Earth Day is a day for us to focus on protecting and improving our planet. One way that we can help Mother Earth is to use less energy; this decreases the amount of pollution entering the environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Pollutants (including greenhouse gases) harm the environment by changing the composition of the atmosphere, causing a ripple effect felt across the planet. Unfortunately, it can be easy to continue bad habits under the assumption that one person’s contribution will not have a far-reaching effect. In reality, we all need to do our part to help our planet—even in college! So in the spirit of eco-friendliness, here are some tips to save energy in your dorm room.
- Turn it off. The simplest trick to saving energy is also one of the most obvious: Any light, electronic device, or appliance that is not in use should be turned off or unplugged. Although you may not be concerned about the financial cost of energy because you aren’t directly paying an electricity bill for your room in a dorm, your energy use still has an environmental impact. Once you get into the habit of turning items off routinely, it will require minimal effort and you will feel great about your contribution to helping the environment!
- Use curtains and blinds. Keeping curtains and blinds closed in the summer can help keep the sun from heating up the room, while opening them in the winter can let the sun in to naturally warm the room. This allows your heating and cooling system to work less to maintain the temperature inside.
- Adjust the thermostat. By keeping the room cool in the winter (around 68 degrees) and warm in the summer (around 75 degrees), your heating and cooling system won’t have to work as hard to reach your desired temperature. Turning the temperature down a few more degrees at night may also help you sleep better (which is great for your electricity bill in the winter, but not so much in the summer).
- Check for drafts. Make sure that the space around doors and windows is sealed so that there isn't significant airflow into or out of the room. (Does it feel breezy around cracks? Are window edges significantly hotter or colder than the rest of the room?) When large amounts of outside air are entering the room or large amounts of inside air are dissipating, your heating and cooling system has to work harder to maintain a consistent interior temperature, which increases electricity usage. Likewise, don’t open a window while the heat or air conditioning is on; this forces your unit to try to heat or cool the entire exterior too.
- Use LED light bulbs. LED bulbs last longer and use less energy than other types of light bulbs. This is a simple switch that can have a big impact, but you will pay upfront. LED bulbs are generally more expensive than their less eco-friendly counterparts.
- Change your laundry habits. Many campuses offer laundry rooms for student use in or near dorm buildings. Save energy when you wash your clothes by using only cold water cycles; this way, extra energy is not spent heating the water. Then, save energy (and money!) by hanging damp clothes on a drying rack instead of running the dryer. If you must use the dryer, make sure to clean the lint trap before you start so that it runs more efficiently. You may not see the energy savings reflected in your room and board bill, but you are setting up good habits for later on when you will be paying for electricity.
- Leave the oven door closed when baking. Some dorm rooms (especially suites) have a full kitchen. When baking, don’t open the oven door more often than is necessary. Opening the door releases a significant amount of heat, so the oven has to use additional energy to maintain a consistent temperature. Additionally, food may take longer to fully cook if you keep opening the door and letting heat escape.
- Choose reusable containers. Rather than using plastic bags or wraps that get thrown away and clutter landfills, opt for reusable containers to preserve your leftovers. Although they may cost more upfront, reusable containers will save energy and resources in the long term.
- Reuse and recycle. Reuse items that you already have laying around. For example, use plastic grocery bags as trash bags and use leftover napkins from fast food restaurants instead of paper towels. Make sure to recycle things that cannot be reused (such as glass bottles, plastic cups, and paper) in the appropriate receptacle!
- Don’t leave water running. It may not seem like a big deal, but leaving a faucet running when not in use wastes energy and water. Energy is required to extract water from the ground, clean it, pump it to your building, pump it back to the treatment center, clean it again, and send it somewhere else. The more water you use, the more times that cycle has to be completed and the more energy it takes.
- Take shorter (or colder) showers. Not only will a shorter shower reduce the amount of water used, it also reduces the amount of energy necessary to warm the water. This change has only a small effect on your day-to-day life, but makes a huge impact on the environment in the long term!
- Skip the hair dryer. Not only can the heat from hair dryers damage your hair, but hair dryers use a lot of energy too. When you can, let your hair dry naturally.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Some large dorms have elevators to help students get around. To conserve energy (and improve your health), take the stairs instead. Both the planet and your body will be better for it.
These tips offer you easy ways to start saving energy around your dorm room. Challenge yourself to think of even more ways you can make a difference! Encourage others to conserve energy too. Think: Starting a competition in your dorm to see who can reduce their energy usage the most in a certain period of time. Most importantly, make sure that these tips become habits that you stick with for years to come.