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College isn’t just about discovering a career path. It’s also about discovering who you are. And one of the ways college students express their values is in the way they furnish their dorm rooms. It’s a great time to try lifestyle changes – like sustainable dorm room living – that can have a lifetime impact.

Beginning in the summer of 2010, Duke University’s sustainability team created a model Green Dorm Room for students and their parents to view on the school’s tour. The room showcases how students can live sustainably on campus and features, among other things, biodegradable toiletries and cleaning products, and a power strip that automatically turns off electronics. A sign accompanies each product and explains what the item is and how it contributes to a green lifestyle.

Brown has a virtual Green Dorm Room  students can visit and learn how to do their part in helping the University achieve its emission reduction goals, while Boston University publishes Green Dorm guidelines to help students make more sustainable choices.

No matter what the college destination, here’s a checklist list of sustainable dorm room essentials everyone can agree on.  Read through the list, then discover how you can win a sustainable dorm room kit of your own. (We’re giving away three!)

All-nighters aside, a lot of your life is spent sleeping. Choose organic bedding which uses materials such as cotton, bamboo or hemp that have been grown without pesticides. 

Recycled lamps, or lamps made of recycled materials, can look amazing. Check out local thrift shops, or if you’re feeling crafty, take a look at this site for ideas on making your own.

Light bulbs are an easy switch (pun intended). Replace all of your halogen and incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs). Be aware, though, that if these bulbs break they require special clean up tactics. Reading the labels is a must!

Another brainy electricity saver? Smart strips. These power strips automatically shut off electronics after a period of non-use. When the smart strip senses that you've turned your computer off, it automatically shuts off your peripherals, too, preventing them from drawing an idle current.

An area rug can add a unique element of style to your dorm room and add warmth underfoot – meaning you’re less likely to turn up the heat. Opt for one made of recycled materials, whose source you can verify.

Laundry can really pile up when you’re away at school. Making it easier to do might just keep you from saving it all up for the next trip home! Seventh Generation’s natural laundry detergent packs lighten the load (just grab a few packs and go) and they’re biodegradable.  Finish with a drying rack to save energy and keep your clothes fresh and crisp without the dryer.

Choosing a reusable bag is probably the simplest choice of all. You won’t need to lug a ton of groceries in and out of your dorm, so one or two canvas choices are a no-brainer.

Keep your dorm room clean with choices that don’t use petroleum-based chemicals. When shopping for cleaning supplies, choose ‘Green” companies, such as Seventh Generation (Brown, Duke and BU do!).

Food and Drink
What’s a dorm room without a mini fridge? Just be sure that it’s Energy Star rated.

And ditch the throw-away plastic bottle!  Carry a reusable one, such as a bobble, made from Bisphenol A free (BPA) plastic. With a bobble sport and bobble jug, you can quench your thirst with delicious, filtered  water whether you’re at the gym or reaching a tired hand into the mini-fridge.


You could win one of three sustainable dorm room kits! Visit our Facebook page today and enter for your chance to win!


Photo: Sustainable Duke

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