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Energy Smart New York

10 Ways to “Go Green” in your Dorm

College Campuses are a hub for young emerging advocacy. National and world issues are widely discussed, then change and awareness becomes the goal of many, even if it is on a smaller scale.

One of these issues is being environmentally-aware. While it has always been something instilled in us at a young age, it is the follow-through that could use still use a little help, especially when it comes to the dorm life.

Living greenWhile on campus, faculty and students are surround by not only messages of “Being Green” but the accessibility to recycling options is at their fingertips. However, think of the difference that could be made if instead of just “Being Green” you practiced “Living Green” as well.

The second students move into their dorm rooms, there are no longer signs reinforcing environmentally friendly changes, or parents telling you it’s your turn to sort the recycling. The doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to do it. With the help of SUNY’s Director of sustainability, Deborah Howard, here are the top 10 ways to save energy in your dorm, all of which are quick and easy but make a world of a difference.

1.    Recycle. Most schools will provide you with recycling bins, so make an effort to utilize them. Trash rooms also have separate bins to help your sort, however it is up to you to do it. Make recycling fun – challenge floormates to small recycling competitions or even decide on a schedule.

2.    Always turn off all lights & unplug appliances when not in use. Leaving unused electronics and appliances on is a waste of energy. If you’re not in your room then there is no need for them to be on. While it might sounds like a pain, this is one of the easiest things to fix in a dorm room. Simply plug all your electronics into a surge protector and unplug it as you walk out the door.

3.   Conserve your printer ink. The amount of ink a student needs to consume is as unavoidable as research papers, however the key is to conserve. That is something you can start ASAP, by simply changing your printer settings. Some printers come with an “ink saver” mode. If yours does not, simply reduce the pixel quality of your print. Since most of your papers will only require black ink, preset your printer to only use black. Doing this will not affect the quality. In those two steps you have already eliminated a portion of your ink cartridge contribution to landfills. Finally and most importantly, always remember to recycle your empty cartridge appropriately. Now a days, all new cartridges come with little prepaid envelopes to send back the used containers, so USE THEM! Some retail stores like Staples will refill them for a reduced price or accept them for store credit.

4.    Reduce the amount of paper you use. This doesn’t mean to just stop doing your assignments, however be try to be mindful. If your have a paper due and are given the option to submit online, why not? Another easy way to reduce has to do with how you clean in the dorms. Paper towels seem to be the answer to any mess, however they can become an unnecessary expense and added waste. Try switching to small cloth towels or rags, which can be washed and reused.

5.    Laptops need sleep too. While most college students are attached to their laptops from sunup to sundown, it can be the biggest waste of energy in a student’s life. The good thing about electronics these days is that most have the option to be energy efficient. So change your laptop settings, dim your screen and most importantly make sure your computer actually gets some rest. Screensaver don’t save energy, sleep mode does; so try putting it to sleep when you do.

6.    Buy used – New isn’t always better. Buying used is a great way to reuse and reduce. For college students the key is living on a budget, so used textbooks are everyone’s best friend, but don’t just stop there. Thrift stores are also a great place to discover new things, especially when it comes to decorating dorms. Upcycle for a more one of a kind look instead of spending on the same stuff everyone else has. Not only is used cheaper but you can walk away with the satisfaction of knowing that you just saved something that would have ended up in a landfill.

7.    Purchase energy-saving appliances and electronics. These appliances can include refrigerators, laptops, and microwaves and can quickly help lower your energy consumption.

8.    Take a break from the heat and air dry. This not only includes your hair but your clothes too. Whether your school offers free washer/dryers or not, the less you use the dryers, the less CO2 is being left in our atmosphere. Make sure to only wash full loads of laundry, and even if you can’t air dry everything, just remember one less thing in the dryer already means less dryer time.

9.    Don’t forget to change your bulbs. Most schools do utilize compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). They get the job done while consuming less energy, so make sure to keep an eye out for them when decorating and purchasing that new study lamp. CFLs use one-fifth to one-third the electric power of traditional incandescent light bulbs, and last eight to fifteen times longer, providing energy and money savings.

10.    Go solar with your cell phone. College students are always on the go and depend on their cell phones for information and communication. A way to always keep your phone charged while staying green is to use a solar cell phone charger. Many of these can server double duty by allowing you to charge your laptops, mp3 player and other portable electronics without depending on electricity.

Believe it or not “living green” on campus can be pretty easy. It’s all a matter of re-evaluating the way you live and making the smallest lifestyle tweaks. The key is to reduce, reuse, recycle as often as possible, and change always begins in your “home”.


​SUNY List is a series that highlights different aspects of higher education, as compiled by SUNY System Administration staff members.


Written by Michelle Loza



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