5 Tips to Create an 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.
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).
Some good used pieces to consider buying used:
- comfy chair (may need to be smallish in scale, depending on space)
- bedside table
- 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)
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.
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.
Fifty Shades of Green: From Using Cloth Napkins all the way to Living Off the Land
Get my guide to the small (or large!) things you can do to have a huge impact on the environment.
- What to add to your space and what to take away…
- What to use in lieu of disposable products—whether you’re blowing your nose or going on a picnic…
- And dozens more—from simple green living to living off the grid