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Keeping Your Carbon Footprint Low at College

Updated on September 24, 2022
Lady Lorelei profile image

Mother of 2 daughters and grandmother of 7 I strive daily to achieve an optimum level of health and happiness. Life is all about the balance


Climate Change

We can all do our part. Reducing waste, pollution, green house gas emissions, and our carbon footprint isn't difficult and every small change we make to help can make a tremendous difference in the big scheme of things. Lifestyle changes can affect how we interact with our environment and they can alter our carbon footprint to a large degree. A person is never too young or too old to help reduce the damage caused by climate change.

You can still be environmentally friendly even while attending college or university. It requires quite a trove of items to sustain a student during their college years but that does not mean that your carbon footprint has to increase two shoe sizes while you are there. Following the reduce reuse and recycle rule shouldn't be a problem anytime or anywhere and this includes when heading off to college.

The school supplies, clothing, furniture, and personal care products that you buy while away at college can all have an impact on your carbon footprint, So tread lightly while away at school to keep your actions and purchases environmentally friendly.


Decorate Your Dorm Room Green

I'm not talking pulling out the green paint, what I really want is for you to use the 3R rules of Reduce Reuse and Recycle. Reducing the amount of new purchases you make is a great place to start. It's not only good for the environment but it can also be a wonderful way to balance your budget. Purchasing used textbooks and dorm room decor items can save you a fair chunk of money. Most college students require some furniture and accessories for their dorm room and many of these items can be reused or recycled purchases.

One of the first places you should start looking for these items is at your local thrift or Goodwill store. A desk, table, chairs, bookshelf, end tables, lamp, television, toaster, dishes, and numerous other dorm room essentials can be purchased at local thrift stores for a fraction of the price that you would have otherwise paid for them. Saving a little money is always nice but the greenest reason for purchasing used items is the environmental footprint you leave. Purchasing used items lessons the amount of raw materials and energy required to make the new items that you would have otherwise purchased. You essentially reduce your carbon footprint whenever you choose to reuse or repurpose an item. It's a simple gesture that can have a huge impact on our environment.

But there are even further initiatives you can make that are just as easy to implement. You are most likely going to require an extension cord to plug your computer, printer, and desk lamp or other dorm room electronics into. Rather than picking up a standard electrical cord purchase instead a power bar with an on / off switch. It is estimated that around eighty percent of an electronics electricity consumption occurs when they are not in use. A simple click of the power cord's On Off button whenever you head out for class and again just before you go to bed can with a single click power down the bulk of the electronics in your dorm space. This one gesture can help to dramatically reduce the amount of electricity that you would otherwise use.

There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint and some are simple common sense. Shutting off your lights when you leave a room is easy but by also switching to more energy efficient light bulbs you can conserve up to eighty percent of the energy that you would otherwise have used in lighting your dorm room. Energy efficient LED or florescent light bulbs can be used to replace any old dorm room bulbs used in your room lighting. The new bulbs also last much longer than the old incandescent style which means there will be less bulbs tossed into the local landfill.

Most Schools Have a Recycling Program

Moving often involves packed items so be sure to recycle any cardboard boxes that were used to pack your items off to college. Save one or two to act as recycling boxes for your dorm room. Paper, plastics, cardboard, glass, and metals can all be easily saved to later drop off at the local recycling centre.

Most businesses, schools,and colleges have recycling programs in place but if yours does not, then suggest that they create one. Learn where the location of the drop off bins are and what can recycled in each. It is generally a very simple process to check into a programs availability as most businesses and municipalities have these initiatives in place.

Keep in mind that recycling is a two step venture. Recycling only works when there is a market for the sale or reuse of recycled goods. Whenever you do purchase new items watch for labels with Made from recycled materials on them. It is always great to purchase an item used but sometimes this is just not possible so when you do have to purchase new items, attempt to purchase products that are made from recycled materials.

Do You Do These Eco-Friendly Things?

  • Purchase used items rather than buying new.
  • Purchase and use reusable shopping bags.
  • Purchase and use a reusable water bottle.
  • Shut off your computer when it is not in use.
  • Use a solar power charger for your small electronics.
  • Shut off lights when you leave a room.
  • Be aware of the packaging on products you purchase.
  • Take transit, walk, or ride share rather than use your own vehicle.
  • Recycle


Adopt a Plant

Adopt a plant. Plants breath in what we breath out so not only do they help to replenish the oxygen in the air, but they also have the amazing ability to rid the air around them of contaminants. NASA was so interested in this process that they conducted tests to see which household plants worked best at removing specific toxins from the indoor air around them.

The results were fascinating. Some plants did indeed work better at purifying the air than others. So if you are concerned about your dorms indoor air quality then you may want to consider a Spider plant, Golden pathos, Gerbera daisy, Chrysanthemum, Bamboo palm, English Ivy, Mother-in-Law's tongue, or Peace Lily for your room. Most houseplants don't require a great deal of attention which also makes them an easy decor item.

Purchase a Reusable Water Bottle

Most city water systems have water that is quite comparable to bottled water so unless your town is known to have water issues turn on your tap instead of purchasing bottled water. Single use plastic beverage bottles are not environmentally friendly and purchasing these can be a huge waste of your money.

Rather than purchasing bottled water purchase a steel water bottle and fill it up at the tap. If you are concerned that your water source may not be the best that it can be then use a water filtration system to purify it. Many of these such as the Pure and Brita systems are quite reasonably priced. These water purifying jugs and bottles can be quite compact in size and fit handily into a small fridge.

Another very important purchase is that of a washable cloth grocery bag so when you are shopping you won't have to bring plastic bags home with you. Far too many plastic bags and bottles are filling up the landfill and this toxic waste is definitely not good for the environment. Remember that every plastic item that you do not purchase is one less in the landfill and one less that has to be made to replace the one you used.

Do You Follow the Principles of the 3 R's?

Do You Reduce Reuse and Recycle?

See results

Become a Climate Advocate

Encourage others to make a difference. We often learn from example which means that there are more than a few people out there who are simply unaware of the many ways in which they can make a difference. Recycling is so simple an act that virtually anyone can participate and the majority of people generally don't mind chipping in to help.

Your peers are a great place to start. Most students are pretty open minded as their studies encourage them to be open to new ideals. They are a prime age group to learn the principles that will help them reduce their impact on the environment. Helping to slow the harmful effects of climate change is definitely something that everyone can do. Become a climate advocate.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Lorelei Cohen


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