6 Tips For Eco-Friendlier Dorm Living

You care a lot about conservation, as many others do. Earth is the only planet humans have, and attempts to colonize Mars are part of a far-off future. Until then, people of all ages and creeds are figuring out what role they can play in the sustainability movement. Environmentalism is catching on with the upcoming generation of college students, and many have joined the movement by exhibiting a knack for creativity.

greener dorm
Credit: Jeff Cheng, FlickrCC

Sustainable living and college life may be an unfamiliar combination to you, but you can flawlessly merge the two with some brainstorming and a few helpful tips.

1. Preserve Water

Shut off the water while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving in the shower. Running water when you don’t need to can waste gallons. And if you haven’t already, start taking shorter showers — no more than 10 or 15 minutes is a good stopping point.

You’re bound to see students around campus carrying reusable water bottles, and they all have the right idea. They come in an endless number of cute designs and shapes, and they cut down on the usage of plastic water bottles, which can take years to degrade once thrown away. Stop by a water fountain whenever you’re out and about and need a refill. If water quality is a concern, buy a reusable bottle with a water filter installed.

2. Reuse and Repurpose

Whenever you end up with an empty container, wash it out and use it for other purposes. Mason jars can become clever pen or toothbrush holders, and gum dispensers can hold small knickknacks like bobby pins or loose change.

Choosing used goods can also extend to your buying habits, and it doesn’t have to mean purchasing anything old or worn. Thrift stores and flea markets offer plenty of options for used goods in excellent condition. Out of all consumers who buy secondhand clothing, 27% of them do it for environmental reasons, and this percentage increases to 35% when only counting millennials.

Ask your family and friends for anything they don’t use or want anymore, or search out local yard sales. You never know what treasures you’ll find in someone else’s stash of belongings.

3. Eat Plant-Based Foods

A plant-based diet is better for the planet, and maintaining a plant-based diet while surrounded by unhealthy fast food and animal products is easier than you think. Fill your fridge’s vegetable compartment with pre-washed and pre-cut veggies to cut out the work of preparing them yourself. Keep a jar of hummus as a dip. Load up on fresh fruit — some you’ll need to refrigerate, but apples, pears and bananas will hold up well on your counter. Stock up on nonperishables like whole-grain cereal, nuts, fruit leather and canned goods.

Plant milks are delicious replacements for dairy, and they come in cashew, almond, coconut and more. If you’re a fan of nuts, you can keep a container of nut butter on hand for a filling snack.

4. Buy Organic Fabrics

Say bye-bye to chemically processed bedding with natural substitutes like flax, organic cotton and Tencel. Flax — which you may know as linen — includes no pesticides in its growing process, and it undergoes no chemical treatments during processing. It’s biodegradable and moth resistant. Avoid all-white linen, however, as this kind goes through bleaching to achieve its bright color. Opt for shades like tan or gray instead.

Farmers grow organic cotton with little to no pesticide usage, and they don’t use any intense chemical processing when turning it into fabric. Organic cotton comes from unprocessed seeds, and because of this, it reduces the rate of allergies and exposure to harmful chemicals embedded within the fabric.

Textile manufacturers create Tencel from sustainably harvested wood. Although it undergoes a chemical process, the producers use techniques that are less toxic than standard fabric-making methods. These chemicals get recycled afterward to avoid putting them out into the environment.

5. Try DIY Alternatives

Instead of buying new sets of wall decorations and posters every school year, design some of your own. Trying your hand at sewing pillowcases and knitting hats, gloves and other accessories. With enough practice, you can make your clothes and reduce the amount of unethically sourced garments in your closet. Repaint old furniture like lamps and chairs rather than purchasing new sets.

Create your cleaning goods from scratch and do away with commercial products brimming with harmful chemicals. Natural ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, essential oils and lemons work well for eliminating dirt and bad odors. Salt functions as an excellent scrubber for tile grime, and hydrogen peroxide disinfects in a snap.

6. Reduce Your Energy Consumption

Unplug all of your electrics when they aren’t in use, such as your computer, chargers and lamps. This straightforward practice can add up and create major energy savings within the year. If you have an AC unit in your room, try not to run it often. You can open a window or use a small desk fan to beat the heat. When the colder months roll around, you can line your floor with a rug and keep a thick comforter on your bed.

There’s no crime in wanting your room to smell nice, but consider switching out your plug-ins for natural alternatives like candles and incense. Not all store-bought candles contain eco-friendly ingredients, however, so try making your own with soy wax and essential oils.

Turn Your School Green

Your sustainability efforts won’t go unnoticed, as they’re well worth it for the protection of the planet. Preserving Mother Earth is a collective effort, but everything you do contributes to the betterment of the environment. When others see your dedication to sustainability, they’ll take notes and follow your lead!