All over the country, college students are returning to classes. With that comes the promise of spirited football games, library study sessions, late-night pizza runs and of course, freedom from Mom and Dad. Among the main rites of passage you’ll experience in college is living in a dorm; roommates, co-ed bathrooms, laundry room navigation and common area movie nights – all cherished dorm experiences that will leave you with long-lasting memories.

From quiet hours to shower traffic, there’s a lot about dorm life that’s out of your hands. While you can’t control everything about the way your dorm hall operates, you can control your own energy usage to play a small role in reducing your dorm’s carbon footprint. Make sure that you’re still doing your part to go green and save energy with just a few simple tricks and changes.

But we don’t want you to get in trouble with your RA, so as always, make sure that you check the rules and regulations before making any energy-saving upgrades to your dorm.

Go Green – Literally

Get a plant! Not only will having a window plant liven up the place, it will also improve the air quality of your room. Dorm rooms are notoriously old and musty, so bringing in some clean air will make your dorm feel fresh and bright. Low-maintenance plants perfect for your dorm include bamboo, aloe vera, ferns and sago palms. And you can never go wrong with a trendy cactus or succulent!

Let There Be (Natural) Light

Forgo the harsh brightness of overhead dorm lights during the day by pulling back the shades and letting natural light in. In the evening, energy efficient twinkle lights can provide a soothing setting. Letting in natural low light will help alleviate a fluorescent (or hangover-induced) headache while saving some energy at the same time.

Dial it Down

A dorm mini fridge is ideal for keeping snacks and sodas within arm’s reach, but that mini fridge also sucks a lot of energy 24/7. While its small size isn’t causing a huge impact, its energy usage can be even less significant if you dial down the temperature from ice-cold to cool. Trust us, your beer – we mean water – doesn’t have to be that cold.

Really Recycle

Although no one wants to admit experiencing the Freshman 15, it’s a widely recognized phenomenon for a reason. Between dining hall desserts and impromptu pizza parties, there are plenty of calories to go around – and plenty of waste when the food is gone. If you’ve got soda cans, water bottles and solo cups overflowing in the corner of your dorm, don’t shove them down the trash chute, recycle them! Check to see if pizza boxes are recyclable on your campus – they aren’t always. It may require a bit of extra effort, but hey, walking to the recycling bin counts as exercise, right?

Hazards Checklist

Following are some dangerous energy-related things you may not have considered when moving in:

• No candles! Open flames in a small room are a problem for obvious reasons. If you miss the fresh scent or relaxing ambience, invest in an essential oil diffuser that changes color for a similar calming effect.
• Be wary of plugs. A lot of dorms are older and frequently crowded, making electrical fires a real issue. No one wants to be the kid that accidentally set off the fire alarm at 4 a.m., so make sure your mini fridge is plugged directly into the wall and keep an eye out for overloaded surge protectors and power strips.
• Leave hazardous appliances at home. Most dorms don’t allow hot plates or toasters in rooms due to fire hazards, but microwaves are generally allowed. Skip the dining hall once in a while, and try learning to cook classic dishes in a microwave instead.
• Avoid clutter. Due to their small size, it’s easy for a dorm to become cluttered with clothes, books and decorations. Try to keep your area clean (for safety and as a courtesy to your roommate), and don’t be afraid to dust or sweep up occasionally!
Being in such close quarters with others can be overwhelming at times, so make sure your dorm is a personalized space you’re happy to come home to after a long day of classes. You will look back on your college years as some of the happiest memories of your life; have a great time!

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