Being away from home for the first time and having a new dorm or apartment is exciting for many college students. However, it can be wasteful and harmful to the planet if bad habits are formed. Fortunately, it is easier than ever to make your space green. All it takes is a little effort, a little creativity, and a few tips.
As with most activities, carefully considering your needs before purchasing anything helps tremendously. Going off to college is one step toward starting a new life as an adult, and it can feel daunting. There is a tendency to want to buy too much. Your initial purchases should be necessities only.
Luckily, lots of resources exist to help narrow your search for furnishings Because lots of people move every year, there are lots of gently used appliances and furnishings (at greatly reduced prices) out there, waiting for you to snap up and make your own. You can check this out at freecycle.com or craigslist or your local classifieds. You never know what you might find.
One of the most eco-friendly things you can do as a student is to give up air conditioning. It really isn’t needed as much as you think. Most of the time spent on campus is not in the dorms. Many universities make it really easy for you by banning AC units in dorms. That doesn't stop some crafty students from sneaking them in. It sounds innocent enough until you consider that 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 if you absolutely cannot go without one.
Another energy inefficient appliance in dorms is the micro-fridge. Of course, the best thing you can do is go without or to share a larger more energy efficient refrigerator. If you must have a refrigerator to yourself, make sure it's energy-star or low-energy certified. This can save you 50 percent of the energy use of regular appliances. The microwave/toaster oven combo with a cheap rice cooker provides everything you need for an eco-kitchen. All three of these appliances boast high energy efficiencies relative to their big-kitchen counterparts. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can also make your own cheap solar cooker by looking up simple instructions online.
With a little leg work and a sharp eye for the classifieds an eco-friendly dorm room need not be expensive and is a great first step to an eco-friendly lifestyle.