Do it in the dark. This semester, think before you flip the light switch. You may not need to turn on the lights every time you enter a room. That’s just one of a number of simple strategies to consider if you want to go green on campus.
Green living starts with carefully planned back to school shopping and continues in the way students go about their daily lives. Most students arrive on move-in day in SUVs and vans stuffed to the max with electronic equipment, appliances, clothes and other furnishings. Some even bring school supplies.
St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY said the easiest way for students to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle is to rethink everything they put in their shopping carts to take back to school. “Don’t buy so much stuff,” the college urged, suggesting that a better option is to share as much as possible with roommates.
Some students are already listening. The National Retail Federation’s 2008 Back to School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, just polled more than 8,300 families. A surprising weak spot is the college market, with teens saying they will cut back on spending by 7% this year to $599.38 per person, compared to $641.56 per person last year.
While electronics will still get the largest portion of their budget, spending will drop to $211.89 per person from $258.43 last year. Spending on clothing and dorm furnishings will also slip, and only one category–school supplies–will increase. The survey also found that more college students are cutting costs by living at home, with 54.1% of college students commuting to campus from their parents’ houses this year, up from 49.7% last year.
The Princeton Review, in its first-ever “Green Rating” of colleges, just named 11 schools to its 2009 Green Rating Honor Roll. It rated 534 colleges and universities on a scale of 60 to 99 for their environmentally related policies, practices and academic offerings. Six public and five private institutions received perfect scores: Arizona State University at the Tempe campus; Bates College (Lewiston, ME); Binghamton University (Binghamton, NY); College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME); Emory University (Atlanta, GA); Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA); Harvard College (Cambridge, MA); University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH); University of Oregon (Eugene, OR); University of Washington (Seattle, WA); and Yale University (New Haven, CT).
Binghamton University President Lois B. DeFleur explained, “We have put into place a number of initiatives to engage all of our campus constituents - from the student in the dorm room to our maintenance crews.” Its sustainability efforts range from an energy management system to wide-ranging recycling efforts that include organic gardening and composting. Other initiatives include a range of energy savings projects, LEED building standards, and educational efforts that include a residential community energy contest as well as regular programs and events that engage and educate the campus community in thinking about and changing energy habits.
Besides buying less, there are plenty of things students can do to keep their carbon footprints at a minimum. Furnish dorm rooms and apartments with hemp towels, organic cotton sheets, carpeting made from reused materials and Energy Star rated appliances. Buy reusable plates, cups and shopping bags. When possible, install low-flow showerheads and motion sensors that automatically turn off lights, and use low-volatile organic compound (VOC) paints. Here are some other ideas to consider: