5 Tips to Create an Eco-Friendly Dorm Room

July 31, 2019
eco-friendly dorm room

As I write this, we are spitting distance away from August, which means a couple million of young adults will be heading off to college. And that means millions of parents will be faced with the bittersweet reality of sending their babies out into the cold cruel world. But also, hey! New yoga room potential for mom and dad, amiright? And even better: a groovy eco-friendly dorm room for your kid. Win win.

If you are staring down the barrel of sending your kid off to uni for the first time, trust me when I say it’s going to suck. And then it will be awesome. And then it might suck a bit more. But mostly? Awesome sauce. For all of you. (Unless they get a crazy roommate assignment, in which case, please check out The Naked Roommate for anecdotes and wisdom for your and your student.)

As a newly minted adult, one of the things your student may be excited about is having a dorm room that they get to decorate. Be sure to give them plenty of space to make their own choices when it comes to outfitting their dorm room. You may offer guidance, you can definitely set a budget, and you can provide sage advice on what they will need, but let them take the reins.

Eco Friendly Dorm Room desk
Creating a dorm space that is conducive to study is super important!

If you have a kid who is eco-conscious, congrats on raising an environmentally responsible human! It seems like the up-and-coming generations are delightfully socially aware and, with just a few hints, they will likely make some fantastic eco-friendly choices for their new living space. Here are a few ways you can help guide them through some sustainable options. And as always, it’s not all or nothing, every little concession is helpful!

Tip #1: Shop Local

If your student is heading to school more than an hour from home, consider hitting up stores in the town of their new college. The benefits:

  • You don’t have to haul a full load from home, which means you’re saving on gas.
  • Your purchases help support the local economy.
  • You may find some quirky local shops that help express the character of the new area.
  • You get to explore the area and bond with your kid over the local tchotchkes and the great new pizza place you discovered together.

Tip #2: Buy Used

Sure, the initial instinct may be to run out to your favorite Swedish big box store for a car load full of compressed wood chip furniture. But you may find some really killer deals on better quality pieces off of CraigsList, Facebook Marketplace, or local consignment stores. 

It’s also important to resist the urge to buy a ton of stuff. Most dorm rooms come fully furnished (with mind-numbingly boring furniture), and adding more pieces will make an already small dorm room feel extra cramped. Focus on comfort (someplace to lounge besides the bed) and function (anything that aids studying).

eco-friendly dorm room used furniture
It’s nice to have somewhere to lounge besides on the bed

Some good used pieces to consider buying used:

  • comfy chair (may need to be smallish in scale, depending on space)
  • bedside table
  • lamps
  • area rug

Tip #3: Earth Friendly Bedding

You don’t have to drop a fortune on bedding to get something that’s stylish, comfortable, and sustainable. Here’s what you’ll want to look for:

  • organic cotton or flax bedding
  • bamboo sheets
  • fair trade textiles (which, thankfully, are becoming easier and easier to find)
Eco Friendly Dorm Room Bedding
Organic cotton, bamboo, and flax are all good options for easy care bedding

Additional bedding options may include bed pillows and decorative pillows and a mattress topper for those ridiculously hard dorm room beds. Look for down alternative pillows and avoid chemical-laden memory foam; opt for latex mattress toppers instead. Bonus points for organic latex.

Tip #4: Just Say No to Appliances

This is going to be a very unpopular stance to your kid, but do they absolutely positively have to have a microwave and fridge in their room? The dining hall food is absolutely delish, is it not?

No, it’s not. Probably. So yes, a microwave and a fridge are both very common accoutrements for any late-night study fuel munching needed to sustain your college student. But here’s where used isn’t necessarily the best idea. If you can verify that the appliances were manufactured in this decade, then they may be energy efficient. Otherwise, those wee fridges can be highly inefficient, and will either freeze their beer cold-pressed juice or flat out fail. Spend a few extra bucks here, or agree to split the cost with a roommate on better quality Energy Star appliances.

Tip #5: Light It Up

I’ve had two kids go through a university dorm system and I’ve seen a ton of dorm rooms, so trust me when I tell you that lighting is often overlooked but super important. The rooms are either poorly lit with little natural light, and/or have headache-inducing (and terribly unflattering) fluorescent lighting. These are terrible conditions under which to study or to socialize.

A Woman Looking At Photos Hanging On Decoration Lights
College students love their twinkle lights, so make ’em LED

Besides needing a really good desk lamp, students often add twinkle lights or other forms of ambient lighting to their rooms. Whatever the type of lighting may be, look for LED fixtures and light bulbs, especially those that are a bit warmer in color temperature. They use very little energy, don’t get hot, and last forever. (And they way more flattering than those hideous CFLs. Just sayin’.)

With these few tips on how to create an eco-friendly dorm room, I’ll bet your kiddo is going to set the stage for a promising year of college. They may even become a trendsetter of eco-style for their peers!

If you want to send your kid off armed with some more eco-friendly tips, grab a copy of my free guide “50 Shades of Green.” It’s about more than giving up plastic straws, and they are going to feel sooo smart.

(2) Comments
  • Lisa
    | 31 July 2019

    Awww. Now I want to send my son to college just so I can give decor input. Where do you shop for Eco Friendly sheets?

  • Summer Sterling
    | 5 August 2019

    You can have decor input NOW, no need to wait til college to go with eco-friendly bedding! I like West Elm for organic cotton and linen and Bamboo Supply Company for bamboo sheets (bamboo is my personal preference: suuuuper soft and breathable!).

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