Finding a natural solution
Next month, I’m moving into a college dorm. I’ve prepared an extensive list of things I might need for my dorm, and I’ve found eco-friendly alternatives to each item. Before I purchase anything, I’m going to figure out what I can reuse or repurpose. Check the source list I’ve assembled for secondhand items, and then buy what you still need:
Check these places first!
• Etsy: Check Etsy for homemade decor. It’s a great place to find unique items for your dorm.
This vintage backpack from Etsy has plenty of compartments to store school supplies. Photo By mediumcontrol/Courtesy Flickr.
• Craigslist: Click your city, then look at the Craiglist For Sale section. In the search bar, type “dorm” and you’ll find listings for refrigerators, couches, rugs and more.
• Freecycle: To find items on Freecycle you must be a member of the group representing your city or nearby area. When you request something from Freecycle, offer to pick it up from the giver’s location as soon as possible, otherwise the giver has no reason to choose you over other users.
• Ebay Local Classifieds: It’s eBay without the shipping costs. Enter your ZIP code, and then search for an item. There won’t be as many options, but all the dealers live in your area.
• At your college: Many colleges hold an event at the beginning of the year where students can buy, sell, trade, or give away dorm room items. Use this opportunity to snag used storage, fridges, microwaves, couches and other items.
• Ask your roommate: Don’t get stuck with doubles of every item. Communicate with your roommate about who is buying what before you get to college. You can even coordinate room décor!
• Friends and neighbors: Talk to people in your community. If they hear you are looking for dorm items, many are happy to give you things they no longer need.
• Microwave: Energy Star does not currently rate microwaves. Look for a small microwave like this one from Sharp for $84. It will use less energy and will fit better in your dorm. Unplug it when you’re not using it; appliances continue to use electricity even when they’re “off.”
• Refrigerator: Get an Energy-star qualified refrigerator. This 3.9-cubic-foot fridge/freezer combination from Haier costs $149, is Energy Star-qualified and includes an ice cube tray and shelves for organization.
This microfridge uses as half the energy of two seperate appliances. Photo By cjtengi/Courtesy Flickr
• Toaster/Coffeemaker/Griddle: Use less energy and save space with a three-in-one appliance. This device from SPT got rave reviews for its golden-brown toasting, quick coffee making and easy-to-clean skillet on top.
Bed and bath
• Comforter: Extra-long twin sheets are necessary for a dorm, but a standard twin comforter will work just fine. Buy an organic cotton comforter with recycled polyfill at West Elm in twin for $119. Organic comforters tend to be expensive (often upwards of $200), so $119 is a steal.
• Sheets: Organic cotton dorm-sized sheets are difficult to find. The most inexpensive organic extra-long twin sheets I found are sold at STL for $80 with free shipping.
• Shower shoes: Keep your feet clean in communal showers by wearing 100 percent recycled plastic flip flops from Okabashi. They come with a two-year warranty. When they are no longer wearable, send your shoes to Okabashi to be recycled into new shoes.
• Towels: Dry off with this organic cotton towel set from EcoChoices for $54.
These luxurious organic cotton towels will last all four years of college. Photo By roomgoods/Courtesy Flickr
• Laptop: Check out Yahoo Green’s top five greenest laptops for inspiration. I love the MacBook Air, but at $1500, it’s quite the investment. I am getting a Mac for college because it is speedy and reliable, so I know I will not be sending another computer to the landfill anytime soon.
Conserve energy by turning off your laptop when you leave the room. Photo By arbron/Courtesy Flickr
• Printer/Cartridges: Hewlett-Packard was ranked No. 1 in Newsweek’s Top 500 Green U.S. companies. Show your support by purchasing an HP Energy Star-rated printer, and send your used cartridges back to HP to be recycled.
• Power strip: Plug computer and printer cords, cell phone chargers and small appliances into a power strip. When you leave the room, you can shut off everything at once. Buy an eco-strip, and the company will plant a tree following your purchase!
• Storage: Way Basics offers colorful storage solutions made from recycled paper.
• Hangers: Bring hangers from home, or get recycled hangers from Hangers Unlimited.
• Bike: Look for bikes at garage sales, ask around, or check out ebay or Craigslist. There’s no need to buy a bike at full price when many people have bikes sitting in their garages that just need a little TLC.
Don't forget a bike lock to keep your bike safe on campus. Photo By aar0on/Courtesy Flickr
• Compact fluorescent light bulbs: You can buy these at almost any retailer or drugstore.
• Backpack: A certified organic hemp backpack is the right choice for toting books and supplies to class.
• Trash bin: The Thrash Can is made from 99 percent recycled automobile tires and trim. Get a separate container to store your recycling, or set up a recycling center for your whole floor.
• Water bottle: A stainless steel water bottle is great to have on hand. Bring it everywhere to avoid wasting plastic (and money!). Blue Q has some of the cutest stainless steel water bottles!
• Natural odor control: Living in close quarters with so many other freshman means things can get smelly. Consider purchasing a small plant for your dorm. Keep an open box of baking soda in an inconspicuous place; it will absorb nasty odors!
• Clothesline: A clothesline will save money and energy by avoiding the campus dryers. A retractable clothesline for $20 is a great fit (and a great price!) for a small dorm.
• Laundry detergent: Choose nontoxic, natural laundry detergents. I like Seventh Generation, Method and Green Works. If you want to save a little more money, make your own! Vinegar, baking soda, water and some essential oils is all you need. Check out these great DIY laundry detergent recipes.
• Laundry hamper/bag: This hamper for $40 from The Container Store is made from all-natural maize and looks lovely in any room. This natural hemp bag for $13 from EcoHousekeeping is great for lugging laundry down the hall. Save space and store it under your bed when it’s not full!