Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s time for college kids to head back to those tiny dorm rooms. I was living in a dorm just 2 years ago and I know it can be difficult to act green without a looming energy bill or a care in the world.
University of Illinois alone accepted almost 16,000 students into their 2010 freshman class. With that many twenty-somethings playing interior designer to a 10×10 room, just a few greener choices can reduce our carbon footprint in a powerful way. So whether you’re covering your walls in Phish posters and tapestries, or matching your monogrammed comforter to a dust ruffle, consider a few helpful tips to keeping your new digs eco-friendly.
1. LED Bulbs: Forget CFLs – they are not worth the investment. LEDs have come into their own and are a simple and effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. Light bulbs account for roughly 20% of energy consumption in an average household. So if you are in a dorm that means you’re living in the household of potentially hundreds of people (up at 4 am writing papers by lamplight might I add). According to energystar.gov, CFLs use up to 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than regular light bulbs. So instead of using inefficient incandescent light bulbs, switch to LEDs for all your studying needs.
Consider either one of these “bright” green hostess gifts:
2. Buy Used Furniture: Your best friend drank one too many cups of jungle juice last night and now she’s passed out on your futon. I’ll bet you my life savings she could care less whether you bought it from Bed Bath and Beyond or craigslist. Buying used is a great way to put a little Reduce-Reuse-Recycle into your dorm room feng shui. I assure you, ‘used’ doesn’t have to mean gross. I have bought and sold some beautiful furniture off of craigslist and, an added bonus, you won’t have to go bankrupt decorating your dorm room.
3. Flick The Switch – Turn your lights off when you leave for class: I had some serious issues getting to class on time. Even if I didn’t have class until 2:30 pm, I just couldn’t get it together. So I definitely understand the ‘can’t talk gonna be late’ sprint to class. But turning off your lights takes about half a second, and if you’re in a three-hour lecture this can make a huge difference in energy consumption. Energysavors.gov says that if you leave a room for more than 15 minutes with CFLs, turning off your lights can save .04KW/hr. With four years of college for thousands of students, the watts really add up.
4. Limit Paper Use: I was an English major, which meant for the dozens of pieces of literature I read, I printed out packets and packets of commentary and critical analysis. And research papers? Google scholar had me printing out hundreds of pages of anything ranging from Miocene primates to Ancient Maya Iconography. It’s a big waste. Be cautious of what you are printing out and if you can read it online, do it. Usually you only really need to read a chapter or two from an article so take advantage of your computer’s printing preferences as well. Trust me, double sided printing is a godsend. After four years of papers and tests, it makes a huge difference.
5. Use Your Smart Phone For Anything Possible: The daily wattage to recharge your smartphone is only 10-15 watts, max. About the same a running one of your new LEDs for an hour. Use your phone to read it on screen, instead of paper; as an alarm clock instead of having one by your bed; as a flashlight; as your source for your music, instead of a speaker system…. You get the point.
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