Never before has there been such awareness of the need for "greener" ways of working and living in order to preserve the future of our planet. Just about any area of life can be made "greener," and this applies to college dorm life, too. For students living in dorms who are trying to leave a smaller carbon footprint during their college years, here are 10 tips for having a more Eco-friendly dorm room:
1. Odor-free, low VOC paints. Some people love that fresh, "newly painted smell," but the truth is that most traditional paints contain lots of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. That "new paint smell" actually means there are harmful toxins still floating around in the air. The good news is that there are environmentally friendly, odorless paints now available on the market, so if you will be painting your dorm room yourself, be sure to check those out.
2. Eco-friendly lighting. Choose LED or other Eco-friendly lighting over traditional incandescent bulbs for your dorm room. This simple change can help to cut down dramatically on the energy expended for your lighting, as well as the frequency with which you need to buy, replace and discard old bulbs.
3. Low VOC carpet. If possible, make sure any carpeting in your dorm room is low on volatile organic compounds. New carpeting tends to be loaded with chemicals, and in such a small space, a low VOC carpet option will be your best bet. Choose natural fibers in general whenever possible for any decor option, whether it's your carpet, curtains or any other home decor item.
4. Organic bedding. You use your sheets, comforter and pillows every night while you sleep; in fact, you are in bed for almost 1/3 of your life! Make sure that the fabrics you put against your body for such a substantial portion of your time are safe and beneficial for you. Choose bedding made of natural fibers such as cotton which are manufactured in an eco-friendly way. Avoid synthetics.
5. Refurbished furniture and supplies. Scour Craigslist or local thrift stores to find any furniture or supplies you might need for the school year, including your desk, table, chairs, lamps and other decor. This need not be a sacrifice; be selective, and you'll find furniture that is in great condition and at a big discount. You'll save money and you'll help the environment in the process.
6. Recycle! Be sure to have containers or bins on hand that make it easy for you to recycle things you might use in your room such as cans, plastics and paper. You'll be busy once the school year gets into swing, so make it as easy as possible for yourself to do this on a consistent basis. Be sure to recycle printer cartridges as well; don't discard them. Many office supply stores will offer cash back or a discount coupon for your empty printer cartridges.
7. The eco--kitchen. Outfit your kitchen area with a microwave, toaster oven and a rice cooker. All three of these appliances should cover just about any cooking needs that might come up for you. These appliances also have a high level of energy efficiency relative to larger, more traditional appliances.
8. Think Energy Star. A big drainer of energy in dorm rooms is the classic mini-fridge. If you can't find a shared fridge on your floor to use, make sure your own little fridge (and any other small appliances) all have the Energy Star rating. This can help you to reduce your energy usage by up to 50% over regular appliances.
9. Minimize heat and a/c usage. Try to use the air conditioning in your dorm room as seldom as possible. Same with your heating. Luckily, it doesn't take much heat to make a dorm room comfortable. Be sure to turn the heat down at night and when you're away at class. When you return, it won't take long to make the room comfortable with just a bit of heat.
10. Plants. Liven up your dorm room with some attractive, oxygen-generating plants. Opt for low-effort, low-maintenance choices. The peace lily, golden pathos, philodendron, mother-in-law's tongue and English ivy are all great choices, as these plants (along with several others) have been studied and shown by NASA (yes, that NASA) to help cleanse toxins from indoor environments. You'll breathe easier, and the greenery will also help lift your mood and reduce stress while you're studying.
It's never too early to start "going green," and many young people are cultivating these habits in college or even sooner. Most of the tips listed here are relatively simple and affordable to implement. Having a greener dorm room is easier than you might think. Hopefully these ten tips will help get you started on a path toward a greener college experience. Making these changes now can help you to cultivate green habits that will last a lifetime.