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Ways to Make College Dorm Rooms More Eco-friendly

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By Liza N. Burby

RISMEDIA, Sept. 3, 2008-(MCT)-Though today’s college students are more aware of the environment than their parents were at that age, creating an eco-friendly dorm may be a challenge given the space limitations of the average room. That’s why shopping for green alternatives to the extensive list of accessories and supplies they will need can be a practical way to protect the Earth and their home away from home at the same time.

Before you shop, check with the school to see if it has recommendations and suggestions for green options, says Amy Provenzano, executive director of environmental stewardship at Stony Brook University. “Then look for items made out of recycled content, like cotton, hemp, bamboo and cork, and try to stay away from plastics. You can get substitutes for all kinds of items, like hangers and rugs,” she says. “Go more organic for bedding and towels, like 100 percent cotton. They cost more and don’t always come in the extra long twin for dorm rooms, but you can opt for an organic pillow, at least.”

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.”

Your New Way of Living – Green Everything

Keep energy saving in mind when you buy products that use electricity. For instance, while most rooms have overhead lighting, if you get a desk lamp, provide your child with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Brian Kenny, resident hall director for Adelphi University in Garden City, N.J., recommends shopping for appliances with the Energy Star label, including the student’s computer, monitor, TV and refrigerator.

But students also can opt for communal appliances, says Michael LaFemina, 23, a representative of Students for a Greener Hofstra, an organization at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. “You don’t have to bring a microwave and refrigerator, as these are usually available in the common area. So are TVs and DVD players,” he says. “It’s all about using less energy. And if you do have your own appliances, keep them on power save mode.”

Behavior 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.”

Alternatives

Other green alternatives for students include reduced packaging for laundry detergent as well as all products, like snacks. “The less packaging the better, so we reduce the amount of plastics being used and trash,” says Amy Urquhart, assistant provost for student affairs at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University in Brookville, N.Y.

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.

“It’s really about a student lifestyle change and habits that can be a challenge at first but ultimately aren’t difficult to adopt,” says Urquhart.

Roomies

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.”

© 2008, Newsday.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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