College is often termed the best years of your life. Now, recent trends suggest that it is also becoming pretty green. A growing number of colleges and universities are seeking ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, many with energy-efficient facilities and construction projects. A wind turbine at
"Colleges are really leading the parade as far as committing to green building on campuses," says
But what if you don't go to a particularly tree-huggy school or you don't live in a snazzy green dorm or your president did not sign the pledge? Don't worry: College faculty and students say there are many things you can do, in addition to turning off lights or using refillable drinking containers, to reduce your impact on the environment.
1. Become an informed consumer.
Turning off appliances and lights when you're not using them or using a smart strip--a power strip that shuts computer peripherals off when your computer goes into sleep mode--are good habits. But the next time you go shopping for dorm supplies, think about buying products that are green from the get-go. Compact fluorescent light bulbs, for instance, last 10 times longer than standard light bulbs and use 75 percent less electricity. And appliances that are Energy Star rated, such as lamps, computers and printers, and minifridges, can reduce your energy use by up to 50 percent. A list of such products can be found at www.energystar.gov. You can also use the Electronic Product Environment Assessment Tool at www.epeat.net, which lets you evaluate and compare different computers based on their environmental attributes.
Also, be sure to look for eco-friendly bath and cleaning products, such as those made by the brand
And when the term's over, think about selling your wares through sites like
2. Reduce paper waste.
Everyone knows it's better to use hand towels and cloths instead of paper towels, but see if you can
take it one step further. It might be more expensive, but consider buying a small set of dishes, bowls, and silverware instead of
paper goods for in-room dining, says
And use your printer wisely, too. Ask your professors if it's OK to submit papers and reports via E-mail, and set your computer to default to double-sided printing. If you don't have a double-sided printer, reuse paper that has been printed on one side for draft printing or scratch paper.
And try to condense your mail lists so only interested parties are included, says Straub of
Straub also recommends making your own notepads out of recycled paper and using online banking, which is now offered by practically all of the major banking companies and credit unions, to reduce the number of paper bills you receive.
3. Data awareness.
Here's how you can score major points for creativity. If you really want to make an impact where it will
matter the most, find out exactly how much water, electricity, and gas you are consuming in your dorm, says
This might not sound like anything new, but it applies to both recycling the things that you use and purchasing
items made from recycled material: When you shop, look for recycled items that were made using post-consumer waste. Most retail
chains now sell recycled umbrellas, vases, doormats, and even
journals and stationery
made from elephant dung. "The fact is that a lot more things can be recycled these days," says
5. Get involved.
Talking with others about being sustainable and launching a special project to spread the word on campus could
be effective ways to spark change on a larger scale. "Some colleges have appointed eco-reps for each dorm whose job it is to put
on educational programs for students on how to use less energy," says
More and more schools are also sponsoring challenges between dorms to see which can use the least amount of energy.
Some college-goers say it's important for those forms of programming to put the onus on the student. "The university can make
changes and try to foster a greener attitude, but it all comes down to the students," says
And still a lot of students view their efforts as a starting point for green living in the future. Says
If you have a child headed or headed back to college, you have an onerous job this month. It's time to fill out federal financial aid forms, preferably online. You may think you're too wealthy to get financial aid and filling out the so-called Free Application for Federal Student Aid is too much of a hassle under those circumstances. Do it anyway.
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Green Living: Unique Ways to Go Green if You're Living in a Dorm | Zach Miners
(c) 2010 U.S. News & World Report