Going GREEN: Sustainable Advice for a First-Year Dorm Dweller

By Lindsay Mensch

Moving into a dorm freshman year is an exciting experience for most people. Living in a new place, meeting new people, and experiencing new things at the beginning of college is a great time for growth and personal exploration. The RISE Program especially encourages students to explore their interests and develop into the characteristics that make them unique individuals. While promoting difference, everyone is united under one important principle: sustainability. I think that this is something that’s often overlooked during the excitement of the move to campus, which is why I want to offer advice that I could have used as a freshman moving on campus.

Reduce

When I first moved here, I was excited to buy brand new decor for my dorm. As someone who knew that I would be working on a tight budget, I prepared to not be able to buy everything that I initially wanted; I knew deep down it wasn’t necessary to buy a wall tapestry or a newer and cooler bike, despite how much I wanted them. Working with what you already have at home is not only a great way to save money, but also a great way to save material from being manufactured, thus reducing your footprint.

While I didn’t realize it immediately after I moved into Bailey, I eventually began to notice that I brought some things in excess. I definitely didn’t need every pair of shoes I owned (especially winter boots in September), every sweater in my closet, or every book I loved from high school. These things may not be environmentally detrimental, but they will definitely weigh you down during your move. Bring essentials only; if you know you’ll be going back home before the cold weather hits, then bring only a couple jackets and sweaters. Rotating clothing and shoes seasonally (if possible) are the best ways to manage space in your new home. If you have a strategy for what you need and when you’ll need it, you’ll move in much more efficiently, and not have to struggle with crowdedness in a tiny dorm room.

Reuse

The great thing about Bailey, and MSU dorms in general, is that a lot of furniture is already provided. I didn’t have to worry about buying expensive pieces like a bed, mattress, desk, or dresser. The university incorporated the idea of reuse right into their infrastructure!

Another great way to save money and live consciously is to look for things secondhand. Instead of buying a chair or futon from a department store, why not look on Craigslist or a “Buy, Sell, Trade” Facebook group? Try looking at consignment shops to buy new clothes, and sell ones you no longer wear. MSU even has a student Facebook community where people are trying to sell things all the time! Another great option is to visit the Surplus Store right on our very own campus; they have tons of essentials for college students, and plenty of other unique finds! If there’s any way you can buy items that have already been used, do it before you start looking to buy new products.

When it comes to textbooks, it is often unnecessary to buy a new copy, or even the newest edition. Many professors include this information online at MSU’s Schedule Builder. (You can check to see if your professor has put the required materials online by going to the class course number and section you’re enrolled in, and clicking on the section number.) Sometimes they include whether or not used books are acceptable, or if older editions can be purchased. (If it’s not online yet, don’t worry – they will tell you at the beginning of the course!) Many of these books and course packs can be bought on Amazon; it’s a great source for cheap, used books. However, if you’re worried about the environmental costs of shipping or you want to support a local bookstore, there are several bookstores in East Lansing. These books will be much pricier, and most will be new, but at least you’ll know you’re supporting local businesses.

Recycle

Boxes, boxes, boxes. It can be hard to avoid having five pounds of cardboard and armfuls of styrofoam from the items you couldn’t find used. However, MSU is great about recycling during move-in; there are tons of areas where you can drop off plastic, cardboard, paper, and styrofoam around Bailey Hall. There are tons of receptacles outside of the dorm, but also plenty with the residence hall; look on the first floor near the mailboxes and vending machines. You can recycle almost anything here at MSU; diverting waste from the landfill is the best way to go!

Another great thing about RISE is that you can compost your food waste in your very own room! Stop by the offices to ask about composting or vermicomposting in your room; there will likely be some workshops that will get you set up with your own compost bins. Again, this will divert your waste from landfills and bring nutrients back into the soil, which contributes to the food loop that we promote here in RISE, and at the Bailey GREENhouse and Urban Farm.


Clearly, there are many ways that you can contribute positively to the environmentally sustainable community here at Bailey Hall. While it may not be practicable or feasible to meet all these criteria, try to keep these tips in mind as you prepare to move on campus!

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