Columbia Housing is committed to incorporating sustainability practices into its daily operations and new renovation projects. Here are a few recent and notable examples of strides made by the department in conjunction with campus partners.


Click here to learn more about Recycling within Columbia Housing.


  • In Watt, the desk chairs provided in all student rooms are made with wood that is Forest Stewardship Council-certified. 
  • In East Campus, a domestic pump station was added to improve water supply and minimize energy load through more efficient equipment.
  • In Woodbridge, new student room furniture including the desk, shelf and bedframe were replaced.
  • In Wallach, new student room furniture is made with wood that is Forest Stewardship Council-certified.

Energy and Waste Reduction

Energy and waste reduction are other critical components of Columbia Housing’s sustainability initiatives. Here’s how we’re working to make an impact:

  • In Ruggles, Housing and the EcoReps championed the placement of a composter -- the first located at a University in Manhattan. The EcoReps collect weekly scraps from Columbia Dining for composting.  A small group of students are also participating by bringing vegetable scraps on a regular basis. During the 2012-13 academic year, approximately 300 gallons of food scraps were collected, resulting in 100 gallons of compost. The compost was donated to the Columbia University Food Sustainability Project (CUFSP) for use in the garden they maintain on Pupin plaza.
  • In Schapiro, all renovated bathrooms throughout the building include low flow water fixtures (toilets, showers and faucets).
  • In 47 Claremont, Watt, and Woodbridge, the boilers were converted from oil to natural gas. An energy audit will be conducted by Housing and Facilities to track improvement in efficiencies versus previous years.


Every year, Columbia Housing collaborates with Facilities and the Eco-Reps to donate items from our residence halls to a wide variety of partners across New York City, the country, and the world. Donation highlights for the 2013-14 academic year include:

  • A shipment of 83 tons of residence hall furnishings to San Salvador, El Salvador and Spanish Town, Jamaica, facilitated by partnering organization Institutional Recycling Network (IRN).
  • Over 17,000 pounds of clothing and shoe donations to Wearable Collections, a Brooklyn-based organization that works to keep clothing, textiles and shoes out of landfills while generating funds for charities. Student clothing contributions raised $2,081.50 in funds, which were contributed to Columbia Community Service in support of their work.

Ongoing Donation Opportunities

Columbia Housing residents wishing to recycle gently used clothing and shoes may deposit these items in permanent donation bins located in the following buildings. Bins are provided by a recycling service that works to reduce textile waste. 

  • Hartley Hall first floor north (across from the vending machines)
  • Carman Hall laundry room (basement)
  • East Campus laundry room (basement)
  • Wien Hall basement
  • Broadway Hall basement (in the alcove adjacent to the elevators)
  • Schapiro Hall first floor (in the alcove next to the elevators)
  • Woodbridge Hall laundry room (basement)
  • McBain Hall first floor (under the stairs)
  • River Hall basement


The EcoReps program is a joint initiative developed by students and Housing to encourage green living in the residence halls.

EcoReps are students who volunteer, agree to a set of responsibilities, and commit to work a set number of hours per week. The responsibilities are continually changing based on new initiatives and needs, but include things like monitoring recycling, encouraging energy-saving practices, and creating educational events for the halls.

The EcoReps champion the Give + Go Green recycling initiative during the annual Check-Out process and organize the Green Sale every fall.  

Ongoing Initiatives


Housing purchases Energy Star appliances. Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals strive for energy efficiency.  All new equipment recognized under the program is manufactured to use the latest energy saving technology and environmentally safe coolants. Housing also performs regular preventive maintenance, including cleaning all filters to help the units run more efficiently. Housing looks to systematically audit our equipment to replace inefficient, older equipment with new Energy Star-efficient appliances wherever possible.


All on-campus laundry facilities feature Speed Queen Front Load Washers. This unit has one of the highest energy efficiency ratings due to its lower water usage. Older traditional top load washers use approximately 34 gallons of water; our washers use an average of 11 gallons – saving 23 gallons per cycle, which also means less waste water. In addition, in keeping with the University’s sustainability goals and in an effort to reduce non-essential energy output, all washing machines operate with cold water only as of fall 2014.


Housing partners with Savoy Furniture, a company committed to the manufacture of environmentally responsible and FSC certified products. Their primary contribution is in the life cycle of their products: their furniture is designed to endure challenging living, learning, and healing environments for 25 to 50 years. In addition, they use North American hardwood to construct their furniture. Any company we use to furnish our rooms and facilities must conform to re-forestation regulations.

Plastic Bag Recycling

Columbia Housing has partnered with the EcoReps to provide plastic bag recycling bins throughout the residence halls. Bins are located in most laundry rooms and at the Hartley Hospitality Desk. Don’t see one in your laundry room? Email or to request one. 

Wall Occupancy Sensors

Wall Switch occupancy sensors are installed in residence hall rooms and bathrooms as an energy conservation measure. The occupancy sensors have an opaque lens on the front cover and a pushbutton for manual on-off. The occupancy sensor can turn lights on and off based on occupancy. This saves energy since lights will not stay on once the room is vacant if residents forget to turn the lights off when leaving.

Wall Timer Switches

Where the motion sensor location does not have a clear view of the students in the space, a digital timer is installed instead, as an energy conservation measure. Timer switches are manually turned on and will save energy by automatically turning the lights off after a preset time (3 hours in bedrooms and 1 hour in bathrooms). 

Water Filling Stations

In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of plastic water bottles and encourage the use of reusable containers, Columbia Housing has installed water filling stations throughout several residences. Water filling stations dispense filtered water, allow hands-free bottle filling, and display the number of 16-ounce plastic bottles saved from landfills. Stations can be found in the following locations: 

  • 47 Claremont, 1st floor
  • Broadway Hall, 1st floor, rear hallway
  • Carman Hall, 1st floor lobby and basement lobby
  • East Campus, 1st floor lobby (near vending machine and elevator)
  • Furnald Hall, 1st floor, south hallway (left past the guard desk)
  • Harmony Hall
  • Hartley Hall, 1st floor lobby (outside of 118 Hartley)
  • John Jay Hall, 1st floor lobby
  • McBain, 1st floor (across from fitness room)
  • River Hall basement (across from fitness room)
  • Ruggles Hall basement
  • Schapiro Hall, 1st floor lobby (near the restroom)
  • SIC House, basement common room
  • Wallach Hall, 1st floor, south hallway (outside of 125 Wallach)
  • Wien Hall, 2nd floor (near kitchen-lounge)
  • Woodbridge Hall fitness room

Sustainable Living Tips


Provided by the EcoReps


  • Always wash with a full load and use sustainable detergent if possible.


  • Turn off lights when you don’t need them.
  • Bring an incandescent bulb to the Hartley Hospitality desk and in exchange get a FREE high-efficiency fluorescent bulb for your desk lamp.
  • Contact Facilities if you are having temperature control issues in your room.
  • Unplug chargers, and small appliances when you’re not using them. To make it easy, get a power strip.


  • When you're on the go, take a reusable water bottle with you. New York tap water is excellent and you'll find water filling stations throughout the residences. See "Ongoing Initiatives" on this page for locations.
  • Save water by turning off the tap when you’re not using it, take shorter showers, and contact Facilities if you have any leaky plumbing.


  • Have questions about what to recycle or where to recycle it? Check out Columbia Facilities or contact an EcoRep!
  • Ever in a Columbia building and can’t find a recycling bin? Let Facilities know.

Common Space

  • Have a common space or lounge? Turn off or unplug shared appliances (televisions) when not in use.

Off Campus

  • Buy the freshest foods at the NYC Greenmarket, Sundays and Thursdays on Broadway between 114th and 116th Streets.
  • Pay attention to your purchasing habits and try to buy sustainable products when possible.