Sponsored by Brita
One of the most exciting parts of packing up and heading to college is the freedom of finally having your own digs (sure, it may be a dorm, but it’s still yours!) and, of course, filling it with cool stuff that fits your style. But here’s a reality check: it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and overload your room with items you may never even use; it’s a common pitfall that has consequences not only for your wallet, but also for the planet.
Before you embark on a spending spree for pieces that will eventually find their way into the trash bin, take a mindful moment to consider what essentials will actually serve you–and the environment–well during your years on campus. To get you started, we rounded up a short list of dorm essentials that will help you create a home-away-from-home that is equal parts comfy and eco-conscious. The best part? You can keep using these must-haves long after graduation, so you can rest assured they’re worth the investment.
Organic Sheets. Quality shuteye is key for acing your exams and staying healthy. And believe it or not, comfy, sustainable bedding can go a long way in helping you achieve serene slumber. When you look for sheets, comforters and even towels, opt for natural and organic textiles made from materials such as cotton, bamboo, hemp or flax. Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides and pesticides than any other crop in the world, and many sheets, especially ones labeled “wrinkle-free,” are treated with harsh chemicals like formaldehyde that can irritate skin. By choosing organic bedding, you can rest easy (literally!) knowing that you’re nestled up against sheets that are ethically sourced and better for the environment and your health. This super soft set also happens to be Fair Trade Certified and comes in both twin and twin XL sizes.
Solid Hemmed Sheet Set ($200-$295)
Water Filtration Pitcher. Dorm water can have a, shall we say, funky flavor. But instead of resorting to bottled water to stay hydrated during all-night study sessions, invest in a water filtration pitcher that can reduce unappetizing tastes, odors and impurities, as well as your plastic footprint (you can reduce up to 1,800 plastic bottles a year!). And guess what? Ditching single-use plastic bottles can save you a mega bucks–up to $1,450 a year!–so you can stash your hard-earned cash away for spring break. The compact size of this five-cup Brita pitcher makes it ideal for dorms, delivering great-tasting water (sayonara chlorine, copper, cadmium and mercury) even if you’re short on space.
Smart Strip. Most dorms don’t have nearly enough outlets, an unanticipated challenge that could spark world war three between you and your roommates if not negotiated carefully. A smart power strip will help keep the peace by increasing the number of outlets while also drastically cutting down on electricity wasted from phantom loads (the energy used by electronics that are plugged in but turned off). Smart strips are a special kind of power strip that can sense when your electronics are in standby or turned off and will automatically turn off power to peripherals, preventing them from drawing an idle current. For example, if your computer is turned off, the strip will turn off power to your printer. Cool, right? When you’re heading out to class, just switch the power strip off.
Emberstrip 8PC+ ($99.99)
Drying Rack. Dryers are the second most energy-consuming appliance after refrigerators. Letting clothes air dry on a drying rack can slash your consumption in a major way. Opt for a spacious foldable rack that’s large enough to accommodate a full load and can easily be tucked away when not in use, like this collapsible option. Another major benefit: it can help preserve the quality of your clothes and save you a few bucks each time. Between the high heat and tumbling and tossing, dryers can accelerate the wear and tear on your duds and even ruin some fabrics (not fun).
Frost Drying Rack ($14.99)
House Plants. Between dirty laundry, stale air and sharing a small space with other people, dorm living is an olfactory experience. Air fresheners or plug-ins are one way to refresh your room, but you can also use plants to improve air quality. A whole host of plants have natural air filtering powers, including this pothos, so you can purify the air sans synthetic toxins. Plants also make great decor–they’re cheap, can boost concentration and productivity, and they never go out of style.
Philodendron Heartleaf ($35)
Non-toxic Cleaning Products. Keeping your dorm clean is, of course, another way to keep smells in check, but a lot of cleaning products are filled with toxic chemicals that are harmful for your health and the environment. When shopping for cleaning supplies, choose non-toxic brands like Branch Basics. The multi-purpose concentrate is made from a plant-based, biodegradable formula that can be diluted for cleaning virtually everything. All of the bottles in the starter kit are meant to be reused and refilled over and over again, which means you’ll be cutting down on waste too.
LED Lightbulbs. Good lighting is critical for studying (and for getting ready for a night out, of course). Daylight is best for a clear, active mind, but for late night study sessions you’ll need to rely on artificial options. Layer your lighting (you’ll want a table or desk lamp plus your overhead fixture) and use daylight LED lightbulbs (5000 Kelvin color temperature). They offer impressive brightness and are incredibly efficient, using only a fraction of the electricity of halogen and incandescent bulbs. These bulbs are rated to last about six years, meaning they’ll take you all through your studies and beyond, so think about leaving them behind for the next tenant to make your lasting sustainable mark.
An Area Rug. A floor cover is a great double duty piece that will add a punch of personality to a drab dorm interior while also helping you reduce your energy consumption. How? Rugs can help insulate your space by holding onto heat, so you’ll be less tempted to reach for the thermostat. Opt for one made of natural, non-toxic or recycled materials, like this hand-woven number, whose source you can verify.
Bandera Accent Rug ($155)
The editors at SheFinds wrote this post on behalf of Brita and received compensation as part of our agreement.