50 Great Green Tips for Dorm Life

By Angelita Williams

It seems that almost everyone is trying to do something to help the environment these days. Whether you are taking online classes to reduce the number of papers generated and to eliminate commute time or are trying to find ways to live greener, there is something you can do–even while living in a dorm. Take a look at the following tips to learn what you can do to green your dorm life.

Decorating and Furnishing

Your dorm room is a reflection of your personality, so how it looks is important to many people. Learn how you can decorate and furnish your dorm room so that it looks great and is good for the environment.

  1. Live plants. Unless it is against your dorm rules, invest in a few live plants for your dorm room. Not only will it add a personal touch, but plants are a great way to improve indoor air quality.
  2. Go used. While the shiny new stuff at the big box stores looks enticing, it is so much better to go retro and get used stuff instead. Visit a thrift shop or check out craigslist to see what is available.
  3. Buy locally. Don’t mess with shipping or otherwise transporting a ton of stuff from your parents’ house to your dorm. Instead, buy locally to save on the transportation to and from each dorm move.
  4. Get it free. Check out listings such as Freecycle or Freesharing that provide free classifieds full of stuff people don’t want anymore.
  5. Recycled furniture. Get creative with your furniture and use recycled parts to make awesome, unique furniture. One idea is to place an old door across two file cabinets for an instant desk.
  6. Photos. Decorate your walls with personal photos. Either tack them up on their own or create easy and fun frames out of anything from tin cans to leather belts.
  7. Bulletin board. Make a bulletin board out of old wine corks for a one-of-a-kind board that costs almost nothing and keeps corks out of the landfill.
  8. Organic bedding. Find sheets, blankets, and pillows that are organic when purchasing bedding for your dorm room.
  9. Convert a halogen torchiere lamp. A simple conversion can turn a hot halogen lamp into a cool, green compact florescent one that looks great too.
  10. Love your small space. Dorm life means you have limited space. Use this situation to practice reducing waste and curbing consumerism. You’ll find your space is not only cleaner, but you are living greener.

Conservation

These tips offer great ways to conserve energy and water in your dorm.

  1. Hang dry clothes. Not all your clothes need to be dried in a dryer. In fact, some clothes actually do better when not dried that way. Buy a sturdy drying rack and use it for drying t-shirts, cotton and linen clothes, and lingerie.
  2. Cold water. Wash laundry in cold water to save on the energy needed to heat water. Unless you have stubborn stains or odors, cold water will get your clothes clean. Cold water also preserves the life of your clothes so they last longer.
  3. Full load of laundry. Throwing a blouse or a pair of pants alone into the wash is a waste of water, energy, and detergent. Make sure you are running a full load of laundry each time you use the washing machine.
  4. No air conditioning. If you can, try to get by without air conditioning. If this isn’t possible, turn down the A/C while you’re away instead of turning it all the way off. It will take less energy to get it back up to a comfortable temperature.
  5. Energy-efficient refrigerator. Refrigerators run constantly and require lots of energy to stay cool. Be sure the refrigerator you purchase for your dorm room is energy efficient.
  6. Showers. Save both water and energy when you take shorter showers.
  7. Report leaks. Immediately report any leaks such as dripping toilet, sink or shower to maintenance. A leak can waste incredible amounts of water in a short time.
  8. Water off. Don’t keep the water running while brushing your teeth or shaving. Instead, turn off the water until you need it again.
  9. Power strips. Connect all your electronic devices to power strips, then turn everything off with the flip of a switch when you are not in your room.
  10. Sleep computers. Use less energy to power your computer by putting your computer in sleep mode after 15 minutes and turning it off at night.
  11. Light bulbs. Whenever possible, switch the light bulbs in your room to energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs.
  12. Natural light. If you get natural light from your windows, make sure your overhead lights are turned off whenever possible.

Personal Care Products

While making your own toothpaste and hair conditioner might not appeal to everyone, these tips are great ways to save the environment by eliminating packaging, transportation, and harmful chemicals.

  1. No dryer sheets. If you want your laundry to smell fresh without the chemicals of the dryer sheets, put a few drops of an essential oil on a wash cloth and throw it in with your clothes.
  2. Cleaning products. Clean your dorm with simple and all natural products such as baking soda, vinegar, tea tree oil, or lemon juice.
  3. Dusting. Use an old piece of clothing or old towel to dust. Instead of one-time-use dusting clothes full of chemicals, these reusable rags can easily be thrown in the laundry with your clothes. If you miss your furniture polish in a can, try a natural version using olive oil instead.
  4. Toothpaste. Skip the tube of toothpaste that uses manufacturing, packaging, and transportation to your store and use homemade toothpaste with baking soda and water.
  5. Body scrub. Make a simple, yet luxurious, body scrub with just a bit of oil, sugar or salt, and a few drops of essential oil for scent.
  6. Shampoo. No matter what hair type you have, there is a recipe for eco-friendly shampoo you can easily make right in your dorm room.
  7. Hair conditioner. Another way to save on packaging and manufacturing is to make your own hair conditioner with simple ingredients such as eggs, avocado, honey, or yogurt.
  8. Facials. For the ultimate in pampering, make your own facial scrubs that are also earth-friendly.
  9. Mouth wash. Make your own eco-friendly mouthwash using herbs, mineral water, and essential oils.

Purchasing, Preparing, Disposing of Food

From buying organic food to spearheading a community garden for the whole dorm, these tips will have your dorm eating green in no time.

  1. Crock pot. For simple cooking in your dorm room that uses very little electricity, try a crock pot.
  2. Organic. You can be even greener by purchasing organic foods to cook in your crock pot.
  3. Buy in bulk. Bulk products usually have less packaging material and cost less. Even better, split up the bulk products with other students and share costs.
  4. Drink tap water. Bottled water not only requires manufacturing of the plastic bottle, but shipping that sometimes takes those bottles from half way around the world.
  5. Water bottle. Use a reusable water bottle for that tap water you will be drinking instead of paper or styrofoam.
  6. Purchase locally. Purchase from local grocery stores. If the local stores don’t have a location within walking distance, ask them to consider a campus-accessible store.
  7. Skip the packaging. Some stores already have stopped packaging their produce. Try foregoing the produce bag and take a reusable produce bag for those times when you really need one.
  8. Whole foods. Whole foods are those not processed that come straight from the source. These foods require less manufacturing and don’t have lots of added chemicals.
  9. Eat locally. When you choose locally grown food, you are cutting out tons of transportation and handling that may harm the environment.
  10. Community garden. Put your leadership skills to work and organize a community garden at your dorm. The food grown in the garden can be supplied to the dining hall.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Follow these tips to reduce, reuse, and recycle around your dorm.

  1. Compost. Create a compost for food scraps for the dining hall and the dorm. The compost generated from this project can be used in a community garden or donated to a local charity.
  2. Community board. Set up a community board for your dorm that facilitates swapping items so that used furniture, clothes, and gadgets don’t end up in the landfill.
  3. Recycling bin. If your dorm doesn’t have a recycling program, set up one complete with bins throughout the dorm and a way to get the recycling picked up or delivered to a recycling center.
  4. Batteries. Old batteries that go to landfills leak dangerous chemicals into the soil, so set up a collection bin in the dorm and take them to a recycling center instead.
  5. Cartridges. Used ink jet cartridges are also harmful for landfills. Put a recycling bin next to the battery bin so you can collect cartridges to be refilled and reused.
  6. Rain water. If your dorm doesn’t have a rain water collection system, work with the school to start one. They are simple to install and provide free water for your community garden or any other landscape usage.
  7. Recycled paper. When purchasing paper for your schoolwork, make sure it is recycled. Also, when you are finished with the paper, put it in the recycling bin.
  8. Bags. Take reusable bags with you to the store. If you forget and end up with plastic or paper bags, reuse them in creative ways.
  9. Rechargeable batteries. Whenever possible, select rechargeable batteries in your electronic devices. This reduces the number of batteries that need to be recycled or might make their way to the landfill.

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