Sustainable Dorm Life 101

Going off to college is an exciting transition – you’re finally on your own, with new knowledge and new friends waiting to be discovered. Whether your family is already already living the green life or you’re just getting interested in helping the planet, read on for tips to keep your carbon footprint small in your dorm and on campus.

To save energy and transportation costs, do your shopping after you get to school and grab these eco-friendly dorm essentials:

Reusables (dishes, utensils, etc). A stylin’ travel cup and water bottle keep you caffeinated and hydrated without adding single-use plastics to the waste stream, and reusable containers and silverware will be a lot more useful than you expect.

An Energy Star-certified fridge and/or microwave. These are designed to work as well as, or better than, other appliances, and they use less energy.

Fair-trade and organic bedding. Bamboo and cotton sheets and blankets are both comfy and easy to wash, and they’re made with sustainable materials.

LED lighting. Dorm lighting can usually be the worst. Who wants a headache from overhead fluorescents while working on an important paper? Give your room a literal glow-up: a desk lamp and cool accent lighting with LED bulbs will use way less energy and add some aesthetic to a boring space.

A digital notebook. If you like the “retro” way of taking notes in class, but don’t want to pile up paper that will need to be recycled at the end of the semester, pick up reusable smart notebook. These are usually affordable, come with digital pens and work just like a regular notebook, except they let you send your notes right to your computer.

Use those recycle bins! Keep a separate wastebasket for recyclables if there isn’t one in your room, and empty it into the dorm’s recycling bin(s) regularly. If your school doesn’t offer recycling (oh, no!), maybe you can be the one to make your eco-friendly mark and encourage them to do so.

Ask restaurants to skip the utensils when you’re ordering takeout for your late-night study sessions (remember that tip about reusables above?) so you have less waste to throw away.

Bring your own to-go container with you when you go out to eat (or if your cafeteria’s food is somehow really good) so there’s nothing to toss.

Use a power strip for your TV, laptop and other electronics, and be sure to switch it off to save energy when you’re at class or out exploring campus.

Walk or ride your bike to and from class instead of driving. You won’t release any carbon emissions, and it’s an easy way to get moving and check out the sights along the way.

Watch that faucet. Turn off the water when shaving and brushing your teeth. A little mindfulness goes a long way toward preserving that precious resource.

Wait to wash clothes until you have a full load to save water. If you want a good excuse to put off Laundry Day, you’re in luck! To save energy too, wash your clothes in the coolest water you can.

Hit the thrift stores when your wardrobe is feeling a little archaic. Instead of buying new clothes (which take a lot of energy and resources to manufacture), you can score some sweet vintage outfits for almost nothing and stand out from the crowd. Take your old clothes with you to donate – major thrift stores like Goodwill will recycle what they can’t sell.

Rent your textbooks or buy used if you can. The memes don’t lie: books are crazy expensive! Renting your textbooks, or buying used if your required texts aren’t available, can save both money and trees. After the course is finished, sell or donate the books you bought rather than trashing them. You’ll avoid waste, and maybe get a little something back from your (major) investment!

College may be challenging, but learning to live green is easy. Congratulations on this huge new step in your life and the adventures you’ll have along the way!

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