Moms Columns & Blogs

A Greener Dorm Room

College campuses are gearing up to welcome new and returning students into dorms and campus housing all across America. When we send our children off to school, of course we want them to have a nice home away from home. Here’s how you can Do Your Part to make sure that it’s also the healthiest environment for your student without breaking the budget.

Let’s start with the basics of any design – the furniture. The greenest way to go is to reuse. Pieces like headboards, bookshelves, computer desks, or dressers made with solid wood last years and are easily found in places like Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores, consignment or resale shops. Of you can let your fingers do the shopping by looking at online sites like Craigslist or Freecycle. You’ll be amazed at the stuff you can find at rock bottom prices when you spend a little time looking around. If you are considering furniture made from pressed wood products, be sure to check for a formaldehyde free label. Many of these pieces are made using a formaldehyde resin that can release irritants into the surrounding air; some of which are known to cause cancer.

When it comes to bedding items make a statement by choosing organic cotton. The cotton used in these items is grown without using toxic pesticides and insecticides or synthetic fertilizers. Plus, your student will love the natural softness of organically grown cotton. Don’t worry about breaking the bank with these items, either. You can find them at hundreds of retailers at reasonable prices.

Of course you will also want to shut down the phantoms in your student’s home away from home. It’s true that most student housing includes the cost of electricity but that’s no reason to waste it. Get a power strip to help your student not only increase the number of outlets in their space but to also shut down devices that sip power even when their not being used. Things like phone chargers, computer chargers, iPod chargers and more sip power even when they’re not charging anything. Plug all the chargers into one power strip with an on/off switch. With the push of a button, they can completely cut the power to all those little suckers.

If cleaners and detergents are on your list be sure to opt for green choices. This keeps potentially harmful chemicals out of the environment both inside and outside their living space.

Another easy green step is to get an inexpensive water filtration jug that will allow your student to easily use tap water and refillable water bottles rather than wasting money and resources on bottled water.

Lastly, find out if the school offers a recycling program. If it does, send your student off to school with a cute recycling bin so they can do their part too. Believe me, it’s cool these days to be seen at the recycling collection center.

Whether you incorporate one or all of these ideas into your child’s home away from home, you’ll be doing your part to reduce waste while also cutting down on the use of harmful chemicals. Better still, you’ll likely save a little money along the way.

Terri Bennett is an Earth scientist, syndicated columnist and mom. Send questions to Get more every day green living tips at

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