Cleaner, Greener College Living

Photo: istockphotos/IsaacLKoval
How university and college students can reduce their carbon footprint.

Mama Earth needs some lovin’. Want to pitch in, live greener and reduce your carbon footprint on campus?

Going green is no longer a fad: It’s a way of life. Even if your college didn’t make The Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll – and yes, it does exist – there are many ways you can help make campus life greener. Aside from turning off lights (compact fluorescent bulbs, of course), unplugging appliances and taking shorter showers, here are some other easy ways for you to conserve. C’mon, do our precious planet proud.

Scrub-a-dub-dub
Although you try to avoid it, the day eventually comes when you have to clean your dorm room, do laundry and wash dishes. The real downer? Many cleaning products we grew up with are packed with chemicals that plague the planet.

What you can do:

  • Ditch dated cleaning supplies, such as bleach and ammonia-based cleansers and purchase alternative products found at almost any retailer.
  • Don’t toss those jeans into the laundry after just one wear! Save detergent, water and energy by re-wearing your clothes a few times. (Quick tip: Put clothing on a hanger on a doorknob or curtain rod to air out odors.)
  • Wash clothing in cold water. (Bonus: You won’t have to worry about that cotton shirt shrinking!)
  • Toss empty cleaning supply containers into your recycling pile.

Say Hello to Buying Local
Says Duke sophomore and environmental science major Emily Bailey: “Food is shipped in from all over the world, which wastes tons of energy and is responsible for enormous amounts of carbon dioxide emissions. A lot of supermarkets have locally grown sections where the produce is grown within 50 miles -- a much greener option. And it’s usually more delicious too, since it's so fresh.”

What you can do:

  • If you’re not still on a university meal plan, ask a grocer where the locally grown produce is located.
  • Visit restaurants that cook with ingredients from local vendors.
  • Aside from food, buy products like clothes and soaps from local shops and boutiques.
  • When you shop for food, clothes or whatever, bring a reusable shopping bag instead of taking the plastic ones that stores give away so freely.

Save Paper (and Serious Cash)
We all learned in elementary school that trees have to come down to make paper. Now that you’re in college, purchasing used books online or from eco-friendly bookstores is a small but significant way to do your part. Says Bailey: “Little things really add up, and students just need to do it!”

What you can do:

  • Check out Web sites (search: used textbooks) and used bookstores to get great deals on books that have already been broken in for you.
  • Instead of buying magazines, hang out at your library and read all your faves for free. Use your library card to check out novels rather than plunking down cash at a large bookstore chain.
  • Rather than getting to-go cups every day from the coffee joint, invest in a mug you can reuse daily. (Bonus: Some retailers will even give you a discount for bringing your own mug!)

Take a Stand!

The best way to help the effort is to spread the love. Prove to friends and family how easy it is to take better care of our earth -- and maybe they’ll jump into the green scene too.

What you can do:

  • Encourage your roommates, floor mates and classmates to make some of the simple changes we’ve listed above.
  • Organize an eco-friendly club on campus for students to join together and make a big impact.
  • If your school already has a help-the-environment club, become a leader or at least an active member.
  • Take charge! If you live with friends, organize a recycling system for the house and encourage your roommates to drop wasteful habits.