Moving into a dorm room can be a tumultuous experience for many college students, especially those unused to such close-quartered communal living. While many things about life will change when they finally move into a dorm, one thing can stay the same — a commitment to living green. There are tons of ways students can make their cramped life greener and get even more out of their college experience. Here are just a few ideas to get you started on your green dorm living.
These tips will help you to outfit your dorm room with everything you need while still staying green.
- Buy furnishings locally. If you’re going to college far from home, buy your furnishings locally instead of hauling them with you. It’ll save on gas and still give you access to everything you need. Some stores, like Bed, Bath and Beyond, may give you the option of purchasing remotely and picking up at your destination so you don’t have to move a thing.
- Shop at resale stores. Not everything for your room has to be brand new. You can be green and save money by shopping used.
- Browse Freecycle. Why pay for what you can get for free? Use sites like Freecycle to pick up great stuff for your dorms at little to no cost.
- Buy organic cotton sheets. Organic cotton and other natural fibers like bamboo are incredibly soft, durable and don’t require any pesticides to produce.
- Look for natural fibers. When shopping for blankets, rugs and towels look for natural fibers. They’re more environmentally-friendly, even though they may cost more to purchase up front.
- Get a plant. A plant will not only help your room feel more homey, it will help to clean the air as well.
- Look for recycled paper products. When buying paper towels, toilet paper or printer paper, opt for recycled materials.
- Avoid disposable furniture. While it might seem like a bargain, cheap, particle-board furniture won’t last and will only end up in a landfill. Higher quality furniture will be a better investment for you and environment in the long run.
- Buy things that will last you beyond the dorms. When purchasing things for your room, look for those that will work if you decide to move into an apartment later. That way you won’t have to spend money and resources when you get out.
- Look for environmentally friendly storage solutions. This can mean getting canvas or metal baskets or looking for plastic bins that are made of recyclable materials.
- Find or make reusable shopping bags. Don’t bring home loads of plastic bags. Instead, invest in some nice reuseable ones. Or make your own.
- Skip heavily packaged items. Unless it’s something you really, really need, avoid purchasing items that come with way too much packaging. It’s wasteful and will be a pain to deal with once the item is unpacked.
From fridges to air conditioning, use these tips to save on energy when it comes to appliances.
- Look for Energy Star appliances.When buying a mini-fridge or microwave for your room, always do your research to find the most energy efficient models.
- Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Replace those incandescent and halogen lights with compact fluorescents instead.
- Turn off your computer when you’re not using it. It saves energy and will help your computer to get a much-needed break. If you don’t want to turn it all the way off, at least make sure it’s sleeping or in power-down mode.
- Watch out for energy vampires. Chargers for phones, computers and the like suck up energy even when not in use. Use a power strip you can easily turn off to help reduce their impact.
- Pay attention to the chill factor in your fridge. Keeping your fridge out of the sun and regularly checking its thermostat can help it use less energy over time.
- Get rid of the AC. Most older dorms don’t have built in AC, but some do allow window units which can be big energy hogs. Forgo the AC if you can handle it, or only switch on to help you sleep or study rather than leaving it on all the time.
Cooking and Eating
Waste less and conserve more when it comes to cooking and eating with these ideas.
- Avoid plastic water bottles. Instead of stocking up on plastic bottles of water, get a reusable, filtered pitcher. You’ll save tons of plastic from being wasted.
- Kick the packaged snack habit. Instead, purchase snacks that aren’t individually packaged. Fresher snacks are greener and healthier to boot.
- Find low-energy methods of cooking. Cooking in a rice cooker, toaster oven or crock pot can mean making delicious meals with much less energy.
- Buy reusable silverware and plates. Instead of going with the disposable kind, invest in some nice cups and plates you can store and reuse in your room. If you’re worried about breaking glass, go for a recyclable plastic instead.
- Reuse plastic grocery bags. Don’t throw out perfectly good plastic bags. Use them as liners for your garbage cans or find a number of other great uses for them.
- Eat smart in the cafeteria. Only take what you know you can eat and avoid using a tray if you don’t have to in order to keep your diet and dorm greener.
Dorm rooms are the perfect place to get close to others and spread your green ideas.
- Start a club. Want to get the word out about greening the dorms? Start a club on campus to promote activism.
- Go communal. Instead of having your own fridge or microwave, share with others in your dorm when possible.
- Green your move out. Don’t simply throw out items when you move out of the dorm. Donate them to a resale store or give them to new students.
- Share with your roomie. There are numerous items that can be shared between you and your roomie, saving space and materials.
- Get others interested in your cause. Talk to others on your floor about being green. Post flyers and posters to help them understand just what you’d like to accomplish.
- Talk to administrators about green ideas for the dorms. There are loads of ways to make dorms greener, and many ways that your college can start being environmentally friendly. Talk to them about your own ideas, you might just see change.
- Embrace the small space. Living in the small space isn’t the worst thing in the world. It will help you use and waste less, appreciate what you have more.
Give some of these ideas a try to keep your dorm room and yourself clean while still remaining green.
- Forego plug in air fresheners. They might make your room smell better, but they’re not good for the environment. Clean up your room instead or use natural air fresheners.
- Do laundry in cold water. It will save on the energy used to heat water and will get your clothes just as clean.
- Purchase earth-friendly toiletries. Toiletries can be full of harmful chemicals, so reduce your exposure by purchasing those that are better for your body and the earth.
- Clean your room naturally. Ditch the harsh bleaches and chemicals for cleaning. Instead, choose products that are green or natural to tidy up with.
- Take shorter showers. It might be nice to luxuriate in long showers, but you’ll be wasting loads of water. Instead, keep it short and sweet.
- Get all natural flip flops for showering. Kick the plastic flip flop habit and go for natural materials instead.
- Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing your face. Be kind to the earth by turning off the tap when brushing your teeth or washing your face.
- Buy chemical-free detergent and fabric softeners. There are several brands out there that make great chemical-free detergents. These options are better for the environment and will leave your clothes wonderfully clean.
Saving and Recycling
Try out some of these tips to ensure your time in the dorms leaves as little impact on the health of the earth as possible.
- Recycle class materials. Don’t just toss out old notes and papers from class. Put them in the recycle bin instead or use them as scrap instead.
- Make your own. Rather than going out to buy decorations for your room, make your own using items you already have. There are numerous ideas out there you can use.
- Never leave the lights on. Keeping the lights on when you’re not in the room is just plain wasteful. Always turn them off when you and your roomie are out.
- Upcycle old items. Something might not be useful on its own anymore but can be nice when upcycled. Use these ideas to make your dorm room nicer.
- Take old soda cans and bottles to a recycling center. If you’re like many students and have an addiction to caffeine, you probably have a few soda cans and bottles hanging around. Instead of tossing them out, recycle them.
- Recycle boxes or invest in reusable containers for moving. Dorms can be pretty wasteful places when students are moving in and out. Do your part to reduce this by recycling and reusing anything you can.
- Store instead of shipping. Instead of shipping your items back and forth between home and school when you go home for summer, store them locally.
- Insulate windows. This can help use less energy when both heating and cooling your room.
- Read online instead of printing. When possible, read your assignments online instead of printing them all out.
- Buy rechargeable batteries. Devices like remotes and game controllers run through batteries pretty quickly. Instead of simply throwing them out, get some rechargeable ones instead.
- Print on both sides of paper. When allowed (some professors don’t like it) print on both sides of the paper to use half as much.