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Beginning a college year can be stressful enough without worrying about how sustainable the dorm rooms are, or the added hassle of acquiring a myriad of dorm room supplies and decorations before classes begin. Now with so many new green alternatives to assist the more than 16 million college students in the US, students can settle into their new digs with their good green intentions intact.

Many colleges have made environmental concerns a priority on their campuses. These schools offer an array of environmental standards from incorporating wind turbines for energy conservation, to eliminating ice machines in the dining halls. Some residence halls sport solar panels and green roofs on the exterior, and low-VOC paints on the interior.

Having had college students living in dorm rooms on and off for the last seven years, I've seen these dusty (and often pillbox size) rooms clean up their act with regard to environmental sustainability. One school replaced old plastic furniture and nasty carpeting with simple bamboo furniture and sustainable flooring.

Eco-friendly ideas for dorm living:

- Desk: This solar desk lamp  from Ikea is cheap (less than $20.00) and needs no electrical connections, making it easy to move around the room. It also comes in 5 cool colors.

- Electronics: A solar charger for iPods, phones and laptops make these portable electronics friendlier without the usage of added electricity.

- Bed: To customize and save money consider making a duvet cover. Duvets take less time to dry than heavy blankets (duvets keep the inside blanket clean). Making the bed with a duvet cover is a cinch (even for busy college students).

- Bath: Hemp shower curtains are beautiful and require no PVC liner. The fabric resists mold and mildew. A cotton shower curtain and cotton liner may be easier on a college students budget.

- Cooking: Ditch the microwave and don the rice cookers and Crock Pots. Efficient rice cookers (without Teflon or aluminum pot inserts) not only cook the cheap, healthy staple (organic brown rice), but can be used for cooking veggies too. Crock Pots are wonderful for making easy complete meals on the go.

Want help designing a dorm room? Each college provides a list of creature comforts to bring for dorm life. To save time and endless trips to Target, Ikea, Staples and the Dollar Store, Design Your Dorm, a free web-based 3-D interior design tool spotted on the Springwise site, may be the answer. Here?s how it works: After the student registers on the site by college, the online gadget generates a selection of floor plans with exact room dimensions used in the corresponding dorms. For colleges and universities that haven?t signed on, students are given a series of generic room layouts. Once the type of room is entered?single, double or triple, moving furniture and accessories around is easy. Virtually drag and drop the items into the room to see how they will look in the space. Perhaps best of all, roommates can collaborate online and use the site to plan and coordinate what they will need ahead of time. Again, helping college students acquire more of what they desperately need most: time and money.

For more decorating tips check out Project Green Dorm.

About the author: Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley. 

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