ByLisa Beres

Aug 12, 2015

While new found freedom, late night pizza, and rush week can be invigorating for any new freshmen, if you’re one of the over 30 million collage students in the US, reducing toxic materials in your new home-away-from-home should be a top priority. Creating a greener dorm just makes sense since you’ll spend countless hours studying, eating, snoozing, and socializing in these often tiny spaces.

While staying healthy is of uber-importance to academic inhabitants, most dorm mattresses, poor air quality, and crammed quarters leave little to be desired. There are, however, some surefire ways to create a safe sanctuary that would leave even the most passionate tiny-house-enthusiast, green with envy.

By considering everything that you’ll come in contact with, implementing these seven tips will assure successful semesters and a healthy habitat.

dorm room
Image courtesy of stnorbert.

1. De-Clutter & Organize

Over 25 million Americans suffer from asthma and over 20 million have a dust mite allergy today, according to the AAFA; making it the most common indoor allergen. Clutter traps dust and dust can trigger a host of allergies and asthma attacks to those allergic. Most dorms are full of stacks of books and piles of paper. Use eco friendly wooden or fabric organizers and bins to clear out clutter. Keep a stacking recycle bin in your dorm for easy disposal of recyclable items.

2. Choose Organic Linens & a Nontoxic Mattress

As you slip under the covers and lay your weary head down to sleep, you may be breathing in formaldehyde and other harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Since your skin is your largest organ, it only makes sense that what you sleep on is safe enough to be absorbed by your body. Formaldehyde, a carcinogen, is released from everyday furnishings including permanent press linens and drapery. It has been known to cause wheezing, allergic reactions, and more serious illness.

Ditch the “wrinkle-free” sheets and those containing synthetic additives and pesticides and opt for certified organic linens. Use organic barrier covers for pillows and mattresses to provide an allergen barrier. And, if your collegiate budget allows, splurge on a toxin-free mattress made from certified wool, natural rubber, and/or organic cotton. My go-to retail picks include:

  • Pottery Barn’s Eco-Friendly ShopGreat for eco upholstery, recycled area rugs, reclaimed wood, and a plethora of organic duvets, shams, comforters, blankets, sheet sets, and towels.
  • Boll & BranchFair Trade and certified organic linens. A portion of every purchase goes to Not for Sale to fight human trafficking. Twin XL sizes perfectly sized for standard dorm-room beds.
  • CoyuchiOrganic bed linens, shower curtains, pillows, mattresses protectors, and bath.
  • EarthsakeOrganic mattresses, organic pillows, organic linens, and more.

3. Filter Your Drinking Water

Chlorine, fluoride, parasites, and heavy metals are likely present in your tap water. Most people don’t realize they’re exposing themselves to chemicals and hundreds of biological contaminants.

But, you’re well aware bottled water isn’t the solution. The best way to ensure clean drinking water is to use a portable filter like the Travel Berkey to remove viruses, harmful pathogenic bacteria, cysts, parasites, unhealthy contaminants, and impurities. In stainless steel and only 18 inches high, it’s perfect for a dorm and can produce 2.75 gallons (10.4 liters) of purified water per hour. Can you say graduation gift? Enjoy healthy and affordable water from your dorm without plastic waste.

4. Avoid PVC

In addition to your shower curtain, avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) anywhere you can. No other plastic contains or releases as many dangerous chemicals including: dioxins, hormone disrupting chemicals called phthalates, vinyl chloride, and more. PVC is dangerous to our health from production and use through disposal. Avoid anything with the number “3” inside the recycling triangle.

5. Reuse While You Move

When you pack up to head off to college, don’t waste money on new boxes. Instead, try a moving kit from Used Cardboard Boxes and enjoy free delivery right to your home. The Average Joe Studio moving kit at $38.00 comes with 17 reclaimed cardboard boxes and supplies.

dorm desk
Image courtesy of Brian Moore.

6. Reduce Your Exposure to EMFs

Radio frequency signals from portable phones, cell phones, and wireless devices expose you to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), which has been shown to interfere with the body’s immune system. Turn items off before going to bed or turn your cell phone to airplane mode to safeguard against electromagnetic radiation.

Research has also shown that exposure to high magnetic fields while sleeping can cause severe long-term illness. Many electric clocks produce high magnetic fields. Replace your alarm clock with a battery-powered model.

7. Improve Indoor Air Quality

The materials used in dorms and sold as college décor, furniture, and accessories can contain a variety of synthetic materials from VOCs in paint and flame retardants in foam cushions to chemically treated pressed wood products. These chemicals can off-gas into the air.

Let your dorm breathe! A simple way to improve the air quality is to open windows, add plants, and let the fresh air in. Even so, you should also get a portable air purifier with a carbon filter for removal of chemical contaminants and a HEPA filter to remove dust, pollens, dander, odors, and more.

There you have it – your freshman seven (and by that, I don’t mean unwanted pounds). Whether you’re pulling an all-nighter or cramming for a final, there’s no need to comprise your health or that of the planet. After all, you are the future!

By Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."