Home & Garden

Make dorm rooms greener

The kids are off to college, but there's still plenty of purchasing going on. Here are some tips on making the dorm room as green as possible.

Reuse, recycle

Don't assume you can only buy new, says Jessica Jensen, chief executive of Low Impact Living, a green home-improvement site. “Students can decorate their dorms with items purchased from Goodwill, vintage shops and (the online classified site) Craigslist. And many schools have recycling programs whereby items kids didn't take home with them last year are available to students for this school year, like chairs and appliances.”

Behavioral changes

In fact, in a dorm setting – as well as at home – being green is as much about behavior as it is about purchasing decisions, as Michelle Pizer, 20, a senior at Stony Brook University, learned.

“It's not always easy for a college student to afford eco-friendly items and it's hard to find them even if they are affordable, so I do what I can,” says Pizer, president of the university's environmental club. Though she has a nearby apartment, she says she lived green even when she was in a dorm. “It's really a matter of changing habits in ways that don't cost much. For instance, I use as little water as possible when taking a shower or washing dishes. I never buy plastic water bottles and instead have a reusable aluminum bottle and fill it with tap water. I have reusable canvas bags for shopping and I try to rely on my bike for transportation.”


Other green alternatives for students include reduced packaging for laundry detergent as well as all products, like snacks.

Students also can use eco-friendly cleaning products and a clothes rack for air drying. Another idea is double-sided printing on recycled paper. A power strip that can be unplugged when appliances are not in use saves electricity.


Of course, unless they're in a single, most students have to contend with roommates' habits as well. Lauren Roulette, 21, of Patchogue, N.Y., a senior at Binghamton University, says she's made lifestyle changes at home and in school and encouraged her roommates to do the same. “It's not always easy to convince your roommates to go green, too,” she says. “But it's good to educate them anyway about actions like recycling and turning off the computer when not in use. Over time they see it's the right thing to do.”