When all your gadgets, school supplies, mini fridge and other collegiate essentials are confined to a 230-square-foot dorm, converting this limited space into an eco-friendly hangout might be the least of your concerns. Not to mention that juggling a hectic academic schedule, active social calendar and shoestring budget doesn’t leave much latitude for environmental consciousness. Fortunately though, making these simple changes will help you “go green” without straining your wallet, routine or living arrangements.
Instead of leaving your laptop, cell phone charger, light fixtures, and bathroom or kitchen appliances plugged in constantly, remember to power down and disconnect these devices after you’ve finished using them. Appliances continue drawing energy from electrical outlets even when they’re turned off, so eliminate this unnecessary waste by connecting all your electronics to a surge protector, then flip the switch before leaving a room.
Swap out your reliance on plastic water bottles in favor of the reusable stainless steel or aluminum varieties. Bring a durable canvas tote to the grocery store rather than using the supermarket’s disposable bags. Take notes on your computer or mobile tablet instead of wasting excess paper, notebooks and index cards. Developing these sustainable habits will reduce the amount of garbage you produce throughout each semester.
Each year on April 29th, people around the world celebrate Arbor Day by spearheading environmental conservation efforts in their communities. You can participate in this eco-friendly movement by enlisting friends, classmates or club members to plant trees around your college’s green spaces. After obtaining consent from the administration, register as a member of the Arbor Day Foundation for $10 & they’ll give you 10 free flowering trees.
Not only will leaving those car keys in your parents’ garage save you money on both gas and parking decals, commuting on foot or two wheels can significantly decrease fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere. Petroleum powered vehicles release carbon dioxide which exacerbates the hazardous impact of climate change, so utilize your dorm’s public access bicycle racks or take advantage of the pedestrian trails around campus.
For those midnight cramming sessions throughout finals week, invest in a cordless portable lamp to store near your bed. Make sure you purchase a type that operates on compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED bulbs, which conserve wattage more effectively than standard bulbs. Keeping this device on-hand will minimize the need to run your overhead lights all night, then potentially fall asleep without remembering to flip that switch.
Sharing close quarters with several roommates will inevitably create a surplus of trash, but in a dorm setting, the incentive to recycle is often undermined by the convenience of a chute or dumpster. However, you can encourage your university to adopt sustainable options and resources for students by placing recycle bins in residential, classroom and recreational facilities.
Rather than paying exorbitant fees for newly printed books that contribute to wasteful paper manufacturing, order pre-owned editions online. As paper consumption escalates, partially due to these textbook industry demands, global deforestation will become a growing concern. Instead, buy your reading materials secondhand, then sell them to fellow students, a local bookstore or over the internet marketplace when the semester is finished.
The academic, financial and lifestyle demands of higher education shouldn’t prevent you from embracing sustainable habits throughout your daily routine. Not only are these strategies virtually effortless to implement, they will create a foundation for eco-friendly living even after you’ve graduated from college. So, how do you “go green,” while balancing that on-the-go pace of campus activity? Share your tips in the comment section below!
Ted Rollins, of Greenville, SC, co-founded Campus Crest, the second-largest student housing platform in the world. Ted serves on the regional Environmental Defense Fund board. He has played an active role in regenerative practices globally as a board member of CLEAR, the Center for Living Environments. Throughout the years, Ted’s work has taken him across the US as a leading developer, builder, owner and manager of high-quality, purpose-built housing properties, with a focus on environmentally sustainable housing. Follow Ted on Twitter and LinkedIn.