Back-to-school guide: Greening your dorm room 101

This fall, thousands of university freshmen will call a dorm room their new “Home Sweet Home.” For the newly minted undergrad, there are several ways to transform your new home base into a sustainable space. 

1. Buy a smart power strip.

Have you heard of “phantom loads” or “vampire power?” They refer to energy used by electronics that are plugged in, even when they’re turned off.

Smart power strips, also known as advanced power strips, help save energy by essentially shutting off the power supply to devices that aren’t in use. Check out this National Renewable Energy Laboratory infographic to learn more.

2. Clean green.

Many cleaning products are petroleum-based or contain chlorine and can negatively impact air quality, physical health and the environment.

When buying products, look for ones that are certified by a third party like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or Green Seal. Also, consider making your own green cleaner.

3. Aim to buy local or used furnishings and decor.

Instead of transporting your belongings across the country, cut down your carbon footprint by purchasing gently used furnishings, decorations and appliances at thrift stores or yard sales near your campus. Sustainable Connections writes about why buying local is a great choice.

If you can't find what you're looking for at a secondhand shop, check out The Ultimate Green Store, which features eco-friendly dorm room furniture. Also, consider making your own decorations and furnishings. Babble has a great list of 25 easy DIY projects, including wall art and a rug headboard.

4. Buy reusable dishware.

Planning on eating in? Consider purchasing secondhand ceramic dishware, metal cutlery or cookware. Choosing reusable dishes and cups instead of single-use paper or plastic items helps reduce waste.

5. Replace your light bulbs.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) help save energy and have a much longer life span than traditional bulbs. Light up your future study nights by using CFLs or LEDs for your lamps.

6. Install potted plants.

Add a little green to your new digs with a plant, which is one of the easiest ways to filter out air pollutants. This Old House features several plants, including English Ivy and Snake Plants, that would make wonderful additions to any dorm room.

Looking for more green living tips while on campus? Indiana University Bloomington has a comprehensive checklist of ways students can live more sustainably. 

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