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5 Gift Ideas for Creating a Green & Healthy Dorm Room
I’m just your average 20-year-old college junior, except I have a lifetime (literally) of green living behind me. My mother, Annie Bond, was chemically poisoned when she was in her 20s; at home, non-green/synthetic products are a no-no. So I know how to incorporate green.
I compiled this list based on the College Board’s college shopping list, adding and subtracting based on what a college student really needs and how to make each item green and healthy. I've found these top five to be essential:
1. Stainless steel water bottles
Most polycarbonate (hard plastic) contains the chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA, which is causing quite a scandal. Many companies are discontinuing their use of it, and many states have at least proposed the idea of doing the same.
What does BPA do that is so terrible? If by taking a sip of water you knew that you were exposing yourself to the possibilities of breast and prostate cancer, obesity, brain damage, infertility and diabetes, would you think twice about drinking it? I certainly have.
When my mother and I were college shopping, we made a point of buying me two pretty blue stainless steel water bottles. No polycarbonate (or other plastics, for that matter) for me, thank you. Stainless steel water bottles are becoming more and more prevalent on college campuses. Plastic is so passé.
2. Power strips
There are SO MANY things to plug in! And you wouldn't believe how much energy you waste by having all of your appliances plugged in all the time. Wellesley College did a study in which they found that each dorm room uses 2,142,616 kWh of electricity every year, of which approximately 59,120 kWh is due to unnecessary waste. Not so good.
Using a surge protector or power strip is a good way to reduce electrical waste. Unplug items that can be unplugged for most of the day (cell charger, electrical tea kettle, keyboard, amp, etc.) whenever possible. Put appliances (like your computer/laptop and printer, which generally can be turned off over night) on another power strip and just switch the power strip to “off” overnight. Easy, right? Right.
3. Eco-friendly laundry detergent
Detergents are full of chemicals including petroleum distillates and phenols (in particular nonylphenol). Petroleum distillates come from that same petroleum that is in your gasoline. Its potential hazards are cancer, organ system toxicity and neurotoxicity … not to mention that it has been banned by the European Union.
Phenols aren’t so good either … We’re talking the possibility of cancer, neurotoxicity, organ system toxicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption and bioaccumulation.
There are toxin-free detergents! For as long as I can remember, my family has been a fan of Arm and Hammer’s fragrance-free detergent … It has always done the trick. At different times we’ve also used Seventh Generation detergent, made from plant-based products instead of petroleum-based. These seem like a ridiculously good alternative to endocrine disruption (but maybe that’s just me). Get a good supply of one of these detergents, and try to get your roommate to use them, too!
4. Neti pot
Colds in college are like chicken pox in nursery school. They spread. Quickly. So what to do? While it might seem nice to curl up in bed with a book, a box of tissues and a hot mug of tea, that is usually not a viable option. The best that can be done is to clear up the sinus passages, pop in a cough drop and keep going.
The neti pot works incredibly well for clearing out nasal passages. The neti pot is a ceramic tea pot you fill with warm water and salt. It's been used for thousands of years to treat allergies and sinus congestion. It works like no other … I have never had such great sinus relief.
5. Yoga supplies
I had always thought it was kind of like a relaxing “workout,” as in, not really a workout at all. Was I ever wrong. Yoga pretty much encompasses all of the incredibly painful exercises we did in sports practices in high school: push-ups, crunches, squats, superman, etc. Believe me, my thighs are killing me now. Yoga also improves everything from blood flow to flexibility to concentration, self-esteem, cholesterol, glucose and sodium. It will help you fend off the freshman 15, help you de-stress and energize you!
Yoga is perfect for the college student in so many ways. You can do yoga in your room ... and there are all sorts of yoga workouts — for beginners, intermediate and advanced; to lose weight; for non-flexible people; for toning .... So, I urge you to go out and find yourself a DVD, or take a class, in any type of yoga that you think you would enjoy.
Make sure you use an eco-friendly yoga mat. What is most important in finding a truly eco-friendly yoga mat is to look for “PVC-free” and “phthalate-free” on the label. There are yoga mats made from natural rubber, which is tapped from trees. They are also biodegradable. Check on Gaiam.com!
From The Green Dorm Room by Lily Bond; republished with permission.