Light up your dorm with sunshine power! Photo: IKEA
College students: want to go green? Even if you call a dorm room home and you're on a serious budget, you can still pack tons of positive changes into your lifestyle. Here are a few easy and budget-friendly ideas to try:
1. Go solar.
Buy an inexpensive solar desk lamp, like IKEA's Sunnan
, which comes in a bunch of vibrant colors. Consider a solar charger for your iPod, cell and other electronics, too.
2. Buy organic.
If you can't afford an all-organic diet, don't fret. Most of us can't. But you can commit to buying organic versions of some of the foods you eat most often. At the very least, skip the "dirty dozen" – the 12 fruits and veggies most contaminated with pesticide residue
. While you're at it, pick up some Fair Trade Certified coffee
and feel better about your caffeine breaks.
3. Ditch the PVC.
Choose a cotton or hemp shower curtain and liner instead. PVC isn't an eco-friendly substance ... and it has a stinky chemical odor, too.
4. Green cleaning.
Instead of buying toxic cleaning chemicals and wasteful paper towels, use your own homemade cleaning supplies. It's so easy – and so cheap! For cleanup of hard surfaces (countertop, desk, floor, bathroom etc.) use a vinegar and water mixture in a spray bottle. Use old hand towels for drying things off. If hard surfaces need scrubbing, try baking soda mixed with a bit of water.
5. Say "No!" to bottled water.
Do you really need to be wasting all that plastic? Buy a pitcher water filter and a reusable BPA-free water bottle for toting around campus and to the gym – and ditch the bottled water for good.
6. Choose Nature's air freshener.
Buy a couple potted plants for your dorm room. Keep them near a window and water them regularly but sparingly. In return, they'll purify your air the natural chemical-free way.
7. Practice low-energy cooking.
Purchase only Energy Star rated appliances
and choose cooking appliances that are relatively energy efficient. Microwaves, toaster ovens and rice steamers are the top three choices. You'll find you can cook just about anything with one or two of these handy gadgets.
8. Compact fluorescents.
A must-have item. These bulbs will light your room for eons, burn very little electricity, and – unlike halogen bulbs – do not present a fire hazard. CF's are really affordable if you can buy them in bulk from a store like Costco or Sam's Club. Divide the box amongst a group of friends and split the cost.
9. Buy local, buy used.
Okay, so "buy local" is not so easy when cash is short. But think "local used" and you can get so much more for your money. Craigslist, Freecycle and local thrift stores are treasure troves of stuff. It's so fun to discover a great find ... and then get it for peanuts.
10. Eco-friendly sudsing.
Choose eco-friendly, no- or low-residue laundry detergents. Skip fabric softener altogether. Regular detergents are packed with chemicals that end up on your skin, on your pets' fur and in our waterways. Yuck!