undeniably adorable strategy for growing their own herbs and flowers in the windowsill.
- Slide Curtains: Reappropriate photo slides for a kitschy, dramatic and highly creative way to decorate windows in a boring little room.
- Grater Light Catcher: Stick a piece of colored glass behind a cheese grater for some interesting light effects that change with the sun. The link does not go to a pattern but rather a concept to explore.
- Self-Watering Vase: Another plastic soda bottle project, this time helping the harried college student keep their thirsty plants watered without dipping significantly into their schedules.
- Plexiglass Curtains: No-sew types in need of curtains may want to considering upcycling Plexiglass panels instead.