Going Green at College: Ideas for Being Environmentally Conscious on Campus

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It's hard to green-up your lifestyle when you live in somebody else's building. The big ideas we hear over and over again are about water systems, electricity sources, and building materials. But here's a hint: You can do a lot for the environment just by changing your buying habits and your lifestyle.

One of the best things we can do as a culture is buy used. I don't care if it's a car or clothing-- buying used means that less of what our nation produces and consumes will end up in a landfill. This can be shopping at the local Goodwill or other used clothing store, or it can mean investing in Vintage pieces-- it depends on your personal style and budget.

Other options include lobbying your school to have low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators installed in the dorm bathrooms. While you're asking, maybe they can put the overhead lights in halls and bathrooms on sensors or timers, so that energy isn't being used when nobody is in the room.

If your dorm room has an individual heat control, consider investing in some 8x4 foot white rigid foam insulation panels. I bought the ones in my apartment at my local Home Depot. You can wrap them in the fabric of your choice, if you want, and line the walls with them-- particularly the outside wall. This will allow you to limit the amount of energy you need to burn to keep yourself warm in winter, or cool in summer. It is also a GREAT material for push-pins and an opportunity for individual expression. Double-sided tape, poster-sticky goo, or a really tight fit to the walls and floor will keep the panels in place. Another way to limit energy needs is to buy or make lined curtains for the windows. Another option would be to buy an old quilt and hang it's insulated length tight to the window. Open it when you get sunshine for winter warmth, close it to keep cold air (or hot air in summer) out.

Try turning off the water in the shower when you are soaping and shampooing-- turn it back on to rinse off at the end. Saving water is a way of life even more than it's a household plumbing system. Turn off water when you brush your teeth, too.

Consider investing in a clothes drying rack ($15) and using the dorm clothes washers, but not its dryers. The dryer uses the most energy to run, and hang-drying your clothes can be a reasonable alternative, if you have the space. Also, consider replacing all your light bulbs with more efficient ones, and turning off all lights and power strips when you go to bed or go to class or go to party.

If you are buying new furniture or new supplies for class and for yourself, look for recycled materials, recyclable materials, and items made from renewable resources. Reduce your dependence on chemicals, on plastics, on gasoline. It's a safe bet that most college students-- especially those living in on-campus dorms-- don't need a car. Carpooling or using public transportation often requires more planning-- but it is a great way to go green.

Finally, recycle. Recycle what you can from your meals in the cafeteria, from your use of paper and other recyclable materials in your daily life. Participate in school-wide recycling drives and initiatives. Student support makes the world go round on a college campus. Showing your school that the environment is an important consideration for you-- and for whoever writes the checks-- is a great way to encourage positive change on a campus-wide level.

No matter where you live, there are always opportunities to make a difference. Yes, you can!


Roni Watson
Posted on Apr 26, 2014
Posted on Nov 11, 2008