HMC Guide to Sustainable Living

As the world faces the consequences and impacts of anthropogenic climate change, Harvey Mudd College must do its part to reduce its ecological footprint. This requires a holistic and deliberate change in practice – reducing our waste out; conserving water and energy; and making changes in our food and material consumption. All members of the HMC community – students, faculty and staff alike – must make an effort to change their habits as part of this greater effort.

Cover of Guide to Sustainable Living

To address this need, the Hixon Center is happy to provide students, faculty and staff with the Second Edition of the Guide to Sustainable Living!

The Guide provides a comprehensive list of opportunities and suggestions for readers to embrace a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. It offers a number of helpful tips, suggestions and facts, ranging across a variety of areas, from recycling to energy and water conservation to food choices.

We hope that this will serve as a resource for the HMC community for years to come, and we are optimistic that even a quick perusal of this guide will lead to environmentally sustainable changes on campus.

Physical copies of the guide can be picked up at the Hixon Center. Please continue down this page for an accessible webpage version of the Guide. This guide has been adapted from ‘The Little Green Book’ (Pomona College Sustainability Integration Office) and ‘The Green Guide’ (Pitzer College Office of Sustainability).

Note: If you have trouble accessing any documents on this page, please refer to the Website Accessibility statement for further assistance.

Guide to Sustainable Living, 2nd Edition (Accessible Online Version)

About this Guide

As California and the rest of the world face the consequences and impacts of anthropogenic climate change, action is needed to not just mitigate the impacts of our decisions on the natural environment, but also to engage in sustainable, adaptive, and resilient behaviors and practices.

To address this need, the Hixon Center for Sustainable Environmental Design offers the Guide to Sustainable Living. This guide provides a comprehensive list of opportunities and suggestions for readers to embrace a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. We hope that this will serve as a resource for the HMC community for years to come and are optimistic that even a quick perusal of this guide will lead to sustainable change on campus.

If you would like to learn more about our efforts to make Harvey Mudd College a more sustainable campus and to find out how you can participate, please contact the Hixon Center at, or visit our website at

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.


The City of Claremont has co-mingled, single-stream recycling. This means that everything goes into the same bin, on the condition that it is all clean.

  • All Plastics #1-7, including cups and film, plastic packaging, lids and six-pack rings – almost all plastic items! Do not include plastic bags.
  • Aluminum, steel and tin cans, and foil
  • Glass (all colors)
  • Paper and cardboard, including newspapers, magazines, envelopes with plastic windows or bubble lining, egg cartons and paper bags.
  • No waxy beverage cartons


Composting is now available on the Harvey Mudd College campus. Compost bins will be located in kitchens and breakrooms throughout campus buildings and residential spaces, as well as around campus and in the dining hall.

What you can compost on campus

  • Produce scraps (vegetable and fruit scraps, peels, rinds, seeds, etc.)
  • Vegan and non-vegan food scraps (including meat and cheese)
  • Green waste (flowers, leaves, twigs, etc.)
  • Other biodegradable/compostable organic content (coffee grounds, tea bags, etc.)

What you can’t compost:

  • Thin paper and plastics (Kleenex, napkins, paper towels, wrappers, straws, etc.)
  • Biodegradable/compostable plastic and paper items (e.g., Spudware, plates, utensilss). They are not accepted by the City of Claremont for compost

In addition, signs and bins are now installed across campus and in the dining hall for you to properly sort your waste. Please read and abide by all signs related to waste sorting.

For your information – waste audit

In April 2016, the Hixon Center conducted a waste audit with help from Facilities and Maintenance, Dining Services, and student volunteers – sorting through nearly 620 pounds of campus trash from a single day. By weight, 48 percent was compostable and 38 percent was recyclable. Only 14 percent of the waste should have actually been going to landfill.

Electronic Waste (e-waste)

To dispose of electronic waste (e.g., batteries, computer monitors, cables, etc.), please visit Facilities & Maintenance, the mailroom, or the first floor of the Norman F. Sprague Center.

During Move Out

You may have collected a lot of things over the course of the year or four, but try to avoid throwing everything you don’t need into the trash. Consider the following when preparing to leave the dorms:

  • Properly sort your waste into landfill and recycling. F&M provides large dumpsters for students to sort their waste into, so please make sure to do this properly when getting rid of trash at the end of the year.
  • Sell or donate furniture, appliances, or other materials you don’t need. Chances are that someone could use your desk lamp. Do your best to give your items to someone else before throwing them away. Craigslist is also a viable option for selling items.

In Your Room

Lighting and Energy Use

  • Turn off the lights! Easy to do, but easy to forget.
  • Use daylight whenever possible. No need for lights during daytime hours if a window is nearby.
  • Use more efficient lightbulbs. Fluorescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), LED, and other efficient bulbs use much less energy than traditional incandescent lights.
  • Share appliances, such as refrigerators and microwaves.
  • Unplug items when not in use, or plug them into a power strip that you can turn off. Almost every electronic item, especially charges, uses “standby” power as long as it’s plugged in, even when turned off.
    • Note: Standby power, or “phantom load,” is responsible for an estimated 5-10 percent of U.S. residential energy use. Eliminating phantom load would be the equivalent of shutting down 17 coal-fired power plants!
  • Use rechargeable batteries. Save money and reduce resource consumption and hazardous waste.
  • Use Energy Star appliances. Energy Star certification is an EPA certification program for products that save energy without sacrificing features or functionality.

Climate Control

  • Avoid using A/C or heating if you don’t need it. Cool yourself down by opening a door or a window, and warm yourself up by putting on extra layers.
  • If needed, raise the temperature of your A/C during the day. This will still keep your room relatively cool, but it will use less energy than it would to cool down the room during the nighttime.

Cleaning Tips

  • Buy non-toxic and green cleaning supplies or make your own with vinegar and water.
  • Reduce waste by using a washable cloth rag to clean.
  • Baking soda works well as a natural deodorizer and scrub for the sink and shower.
  • Unclog your drain by pouring one part baking soda followed by two parts vinegar down the drain to break up blockages.
  • Borax mixed with warm water is a natural disinfectant.

Other Stuff

  • Conserve trash bags. Dump out the trash and reuse the bag.
  • Fix something instead of buying a new items.
  • Buy used. Before buying something new, post an ad on Chirps, visit a local thrift store or browse Craigslist to see if you can get a used items instead.
  • Donate used goods instead of throwing them out. Place items outside your room with a “free” sign, and make sure everything gets taken.
  • Get free recycled notepads from Duplicating Services (on College Avenue across from Seaver North)

Saving Water

  • Turn off the faucet whenever you can. You don’t need water running while brushing your teeth, soaping up your hands or scrubbing dishes.
  • Take shorter showers. By reducing your shower time by 30 minutes a week (roughly five minutes/day), you’ll save 3,900 gallons of water!
    • Tip: Use a shower timer (get one from the Hixon Center) or a song to help you keep track of time.
  • If you feel comfortable, talk to your bathroom-mates about establishing an “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” policy.

Saving Energy

  • Take shorter/fewer/cooler showers. Less hot water means less energy use.
    • Note: Every five minutes you spend in the shower uses around 1.2 kilowatt hours of electricity to heat the water, the amount of energy needed to burn 10 100-watt bulbs for one hour.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave! Many forget this in campus bathrooms.

Reducing Waste

  • Place a hand towel in your residence hall bathroom. It feels softer, uses fewer resources, and produces less waste than paper towels. Note that you may have to put up your own (removable) hook for your towel.
  • Remember to recycle! Toilet paper cores, paper towels and empty plastic bottles from shampoo and other bathroom products should be recycled.

Personal Care and Cosmetics

  • Avoid microbeads. These are microscopic plastic beads used in many exfoliating products. These are not removed by sewage treatment and can harm aquatic animals.
    • Note: CA AB-1699 passed in 2014 banned the sale and manufacture of microbeads.
  • Check the ingredients. Because cosmetics aren’t FDA-regulated, they can include hazardous chemicals.

For your information – eco-periods

Feminine hygiene products create a huge amount of waste: nearly 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads, and 700,000 panty liners each year! Fortunately, there are many great products, from reusable medical-grade silicone menstrual cups like the Keeper and DivaCup (available at the Coop Store and Motley) to cloth pads.



  • Only do laundry when you have full loads. Machines use the same amount of energy, no matter how many clothes you put in. Pair up with a friend if necessary.
  • Do laundry less often.
  • Purchase environmentally friendly laundry products. Look for products that are 2-3 times concentrated and have natural ingredients.
  • Donate leftover laundry products at the end of the year.
  • Wash using cold water. About 90 percent of the energy used by the machine goes to heating water, and advances in detergent mean that hot water is no longer necessary.
  • Use half the recommended amount of detergent. Since Harvey Mudd has efficient front-loading washing machines, half or less of the recommended amount of detergent will still get your clothes clean.
  • Wear clothes more than once before you wash them. Jeans, shirts, sweaters, and pants can be worn multiple times before washing.


  • Air dry your clothes. Air drying reduces energy use and lengthens the life of your clothes. The Hixon Center provides drying racks.
  • Clean out the lint screen before using a dryer. Dirty lint screens cause dryers to use up to 30 percent more energy.
  • Nix the fabric softener and drying sheets. Fewer chemicals means a healthier you and a healthier environment.

Computing and Printing

Laptop and Desktop Energy Saving Tips

  • Turn off your computer completely when not in use. Although “sleep” settings reduce power use, when you won’t be using your computer for an hour, it is best to completely shut it down.
  • Lower your screen’s brightness to a level that is still comfortable. The brightest setting on a monitor uses twice as much power as the dimmest setting. You’ll also go longer between charges if you use the dimmer setting.
  • Make sure you’re using energy-saving settings. Set your screen to go to sleep mode after five minutes of inactivity.
  • Don’t use screen savers. Screen savers were originally used to prevent monitor-damaging phosphor burn. However, today’s monitors are not susceptible to such damage, and screen savers can actually use up to twice as much energy as a computer in sue.
  • Unplug peripheral devices such as printers, chargers and speakers when not in use. Ensure that these don’t draw phantom loads. Another option is to plug them into a power strip that you can switch off when not in use. “Smart” power strips detect when these devices are off and shut off power to those outlets.

Laptop Batteries

  • Keep it cool. One of the best ways you can extend your battery’s life is to keep it from overheating:
    • Use a cooling pad when using your laptop on your lap. A cooling pads sits under your laptop and allows for more airflow, usually with a motorized fan.
    • Avoid putting your laptop on a soft surface. Your computer’s fan cannot function properly when it is on a soft surface, such as a pillow or a blanket.
    • Keep your desk clean. A messy desk can lead to dust in your computer’s vents, which clogs the cooling fan.
    • Don’t store your laptop above 80°F.
  • Do not fully discharge your battery every time. Unlike nickel-metal hydride batteries, lithium ion batteries (the kind-used in most laptops today) perform better when they are not fully discharged each cycle. Instead it is better to discharge only partially before recharging. A full discharge is needed about every 30 charges.


  • Work on the computer and avoid the printer.
    • Read and annotate PDFs and Word documents on your computer, tablet, or smartphone rather than printing them out. If you want to digitally annotate or highlight a PDF, use Adobe Acrobat Professional (installed on all lab and college-owned computers). Acrobat Pro is a more complete version of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader program.
    • In Word, use Track Changes to make edits and comments on a paper.
  • Use less paper when you print by:
    • Printing double-sided. This is an easy way to cut your paper usage in half and save your print quota.
    • Printing multiple pages on one. Print readings and papers to review with two or more pages per sheet of paper.
    • Printing on scrap paper (one-sided documents). This is a great option when you don’t need a professional copy or final draft.
    • Reducing font size or reducing paragraph spacing. Try 1.5 spacing instead of double spacing.
    • Reducing document margins. Reducing margins increases the amount of text that can fit on the page and reduces the number of pages needed to print a document.
    • Go paperless in class. Talk to your professors about using Sakai to turn in assignments, with comments and feedback provided using the Microsoft Word Reviewing Tool.
    • Share print-outs with classmates.
    • Use campus printers instead of buying your own. Maximizing use of Harvey Mudd’s printers saves you money, reduces energy costs (fewer printers left on), and reduces packaging, transportation costs, and waste.
    • If you do have your own printer:
      • Opt for greener paper.
      • Refill your ink cartridge or purchase a remanufactured cartridge. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste, and toxic pollution, and can cost 20-60 percent less than buying new cartridges.
      • Use vegetable-based inks. Vegetable-based inks substitute vegetable oils for petroleum. This significantly reduces the amount of harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released during printing.

For your information: facts about paper and green alternatives

  • Post-consumer recycled paper contains material recycled by consumers; pre-consumer contains mill scraps.
  • Processed chlorine-free (PCF) paper does not use chlorine – which releases dioxins or other organochlorides into waterways – for bleaching.
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification verifies that paper is produced in a sustainable manner.
  • One ream (500) sheets use 6 percent of a tree (6-8 inches diameter, 40 feet tall).
  • 42 percent of the industrial wood harvest is used to make paper.
  • Paper accounts for 25 percent of landfill waste.
  • Cutting U.S. paper use by 10 percent would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.6 million tons.

Dining and Eating

Reducing Waste

  • Take only what you can eat. If you want more, it’s just a short walk back for seconds.
  • Always use your green reusable to-go container and mug when you take food out.
  • Think twice before using disposable items. If you need them, take as few as possible.
  • Take as few napkins as possible or bring your own clot napkin.
  • Stock your own reusable dining ware. Get a set of your own reusable silverware, a glass, etc. to keep in your room.

Food Choices

  • Eat local, organic, humane, and fair trade. These options reduce chemical inputs, transit and resource use, and improve local economies and the treatment of animals and workers.
  • Eat lower on the food chain. It reduces the amount of energy and resources that go into your diet.
  • Reduce consumption of animal products (e.g., meat, eggs, dairy). Try cutting meat of your diet for at least one or two days a week to start.
  • Pay attention to where foods are produced. Eating more local foods reduces the energy required for transportation.
  • Express your opinions. Want to see local, organic, fair trade and/or seasonal foods in the dining hall? Let dining staff know through comment cards and e-mails.

Sustainable Food Terms

  • Vegetarian – No meat.
  • Vegan – No animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, etc.
  • Pescatarian – No land meat, only fish.
    • Note: You do not have to fit into these categories to eat sustainably. Simply be conscious of the food you are eating and you can reduce your impact.
  • Local food – Produced “locally,” although this can be defined in different ways (e.g., within 250 miles). Local food means fresher food, supporting farmers, and fewer resources used for transportation.
  • Seasonal food – Food that is in its natural harvesting season. This means fresher and more local food since seasonal food often isn’t shipped from other countries.
  • Organic food – Food that has been produce without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are dangerous to the environment, farm workers, and the consumer. Also, since many fertilizers are petroleum-based, organic farming uses about one-third less fossil fuel than conventional farming.

Green Boxes and Green Cups

Check out a Green Box or a Green Cup at the dining hall to reduce waste from take-out containers. It costs $6 to check out a box and $3 for a cup, though each charge is refunded when the item is returned at the end of the semester/year. Not only does it reduce waste, because it saves time because you can exchange your dirty box or cup for a clean one.


  • Public Transit – MetroLink (train) and the Foothill bus lines are local and accessible options for public transportation near and around Claremont, as well as to Los Angeles and other parts of southern California. The Claremont Colleges also provide free Foothill Transit class passes for students, faculty, and staff.
  • Rideshare – Instead of renting your own vehicle, Rideshare has become a widely accessible and affordable option (e.g., Lyft, Uber)
  • Alternative Transportation – If a destination is close enough, we encourage you to walk, use bicycles, skateboards/longboards, or otherwise.