Just because you are living in a dorm while at college doesn’t mean you can’t also take care of the environment. Regardless of where you live Alaska, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota – you can always find a way to chip in to green efforts. Learn 101 ways you can go green in your dorm room, from creative uses for old textbooks to simple changes you can make when writing papers to decorating and furnishing your dorm. When you’ve finished reading this list, be sure to share it with others in your dorm.
Try these recycling ideas that you can take place right from your dorm room.
- Set up a recycling bin. Whether you put it in your room, floor, or for the whole dorm, set up a recycling center for glass, paper, and aluminum.
- Batteries. Don’t put these in the trash. Old batteries that go to landfills leak dangerous chemicals into the soil. Instead, turn them in to stores or recycling centers that accept old batteries.
- Rechargeable batteries. Using rechargeable batteries reduces the number of batteries that make their way into landfills.
- Community board. Have a "for sale" and "wanted" board in your dorm for getting ride of old thing or getting new ones.
- Recycled paper. Make an effort to only buy and use recycled paper.
- Mailing lists. If you are getting junk mail at school, take yourself off any unwanted mailing lists.
- Pay bills online. Receive and pay all your bills online to reduce the amount of paper coming in and going out.
- Cartridges. Recycle used ink jet cartridges. These can be refilled and reused.
- Bags. Reuse plastic and paper bags instead of throwing them away. Better yet, take reusable bags with you so you don’t end up with these disposable bags.
Books and Papers
Whether trying to figure out what to do with all those text books you have or learning how to use less paper for assignments, this list has plenty of great ideas.
- Book swap. Throw a book swap party in your dorm at the end of the semester so you can give your old books to students who may need them next semester. You can pick up books for your upcoming classes too.
- Donate. Donate your books to the local library when you are finished with them.
- Sell books on the Internet. This is a great way to make extra money from your books while ensuring they are reused.
- Art projects. Create art projects with your old books.
- Table legs. If your table lost a leg after that last party in your room, use a stack of old books to repair it.
- Book safe. Cut out the center of old text books to hide things like your iPod, extra cash, or other valuables you might not want sitting around in plain sight.
- Single spacing. If it is okay with your professors, when writing papers, use single spacing between lines to use less paper.
- Margin size. Reducing the margin size means you get more space on each page.
- Font size. While you don’t want to use an 8 or 9, reducing font size on your paper will keep the number of pages you use down.
- Scratch paper. Use the back of old papers or drafts as scratch paper.
Furnishing and Decorating
Don’t buy all new stuff to furnish and decorate your dorm room. Use these great ideas instead.
- Recycled desk. Use an old door propped across files cabinets to a create a unique desk that is practical, inexpensive, and recycled.
- Second hand stores. Buy furnishing and decorations for your room from second hand stores.
- craigslist. Check out craigslist to find furnishings for your dorm room. Check at the end of the semester to find plenty of items being sold by students leaving, then save them yourself for next semester.
- Freesharing. If you want to recycle and go super cheap, then look on Freesharing to find stuff for your room.
- Posters. Make posters or collages from old magazines.
- Photos. Decorate with personal photos.
- Photography class. If you or a friend have taken a photography class, use the photos from class to decorate the walls.
When you leave your dorm room, make sure you stay green, too.
- Public transportation. Campuses almost always have access to public transportation. Take advantage of it instead of hopping in the car every time you need to go somewhere.
- Walk. Walk to where you need to go. Not only will it help the Earth, but it will also help you stay in better physical condition.
- Bicycle. Bicycles are a great way to get around campus and beyond. They use no energy, are faster than walking, and are a great way to get exercise.
- Campus buses. If you live on a large campus, take advantage of the campus buses to get across campus.
- Carpool. Carpool with friends to places off campus such as restaurants, shopping, or parties.
- Ride share. If you are going home for the holidays, catch a ride or offer one to others so those of you going to the same place can go in one car.
- Bike share. Check into a bike sharing program on your campus or start one if there isn’t already one in place.
Whether you like to cook in your dorm room with simple appliances or would rather take these ideas and organize changes in your dining hall, the following suggestions are awesome ways to go green with your food.
- Community garden. Organize a community garden at your dorm. The food can be shared between those who participated in the garden or supplied to the dining hall.
- Rain water. Collect rain water off gutters and the roof to water your community garden.
- Compost. Create a compost for food scraps from both individuals and from the dining hall. This compost can also be used in the community garden.
- 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.
- Eat basic. Eating things low on the food chain means you are getting food close to the source and without lots of added chemicals.
- Eat locally. Eat locally grown food that don’t require lots of trucking to get them to you.
- Eat organically. Organic food keeps pesticides and other chemicals out of your body and out of the land.
- Seafood. Purchasing or eating only sustainable seafood will help the overfished seas repopulate and keep dangerous mercury out of your body.
- Buy in bulk. Bulk products are usually packaged with less packaging material. If you buy bulk, you can go in with other students in your dorm to share expenses.
- Drink tap water. Skip the bottled water and drink tap water. Bottled water adds extra packaging, not to mention all the energy involved in shipping the product.
- Water bottle. Use a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing bottled water.
- Skip the produce packaging. Some stores already have stopped packaging their produce. You can do the same by leaving those individual plastic bags for produce behind. If you really have produce that needs to be contained, use reuseable bags.
Saving energy in your dorm is super easy to do. Read on to learn how.
- Sleep computers. Put computers in sleep mode after 15 minutes and turn them off at night.
- Power strips. Use power strips to turn everything off when you are not in your room.
- Chargers. Chargers for cell phone, video games, and other rechargeable devices drain electricity even when they are not charging the electronic device. Unplug them when not in use.
- Light bulbs. Change out the light bulbs in your room to use energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs.
- Energy efficient devices. Most devices will indicate if they are energy efficient, so try to buy only energy efficient electronics, refrigerators, and other devices for use in your dorm room.
- Turn it down. Turn down the air conditioner or heater when away for long periods of time. Turning it off completely will use more energy when you return, so just turn it down about 10 degrees from what you would normally find comfortable.
- Natural light. Use natural light to replace electric lighting when ever possible. If you are getting great natural light from your windows, make sure your overhead lights are turned off.
Save water in your dorm by following these easy suggestions.
- Showers. Take shorter showers to use less water and less energy to heat the water.
- Turn it off. Turn water off while brushing teeth or shaving.
- Shower head. While it might not be an expense you want to shell out for the dorm, switching your shower head to a low flow version will use less water. You can always switch the old one back when you move and take the low flow head with you.
- Toilets. If your dorm still has old toilets that use tons of water, try to get the school to replace them with low flow toilets. Not only will they use less water, they will save the school money in the long run.
- Report leaks. Immediately report any dripping toilet, sink or shower to maintenance.
- Laundry. Wash laundry in cold water. Unless you have stubborn stains or odors, cold water will get your clothes clean and avoid the energy expense of heating the water.
- Full loads of laundry. When you do laundry, make sure you are washing full loads. Throwing just a few clothes in for a wash wastes water.
Housekeeping and Personal Care
Most of the products sold for cleaning and personal care are filled with chemicals, use lots of packaging, and all require manufacturing and transportation. Try these eco-friendly alternatives instead.
- Natural cleaning supplies. Make your own cleaning supplies to clean up around your dorm. Baking soda and vinegar can clean almost anything.
- Skip the dryer sheets. Don’t use dryer sheets when drying laundry. If you really want a fresh smell, put a few drops of an essential oil on a wash cloth and throw it in the dryer.
- Dusting clothes. Don’t purchase one-time-use dusting clothes. Use an old wash cloth or an old piece of clothing that can be reused as a cleaning cloth.
- Hair conditioner. Make your own hair conditioner instead of buying from the store.
- Facials. Make you own facial scrubs. Then share your recipe and have a girls’ night of pampering that is both green and inexpensive.
- Body scrub. Don’t invest a lot of money in body scrubs from the store. With just a bit of oil, sugar or salt, and a few drops of essential oil for scent, you can have your own body scrub.
- Toothpaste. Toothpaste can be as easy as baking soda and water. Save the expense, packaging, and transportation costs for the tube from the store.
- Mouth wash. Make your own eco-friendly mouthwash.
- Eco-friendly products. If making your own products isn’t for you, be sure you use eco-friendly body products.
When you have to make purchases, make sure they are friendly for the environment. This list will get you started.
- Clothes. Skip the big box stores and purchase eco-friendly clothing.
- Shoes. There are plenty of stylish, high-quality shoes that are also eco-friendly shoes.
- Hand bags. Ladies, purchase or make a recycled hand bag for a truly one-of-a-kind.
- Bamboo keyboard and mouse. Bamboo is a sustainable product and great for the environment. Instead of buying a traditional mouse and keyboard, check into buying bamboo versions.
- Heated gloves. These gloves are heated through a USB that plugs into your computer and allows you to keep your dorm room colder in the winter without all the discomfort of typing with frozen hands.
- iGo Power Smart Wall. Plug this device into the wall, then plug your computer, cell phone charger, or other device into it to reduce standby power by up to 85%.
- Solar charging. Charge your iPhone with a solar charger and skip the electrical current from the wall altogether.
Find plenty of other great ways to go green here.
- Stay informed. Keep yourself informed by reading eco blogs.
- Smart purchasing. Make an effort to only buy things that your really need.
- Take advantage of your small space. Living in a dorm, you have limited space, so use this time to practice reducing waste and curbing consumerism.
- Use green iPhone apps. Take advantage of all the green iPhone apps available to help you go and stay green.
- Be aware of packaging. Make an effort to buy things that have less packaging.
- Have a slow holiday. The slow movement has become popular and even extends to holidays and other gift-giving occasions. Slow holidays mean making gifts, cooking simple foods for celebrations, and spending quality time with loved ones.
- Check out other green dorms. The University of Virginia has green dorm rooms on display. Check these out to become inspired for your own green dorm.
- Have a green move. Whether you are moving in or out of your dorm, make sure your move is a green one.
Volunteer your time or just read these groups’ websites to stay educated and involved with plenty of work that is going on for the environment.
- Earth Day Network. This organization not only sponsors the annual Earth Day celebrations, it also provides tons of resources, programs, and information.
- National Geographic Society. National Geographic is an awesome resource for learning about nature, conservation, and issues surrounding the environment. This group was one of the original green groups.
- ClimateScienceWatch. Check out the thoughtful pieces included here that keep the public informed and government in check when it comes to climate science.
- Fuel Economy. Whether you are trying to learn how to do without a car or would just like to discover ways to use your car more environmentally-responsibly, you should take a look at the information here.
- National Wildlife Federation. If you passion lies in helping wildlife, then visit this site to learn about wildlife in America and how you can make a difference in protecting that wildlife.
- New American Dream. Learn how the purchases you make impact people and the environment on a global level with the information here.
- World Wildlife Fund. This group educates visitors to the website about endangered species, climate science, and more.
- The Nature Conservancy. This organization offers many ways to get involved to help conserve land and nature that is at risk.
- The Earth Organization. Get tons of resources to learn how to take care of the Earth responsibly from this organization.
- Natural Resources Defense Council. Whether you are interested in learning about clean energy, wildlife protection, global warming, or ocean protection, you can find it all here.
- National Coalition for Marine Conservation. If your passion is to help save inhabitants of the oceans and their environment, then you should visit this organization’s website.
Green Games and Tools
Play these serious games for a great way to kill some time in your dorm room when you need a break from studying or use the tools to measure your ecological impact.
- Global Warming Interactive. This multi-user educational game helps teach about the impact specific actions taken by political, economic, and scientific factions have on climate change and the environment.
- WolfQuest. Find out what it’s like to live as a wolf in Yellowstone National Park when you play this game.
- PowerUp. Save Planet Helios from ecological disaster in this game.
- LogiCity. This 3D game gets players involved in learning how to reduce an individual carbon footprint and and is specifically designed for people 25 and under.
- Ecological Footprint Quiz. Take this quiz that will not only show how you compare when it comes to your carbon footprint, but also educates you on how to improve.
- Event Calculator. If you are sponsoring or taking part in a special event that involves lots of people, find out how much of an impact it makes on the environment.
- Travel Calculator. Learn how much of an ecological impact your travels to and from campus or that Spring Break trip have on the Earth.