By: Lindsey Sagasta ’16 (Tonawanda, NY)
Class of 2019: At this point in your life, you have chosen your college, been assigned a roommate, and have registered for your fall semester classes, so what’s next?
Soon, it will be August 23rd and you will be moving into your room at Colgate. Choosing what to bring with you, especially when it’s your first year, can be pretty intimidating. Back-to-school ads have been flowing through your mailboxes, and in every store there is some sort of dorm-room display to remind people of the purchases that need to be made. You might have already experienced a move-in or move-out day for a sibling or friend, and it’s highly probable that you also saw the giant mounds of trash produced by each student moving in. On move-in day, this trash largely consists of packaging that is no longer needed. On move-out day, this trash can be used notebooks, empty pizza boxes, worn out shower shoes, broken electronics, or anything else you don’t want to keep for the summer or the next few years.
Although the large amounts of trash produced during move-in and move-out day is highly upsetting to sustainability-minded students, it is actually quite minimal compared to the waste and resources used throughout the year due to inefficient and unsustainable packing. Think about all the energy used for cramming for exams, watching TV, and hanging out late at night with music. Now imagine all of the trash that’s made from snacks, drink containers, and items that you thought would be useful, but have proved otherwise. What you purchase and bring to Colgate will heavily effect your impact as a first-year student on Colgate’s carbon footprint.
So what should you bring?
All over the Internet, there are checklists that were created with first-year college students in mind. Some of these can be overwhelming, some can be a bit excessive, and others too vague. At this point, you need to think about yourself, and what you really think will be necessary at college. It might be helpful to reach out to upperclassmen that you know, or those who have made themselves available to make your transition as easy as possible. Knowing the position that you are in, I am here to help. Below is a list that has been compiled by the Office of Sustainability that advises you on what to bring, leave at home, and consider when you are shopping (it can also be found on the new students section for sustainability). Here I will unpack this information for you, and add more suggestions to avoid the eco-disaster that college dorm rooms can become.
What to bring:
- Reusable water bottle. Avoid plastic, single-use water bottles. There are plenty of places up-the-hill and down-the-hill that you can refill a reusable bottle, and every time you do refill it, that is one less plastic bottle being made and discarded. If you do end up with a bottle, make sure you recycle it! Check out Klean Kantean, Hydro Flask, and Earth Lust products for some great options.
- Power strips. Plug electronics into smart, energy-efficient, power strips that you can turn off when you leave the room. Using power strips allows for the avoidance of “vampire energy”, also known as “phantom load”- energy that circulates through devices that are plugged in, even though they are not in use.
- LED light bulbs. LEDs may be a bit more expensive than tradition incandescent light bulbs, but they will not burnout while you are at Colgate (they have a much longer life!) and a much smaller energy and carbon footprint.
- Water filter pitcher. Pitchers are another option in case a water fountain isn’t immediately available to fill up your reusable water bottle, but a sink or tap source might be. Although Colgate water doesn’t need to be filtered, if you find peace of mind by doing so, this is a much more cost-effective and sustainable option than one-time use bottled water.
- Reusable grocery bags. Tote bags can be brought from home, or purchased once you arrive. By opting out of single-use plastic grocery bags, you are eliminating the large amount of chemicals and waste it takes to make the bags, as well as avoiding pollution that can occur by improper disposal.
- Reusable cutlery/dishes. Reduce waste and pollution from one-time use plastic cutlery or paper plates if you choose to eat food in your room.
- High-efficiency (HE) detergent. HE detergent results in clean clothes with less waste and pollution. All of Colgate’s washing machines are high-efficiency machines.
- Green cleaning products. Harsh chemicals and bleaches are bad for the environment and our health. There are several green and sustainable cleaning products such as Method, Ecover, and Seventh Generation.
- Recycled notebooks. If you have half-filled notebooks – use them again! There’s plenty of paper left to get through another course. This is also a great tip for your entire Colgate career. If you want to avoid paper completely, taking notes on a laptop or tablet is a great option, just check with your professors in each class to make sure its allowed.
- Bicycle. Although first-years are allowed to have cars on campus, it can be a pain, trust me. Bikes are an awesome alternative. If you can’t bring a bike, you can apply to rent a Green Bike through the Office of Sustainability. The bike will get you where you need to go, and use your power, instead of adding carbon to the atmosphere.
- Clothes drying rack. Drying racks will eliminate the need for a drying machine and the energy needed to run one. It will also greatly reduce the chance of messing up your favorite clothes!
- Organic bedding. Organic bedding is free from toxic chemicals and healthier for the planet and you!
Leave at home
- Printer. There are plenty of places to print for free on campus, so it is not necessary to bring a printer from home. It is also increasingly popular for professors to post all articles online and allow you to use digital versions in class instead of printouts.
- Car. At Colgate, you will have access to several forms of free and accessible modes of transportation.
- Bed risers. Bed risers are a waste of plastic since all Colgate beds can be raised to your liking.
When buying supplies consider…
- Energy Star® appliances. Although appliances are not needed in first year rooms, if you happen to need one, Energy Star® rated appliances use 1/3 less energy.
- Post-consumer recycled content notebooks. There are plenty of notebooks that have been made from recycled content, just read the labels when you go to buy a new one.
- Renting textbooks or buying used copies. There is no reason to buy a new textbook- by doing a small amount of searching online, you can find cheap used textbooks in great condition, and you can even rent the textbooks from places such as Amazon, Chegg, and the Colgate Bookstore.
- Coordinating with your roommates to avoid bring duplicate appliances. Always talk to your roommates before hand, this will avoid duplicate purchases and in the end will save you money.
- Purchasing used furniture from Hamilton yard sales. Local purchases not only help the Hamilton/Colgate community, but will also reduce shipping costs or gas costs to bring it to campus.
Further, you can use an app such as GoodGuide to search, scan, and browse products that are healthy, green, and socially responsible. This app will rate products and companies for their health, environmental, and social impact.
There is also this incredible green dorm checklist– with everything you might need and companies or products listed that are some of the most sustainable options.
Colgate will soon become a user of the TradePal app, where you can look through things that are being locally sold on campus, and can work with the seller on a price!
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you haven’t checked out the new students sustainability page mentioned before, I highly advise that you do before August 23rd!
What you bring in your dorm room can have an impact on our carbon footprint; we hope you make the right choices to make it a positive impact. See you in August!