I debated the name of this category, “college kids” just doesn’t feel 100% right to me, since I started college at the age of 29. But this is a list of eco-friendly gifts for college kids who are going off to dorms or to live away at school for the first time really. It could also be a great gift list for first-time renters, just moving out on their own.

If you’re looking for gifts for an adult college student, check out eco-friendly gifts for people who live in their office (coming soon).

But if you’re looking for a great gift to help someone heading off on their own, this is the list for you!

Below, I’ve got 4 ideas for gifts for college kids, ordered from lowest to highest price using the low-end of the price range indicated. Note that prices and availability may vary—last updated: Oct. 5, 2020

You can shop by budget, or by tastes and preferences!

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Dry Shampoo ($15 USD)

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Dorm Decor ($10-50 USD)

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Laundry Stuff ($12-70 USD)

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Chargers ($20-100 USD)

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Other Ideas

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TL;DR

Dry Shampoo ($15 USD)

Dry shampoo is an absolute lifesaver when you’re running late to class and just don’t have time for a shower.

As it happens, it’s actually better for your hair if you don’t wash it every day. But for the college kids in your life, convenience is the selling point on this gift.

Before shopping:

  • Do they have hair?

Dry shampoo makes getting out the door while looking clean and well-kempt, quick, and easy! You just dust a little in the roots of your hair and brush it through.

The powder absorbs the oils in your hair, reducing the shine and clumping effect of not washing. Of course, you do need to wash it once in a while, or that powder will build up and cause its own troubles!

Eco Friendly Gifts - Dry Shampoo
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Dorm Decor ($10-50 USD)

If your favorite college kid is heading away from home to live at college, in dorms or off-campus, they’ll probably appreciate a little ambiance.

Whether it’s a reed diffuser or a funky, geometric bamboo shelf, dorm décor is a fun option to consider as a gift.

Before shopping:

  • Are they allowed to hang shelves?
  • Will they keep a plant alive?
  • Are they allowed to burn candles?

Reed diffusers and candles are a sure way to keep your favorite college kid’s room smelling fresh … or at least not like a standard college kid!

If you’re not sure whether candles are allowed in the dorm, stick with the reed diffuser. And always get candles that come in a container, to reduce any risk of fire!

The diffusers and candles shown below are all handmade in California using natural and sustainably sourced materials.

Other décor ideas include the recycled bamboo shelf shown below, or recycled bamboo coasters that might come in handy too! Both are made from recycled bamboo chopsticks.

And if they’ll keep a plant alive, add a little fresh air to their life with the Oakywood geometric planter. It’s fun and funky, and made from sustainably sourced wood, with an aluminum inner pot—no plastic here!

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Eco Friendly Gifts - Soy Candle
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Eco Friendly Gifts - Reed Diffuser
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Eco Friendly Gifts - Oakywood Planter
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Laundry Stuff ($12-70 USD)

Any “kid” off to college, or moving into their first apartment, is going to need laundry stuff. So why not set them up with a zero-waste laundry set, that will save them money all through college?

Before shopping:

  • It might be good to know if they prefer scented or unscented detergent … when in doubt, go unscented.

I listed the price range as $12-70 USD because you could buy just a few items on the list—such as laundry detergent starting around $12—or you could buy the pre-packed laundry starter kit shown below.

Now, I will say that I recommend the dropps brand detergent over the Eco Nuts when it comes to someone who might be new to laundry. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore soap nuts, but it might not be a great option for a noob, or someone who maybe isn’t interested in laundry techniques.

Honestly, if I were going to buy this kit as a gift, I would get the kit and a box of dropps detergent pods and just keep the Eco Nuts for myself.

That said, this kit is great in all the other ways! It comes with:

  • A stain stick
  • Laundry detergent
  • A Cora Ball (goes in the wash to collect microfibers & plastics)
  • A mesh bag for delicates
  • Dryer balls

All the products included are non-toxic and zero waste. So they’re great for the environment and the kid. And they’re mostly just basic necessities for laundry (yeah, you could get away with skipping the mesh bag and the Cora Ball if you want).

But the crowning glory is the dryer balls. Truly, if you’re going to get only one of these things, get the dryer balls. They should last the college kid’s entire college career.

You’ll save them so much money on those dumb disposable dryer sheets—yes, I am being judgmental, and I feel pretty good about it.

If you’re not sure how dryer balls work, here’s how dryer balls work.

So there you have it, get the dryer balls for sure, but if you want to send them off fully loaded, get the whole kit and swap out the Eco Nuts for dropps. (Use the Eco Nuts for yourself).

Zero Waste Laundry - EarthHero
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