Heading to college? Shrink Your Dorm Print will help students make a statement

An annual rite of passage is fast approaching. Parents, some wistful and others elated, will drop their kids off at college for the first time. To prepare for the big day, we’re launching the Shrink Your Dorm Print campaign.

For students who want to look good and do good, we begin with the dorm room. Our tip sheet and shopping guide will help create a room that’s truly awesome — cool, inexpensive, and eco-friendly.

Yes, students can shrink their carbon footprint and do their part to protect the planet without looking lame or busting the budget. Simple steps make it possible. Consider this: If every US college student replaced a single incandescent light bulb with an LED (light emitting diode), we could take a small commercial coal-fired power plant offline each school year.

As the federal government considers cutting back energy efficiency programs, colleges and students are pushing forward with energy-saving efforts. Colleges are holding light bulb exchanges and upping the efficiency of their buildings as well as their power plants. Students are making individual changes, prodding campus-wide action, and joining kill-a-watt competitions.

Recent polls may explain this this flurry of activity. The 2016 Survey of America’s College Studentsfound that 86% consider global warming a serious problem, up from 80% a year earlier. The 2015 survey found that 76% prefer the United States focus on energy-saving regulations rather than increased energy production.

First steps to a truly awesome dorm room

Considering such collegiate sentiment, we want to help you make a difference. Before shopping or packing, ask these questions: How much stuff do I really need? Could I share rather than buy? Sure, some students will swag out their rooms with energy-guzzling TVs, game consoles, microwaves, or mini-fridges. You can do better.

Find low-cost, efficient alternatives: use an electric kettle rather than a microwave to make coffee; a drying rack instead of the dorm dryer to protect clothes; a desk fan rather than an air conditioner to stay cool; a bike instead of a car to get around town; a tablet rather than a game console to stream media.

If buying electronics or appliances, buy the most efficient models by looking for the blue ENERGY STAR® label. The most important purchase may be an advanced power strip or surge protector, which makes it much easier to turn off devices when they’re not in use. Plug all electronics into this strip and turn it off when you leave.

Some steps only require good behavior. For example, turn off the lights before heading to class. On hot summer days, close the window blinds to keep out the sun’s warmth and reduce air conditioning. On sunny winter days, open them to allow in the sun’s warmth – something known as passive solar heating.

With computers, select power-saving settings and dim your screen, especially at night. Be sure to give your laptop — and yourself — some rest. Otherwise, you could end up like Michael Scott on The Office, who said: "I'm an early bird and I'm a night owl. So I'm wise and I have worms."

Make a statement! After focusing on the dorm room, check the dorm facilities to see if they have LEDs, efficient washing machines and dryers, and well-sealed doors and windows. Get involved in campus-wide sustainability. Use #ShrinkYourDormPrint to share photos and info on campus energy-saving efforts.

With perseverance, students can achieve a lot. Here’s a quote from one more famous person – Dr. Seuss, who may remind students of childhood as they leap into adulthood:

“Oh, the places you’ll go! … Kid, you’ll move mountains! ... Get on your way!”

Good luck with your college foray. Have fun, learn a lot (yes, that IS the purpose of college) and don’t forget to text or call home — not to ask for something but simply to say hello.

For more information, contact Wendy Koch (wkoch@aceee.org) or Jennifer Amann (jamann@aceee.org).