I can't deny that I love vegan fashion and eco-friendly style. (This is a fashion website, after all!) But living an eco-friendly lifestyle requires more than sporting thrift store finds and buying faux fur. Want to make a real positive impact on the environment? Start by "greening" up other areas of your life besides your wardrobe.
Obviously, the best place to begin changing habits is in your home. Since "home" for college students usually equals "dormitory," I did some extra credit reading and found easy ways to turn your room into an eco-friendly living space. All of these ideas are so easy, you can implement them now if you're back at school already (ah!) or keep them in mind for after the holiday break.
9 Easy Ways to Green Your Dorm:
1. Turn off all lights & unplug appliances when not in use.
This includes your cell phone charger, which is zapping energy even when your phone isn't plugged in. Many chargers are inefficient and end up turning the energy they suck from the wall into heat rather than charging your phone. One easy way to do this? Connect all of your electronics to a surge-protecting power strip (easy to do in a dorm) and unplug it when you leave.
2. Conserve ink by changing the settings on your printer.
I know, printer ink is one of these necessary evils. But there are ways to make it more environmentally-friendly. Starting right now, you can set your printer to print only using black ink. Unless you really need color, black will usually do — and that means you can skip buying the color cartridge and contributing more plastic to landfills. Some printers also offer an "Ink Saver" option, but if yours doesn't, you can get it around it by changing the dpi of your docs. Most printers are set at 300 dpi, but you can reduce this to 150 dpi and still produce a good print. Also, when you're done with your ink cartridge, always recycle it - you can often even get something in return! Staples, for example, has a cool program where they collect used ink cartridges to recycle, and give you store credit for each cartridge you bring in.
3. Clean with rags, not paper towels — and use green products.
Anything you can do to reduce your paper consumption is awesome. Instead of stocking up on (over-priced) paper towels, buy a few cheap washcloths to use as rags (or borrow some from Mom). Then, get your hands on some green cleaning products. Several big name brands have developed their own "green" cleaners, so they should be easy to find. Why green cleaners? Green cleaning products break down easily and contain far less (and less harsh) chemicals than regular cleaners.
4. Get comfortable with buying "used."
Used textbooks are significantly cheaper than new ones — and you'll find this is the case with most used items. But the low price tag isn't the only incentive. Buying used reduces landfill waste — you know what happens to that old sweater that doesn't get picked up at the garage sale! Buying vintage and thrifting counts, too. You never know what delicious treasures you might find.
5. Choose your linens wisely.
Many bedding options are made from synthetic fibers, which have been found to contain tons of pesticides and other chemicals. Organic cotton sheet sets and pillow cases are virtually chemical-free (and oh-so-soft.)
6. Make the extra effort to recycle.
My idea? Recruit some floor members to help develop a recycling plan if your dorm doesn't offer one already. Different rooms can agree to take turns delivering the recyclables to the nearest recycling center. It takes some effort, but I promise you'll feel good about it.
7. Air dry.
Your hair, your clothes and the environment will benefit from a break from heat every once in awhile! Air drying clothes in particular will save you money (and will reduce pilling on your favorite sweaters) if you normally use a dryer at a laundromat or on campus. Even if you can't air dry everything, cutting your dryer load size (and therefore, dryer time) is still helpful. The less you use your dryer = the less CO2 in our atmosphere.
8. Give your laptop a rest.
If you're anything like me, you're probably chained to your laptop the majority of the day. One way to easily conserve energy is to change your laptop settings. Start by dimming your screen. (Super easy on a Mac: Just click the far left key that looks like a sun, or "F1.") Then, make sure your comp is set to go into sleep mode after 20 mins. or so. Oh, and give it a rest at night. You know how zonked you are at the end of the day — your cpu needs time to recoup, too. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't take oodles of extra energy to turn on your computer in the morning, so turning it off at night is the best way to save energy.
9. Change to CFL bulbs.
CFL, which stands for compact fluorescent lamps, are energy-saving light bulbs. They're more efficient than regular old light bulbs — which means they do the same job, but zap less energy. Despite the intimidating name, you don't need any fancy equipment. CFL bulbs fit into normal light sockets. If you think you'd like to give them a try, you can find an in depth list of CFL bulbs here.
Eco-friendly Dorm Decor:
1. Lamps with CFL Bulbs
2. Cotton Sheets
Is your dorm environmentally-friendly?
How environmentally friendly is your dorm? Do you own organic sheets or regularly use CFL bulbs? Does your dorm have a recycling program? Do you think it's the individual's responsibility — or the dorm's — to provide eco-friendly services? Let's talk in the comments!