American Studies

Suggested Personal Sustainability Actions

Wesleyan's Personal Sustainability Commitment (Community Climate Agreement) is currently under revision.  Please check back for updated personal action ideas.


Don't open windows when heat or air conditioning is on.

  • Close windows when the heat or air conditioning is on to avoid wasting energy. If your room or office is too warm or too cold, turn the heat down, or the air conditioning down. If you have no way to do this, report the problem to Wesleyan Physical Plant Customer Service at (860) 685-3400 or email
  • Open windows are good when the heat or air conditioning isn’t on! If you can keep your thermostat set to a few degrees higher in the summer, and a few degrees lower in the winter, you’ll save a lot of energy.

Use CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs).

  • CFL bulbs are available for purchase at Weshop, Cardinal Technology store, and local stores. They typically have a higher initial cost, but use 75% less energy and last up to ten times longer than incandescent bulbs. This will dramatically decrease the number of times you’ll need to buy a new bulb, saving even more money in the long run.  If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a CFL bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. (Energy Star)
  • CFL bulbs must be recycled properly. When you are done with one, please put it either in a small box, or in a zip-lock-type baggie and bring to the information desk of the Usdan Center to be recycled, or contact Physical Plant for a pickup. CFL bulbs contain mercury, which is a “universal waste.”

Turn off unneeded and unused lights, appliances, and computers.

  • Turn off lights whenever there's enough natural light or when leaving a room. 
  • In instances where safety requires leaving lights on, consider installing motion and light detectors.  
  • Many appliances and electronics continue to use electricity even when turned off.  This "vampire energy" can add up.  Unplug (or turn off a power strip) any electronic device with a clock, light, or display, and coffeemakers that keep water hot for instant use, as they drain electricity even when the power is not on.

Use cold water for laundry.

  • Most laundry detergents today are formulated to work well in cold or warm water.
  • Avoiding hot water as much as possible will save energy, and may also keep your colors brighter, and your elastic safe from early deterioration!  Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half! (DOE)
  • For more laundry tips, visit the US Department of Energy's website.


Save gasoline by using alternative transportation, carpooling, and driving more slowly.

  • Walk or bike whenever you can, especially on campus.
  • When you purchase your next vehicle, shop for a higher-mileage model. Lighter, smaller cars are typically more fuel-efficient.
  • Reduce the number of car trips you take each week; for example, make good shopping lists to minimize trips to the grocery store.
  • Driving more slowly great increases your mileage.  As a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas. (
  • Use the campus Rideboard for both student carpools and employee commutes.


Reuse bags, cups, and mugs, and bring them with you.

  • Using reusable items saves the waste of manufacturing, shipping, and disposing of unnecessary paper and plastic bags, cups, and plastic bottles.


  • Recycle as much as you can, and pay attention to recycling properly. If there is too much “contamination” in a load of recyclables, it will go into the trash instead of being recycled.
  • Complete recycling information can be found at:


Don’t buy bottled water.

Wesleyan stopped selling bottled water in all campus dining locations and stores in 2012 and have been installing filtered water bottle filling stations across campus to increase access to clean and good-tasting water. Bottled water is unsustainable for a number of reasons:

  • The EPA has stronger regulations for tap water than the FDA has for bottled water. Thus, bottled water is not necessarily safer to drink.
  • An estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle--sometimes further treated, sometimes not. (NRDC)
  • 86% of plastic water bottles in the US become garbage or litter, which is 30 million bottles a day.  (Container Recycling Institute)
  • Sent to the landfill, the bottles can take up to a millennium to biodegrade.  (E magazine)
  • Globally, 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water per year.
  • 1.5 million barrels of crude oil is used to produce the water bottles consumed by Americans each year.  This amounts to enough to fuel about 100,000 US cars for a year.
  • Bottled water is 5,000 times more expensive than tap water.
  • Bottled water companies enter communities, dry up their local water resource, and degrade aquifers.  This often leaves communities without an adequate safe water source. (Earth Policy Institute)
  • Over one third of the world faces serious water shortages. (United Nations Environmental Programme)
  • $100 billion is spent on bottled water annually.  One year’s worth of bottled water expenditures could completely cover the development of efficient and sustainable water infrastructure throughout the entire world, three times over. (UN Millennium Development Goals).

Conserve water.

  • Anything you can do to decrease your water usage will have positive impacts, as energy is needed to pump, purify, and heat water, and also to carry it away. We are fortunate to have plenty of clean water here, now, but this may not always be the case. There are places in the US and abroad that struggle to provide enough clean water for basic needs.
    • Readily accessible freshwater makes up 0.014% of all the water in the world.
    • In the US, groundwater is being used up 25% faster that it’s being replenished.
    • By 2025, 48 countries are expected to face water shortages affect upwards of 2.8 billion people.
    • Potable water in Middletown comes from reservoirs in Connecticut and aquifers along the Connecticut River. These sources are finite, and a decrease in water consumption means a lessened impact on these ecosystems.
  • If you use a dishwasher, newer models are Energy Star-rated, and use much less water and energy than older models.
  • Take shorter showers (aim for less than 4 minutes).

Save Water 49 Ways (American Water & Energy Savers)


Purchase carbon offsets.


Buy local food.

  • Buying locally grown food supports local agriculture, saves transportation energy costs of shipping food over long distances, is fresher, and often tastes better.
  • Middletown holds a Farmers' Market Fridays 10-2 from May-October in front of It's Only Natural Market on Main St., where you can get local produce and other goods.  There are many other local farmers' markets, some of which run year-round, and farm stands in the area.
  • When going to the supermarket or local restaurants, ask where your food is coming from and let them know that you would like information on their labels and menus.