Move-in weekend is quickly approaching, which means first year students and upperclassmen alike are scouring Target stores across the country to get ready to move to school. Whether you live in an apartment or a dorm, it is easy to forget that your purchases and energy usage in your tiny space builds up to impact the environment. As you take on your last minute school shopping, consider these suggestions on how to live in a dorm sustainably!
- Bring your own silverware. PLEASE, for the love of God, don’t be that kid who buys a box of plastic spoons and styrofoam bowls so you never have to wash your cereal dishes. First of all, if you made it this far, I trust you have the capability of going to class and also washing your own dishes. Second, you can definitely save money buying two bowls and two spoons for a dollar each at Goodwill, plus some dish soap, compared to buying boxes of disposable flatware over and over. This is one of the easiest ways to reduce waste, and it makes me shudder to think of how many college students take the “lazy way out” instead of just rinsing off their dishes.
- If coffee is your thing, make sure you bring the waste-free coffee basics. A reusable K-cup, washable thermos, and French press will be your best friends and prevent you from dumping tons of plastics into the environment just to get your caffeine fix. As far as reusables go, it’s also a good idea to bring a reusable water bottle and canvas bags to replace plastic grocery bags.
- Buy used. The temptations of big box stores filled with $5 decorations are hard to resist (trust me, Target is my biggest weakness), but second-hand stores are filled with affordable treasures to customize your space as well. Not only can you find inexpensive furniture there, but Goodwill often has a wide variety of kitchen items and storage solutions too. When moving into my first house senior year, I bought all of my kitchen basics at Goodwill for just $77! Other local second-hand shops can offer affordable, quality items as well. Buying second-hand reduces the amount of reusable materials going into landfills, and can save you money too.
- Bring a separate recycling bin. Most schools will provide a trash can for your dorm, but it is a helpful reminder to have a separate recycling bin. If your school does not have its own recycling program 1. Talk to your administration about that ASAP and 2. Most cities have recycling drop off points that you can take advantage of.
- Pack a dryer rack and/or alpaca dryer balls. You never know when you’ll be stuck in a situation when all of the dryers in the laundry room are full. A dryer rack can fix that, and also save energy if you decide to skip the dryer altogether and hang dry your clothes. If you’re in a rush and need to use a dryer, make sure to grab some alpaca dryer balls (which can be found on Etsy). Dryer balls help your clothes dry faster, saving energy, and also eliminate the need for fabric softener or dryer sheets. You can scent them with essential oils for a zero waste alternative to dryer sheets as well!
- Go green with your cosmetic, hygiene, and cleaning products. As you stock up for the school year, pay attention to what materials you are putting into your cart. Aim for packaging made from cardboard or other recyclable/biodegradable materials instead of plastic. Try to find more natural products without harsh chemicals, or even try your hand at making your own (like this deodorant from Trash is for Tossers, which you can put in a reusable tin or glass jar).
- Plug in a power strip. Most students have these anyway due to the shortage of outlets and abundance of appliances in such a small space. The great thing about power strips is that you can turn them off or unplug them when you leave the room in order to save energy while no one is home, without having to unplug each charger and appliance individually. (You can also put a note on your door to remind you to turn off your power strip before you leave and form solid green habits!)
- Plan ahead with your roommate. Sharing appliances like fridges and coffee makers saves space and energy in your room. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to share these tips with someone else and double the impact of your sustainable dorm!
Good luck with move in and the start of the semester! Don’t worry if you don’t have a sustainable start, I know moving is stressful. It’s okay to get settled in before tackling this type of project…the important part is that you get to it eventually!
What other tips do you have for a more earth-friendly space? Share your sustainable dorm room on Facebook and Instagram with #SustainU and #GreenRoom!