Every year, incoming and returning college students arrive on campus with trucks and moving vans laden with furniture, electronics, bedding, and every other “necessity” for university life. The problem with this system is that for many young people, college is the first experience they will get in real-world experience. And while university websites and back-to-school blogs are often bursting with lists of must-haves from super centers and department stores, there are often far fewer resources for those students looking to live an eco-friendly lifestyle on campus and beyond.
Luckily for those students looking to build a foundation on eco-conscious living, however, there are still ways to get a top-notch education without neglecting your responsibility to the planet. Start by scouring the web for some greener versions of those back to school shopping lists. Here are a few more tips for getting your school year off to the most environmentally friendly head start:
Don’t Buy if You can Reuse
It can be tempting to rush out and purchase brand new bedding, curtains, towels, underwear, carpets and everything else when you’re moving into a dorm. But the first rule of eco-conscious living is to take inventory of the things you already own before busting out the credit card.
Check to see if you can reuse or freecycle things like bedding and linens and don’t buy books until you know what you need, what you can download online, and what you can borrow from the library.
When you do have to make a purchase, do so with care. For example, many dorms have common areas with refrigerators, stoves and microwaves that can be shared by several students. But if this isn’t an option for you, and you find that you have to purchase some small appliances, don’t automatically assume you need to buy brand new. The more people that purchase used models, the fewer carbon emissions released into the atmosphere by the production of new appliances. And regardless of whether you go new or used, make sure you look for energy efficient brands.
Labels like Energy Star will ensure that your appliance use up to 50% less energy than standard versions. That means a lower overall electricity bill for you and a smaller carbon footprint for the planet.
Another great place to buy cautiously is within your bed linen and towel selection. Choosing sheets, comforters, towels and washcloths made from materials like organic cotton, bamboo and hemp help keep toxic chemicals away from more farms. Additionally, many of these manufacturers are recycling materials and placing a big emphasis on local and fair labor.
Watch Your Energy Consumption
Finally, don’t neglect your decision to go eco-conscious once you’ve finished moving in. Keep fabric and reusable bags on hand for grocery shopping, bypass disposable coffee cups and paper plates for reusable ones and ensure you’re using compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use 75% less energy than the standard incandescent version. And avoid energy drains by unplugging computers, gaming systems, and televisions when not in use.
With a little forethought and some careful purchasing decision, the move from homebody to college student can also be your first step towards building an eco-minded future.