Green Dorm Living 101
By: Stephanie Benney
Each year, moms and dads load up the family truckster to transport their daughter or son to college. They have most likely spent the second half of their summer getting her or him organized, prepared and ready ready to role for their freshman year.
So, how do you help your teen stay eco-responsible while not living under your roof? By teaching her or him how to have a green dorm room, of course! Thanks to our friends at Treehugger, I found a helpful guide to have your freshman’s dorm room looking sustainably savvy.
Top Green Dorm Room Tips
1. Keep it local Many college students want an “away from home” experience. Just don’t make it a “shipping tons of stuff all over the country” experience. If it’s your first year at school, try to obtain your furnishings locally when you get to school (See tips 2 and 3). If you’re a returning student, think about local storage–many schools offer storage options.
2. Use the used Sure, this may be your first home away from home, and we understand the urge to decorate with all the coolest new stuff from Target or WalMart. Just consider, for a second, how much waste that would mean, assuming most freshmen get relatively new stuff every year of school. See what we mean? Instead, why not check out great used sources of stuff, like local resale shops, ebayLocal, and Craigslist. You’ll be guaranteed to have a really unique room décor (see tip 10 to max this out), and you’ll have money left over to throw wild parties (Um, we mean library study snacks).
3. Capture the free Of course, while cheap used stuff is good, there is something better: Free used stuff. If you’re a new freshman, check out Craigslist or Freecycle in your area to see if there are any items like beds, desks, or lamps that you can score for free. If you stayed at school over the summer for research or whatnot, your university may have a coordinated furniture recycling day. Or, you might just hang around during move-out and see what you can collect.
4. Condition yourself, not your air One of the most eco-friendly things you can do as a student is to give up air conditioning. Many universities make it really easy for you to do by banning AC units in dorms. But that doesn’t stop some crafty students from sneaking them in. The trouble is, there are millions of students all over the world, which means the potential for hundreds of thousands of energy-sucking AC units. Instead of AC, why not try opening a window, turning on a fan, taking a cold shower before bed, or studying outside. Of course, if you have to have AC for allergies or some other reason, be sure to get an Energy-Star rated low-energy unit.
5. Be sure your fridge is cool Another big energy-sucker of dorms is the ol’ microfridge. Of course, the best thing you can do is go fridgeless or check into a shared larger fridge (many dorms have shared kitchens with fridges). But if you must have a fridge to yourself, make sure it’s energy-star or other low-energy certified. This can save you 50 percent of the energy use of regular appliances.
6. Cook it right You may scoff at the microwave/toaster oven combo, but by combining these two cooking appliances with a cheap rice cooker, you’ve got nearly the perfect eco-kitchen. All three of these appliances boast high energy efficiencies relative to their big-kitchen counterparts.
7. Paper please Sure, it’s not the sexiest of materials, but there are plenty of paper options for dorm decor that can be recycled when you out-grow them in a few years. Check out paper wall tiles from MioCulture, paper window treatments from Redi Shade, or make your own paper lampshades.
8. See the light Halogen torchiere lamps are all the rage right now. They’re super cheap, put out tons of light, and fit in a corner with ease. Unfortunately, some of them use hundreds of watts of electricity, and they’ve been known to cause fires. Stick with compact fluorescent light bulbs. The newer ones put out great light, use just a trickle of electricity, and last almost forever. This is one thing worth buying again every time you move; by leaving them for your next tenant, you’ll be spreading the green love with every new apartment.
9. Don’t let the sheets hit the fan
Linens for your new room will make up the bulk of the rest of your buying. When you look for sheets, curtains, or towels, go for organic cotton, if possible. It’s still the same cottony goodness, but you’ll rest easy knowing it’s grown without nasty pesticides.
10. Re-used doesn’t have to mean re-pulsive Just because you got used stuff, doesn’t mean it has to be old and moldy. This is college. You’re supposed to be wild and experimental. So go crazy. Why not try sewing some cushion covers, or pillows for that old couch. Or invite some of your new friends over for a painting party on that old dresser and table. Unleash your inner crafter with great magazines like Make, Craft or Readymade.
Stephanie Benney is a “Sustainable Visionary” and also the new Pittsburgh Representative for Fuzed Marketing, where she helps companies increase their brand presence. firstname.lastname@example.org