College – An Opportunity To Live Green!

By Lily Rau

During this back to school season I have been reflecting on my college experience and the different places I called home. I lived in the dorms my first year and then moved to apartments off campus for my last three years. Reflecting on these homes reminded me of the fear and excitement of moving into your first place. For some of us, this is the first time we must think about paying bills, buying furniture, or cooking for ourselves. In addition to some tough choices, having your own place provides you with opportunities to make environmentally friendly decisions!

The largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities come from the burning of fossil fuels for electricity production and transportation. Whether you live in a dorm or an apartment, here are a few simple ways a recently independent college student can help reduce these emissions and protect the climate:

  1. Buy ENERGY STAR products: You may be deciding which mini-fridge or light bulbs to purchase for your dorm or apartment. Look for ENERGY STAR products that meet energy efficiency requirements and can save you money while protecting the environment.
  2. Turn off the lights: Our parents yelled at us for a reason. Leaving the lights on raises the energy bill. Whether you’re paying the bills in an apartment, or not paying the bills in a dorm, leaving the lights on uses more electricity and contributes to climate change.
  3. Unplug electronics: Did you know that appliances and electricity-powered devices use electricity even when they are turned off? When you leave for Christmas or Spring break, make sure to unplug all TVs, computers, DVD players, chargers, radios, cable boxes, and mini-fridges.
  4. Get familiar with public transportation: Many colleges don’t allow students to bring their cars to school their first year. If you can’t bring your car to school, embrace it! Get familiar with the public transportation in your area. Maybe you’ll discover you don’t need a car your second year. This is good for the environment and fuel savings, which is great for a student on a budget!
  5. Get involved: Become an OnCampus ecoAmbassador and work with your school and fellow students to make your campus more environmentally friendly!

For more ideas check out EPA’s back to school tips. Join the discussion with your own back to school tip. Tell us how you’re greening your dorm or apartment!

About the author: Lily Rau is an intern in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. She is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Political Science and is passionate about protecting the environment.