With the impending chaos of global warming and an ongoing oil crisis, we’ve all heard the same environmental battle cries ad nauseum: Conserve energy, reuse appropriately and recycle, well, everything. But as the green movement turns from drab to chic, these timeworn guidelines sound a little like white noise.

Whether you’ve already jumped on the eco-bandwagon or have no idea where to start, these tips will help steer you in the right direction toward a more college-friendly plan in designing a healthy (and stylish) living space, no matter where on campus you’ve dropped your bags for the year.

Living Space
For most college students, your bedroom is your workspace and your living room, so why trash it with toxic chemicals? It’s probably also where you spend most of your time, meaning it’s worth investing in. Try opting for organic cotton bedding to start, which you can find for reasonable prices at most major stores, like Target or Bed Bath & Beyond.

And for that half-empty bookshelf next to the bed, there’s no sense spending money on bookends (which are always overpriced anyway) when you can fill a couple of aesthetically interesting jars with water and call it a job well done. They’ll likely be heavier than anything you could hope to buy, and you’ll be, you know, “unique.”

You might think your increasingly miniature gizmos and gadgets covering your desktop are some of the few items not causing imminent harm, but think twice before you toss that old cell phone in favor of the BlackBerry you’ve been lusting over for months. Electronic waste has become more problematic than ever now that technology is considered quickly outdated and disposable, filling our landfills and leaking toxic chemicals into the groundwater. eCycling — or the recycling of electronics — is a chore worth adding to your To-Do list this year. You can visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for a comprehensive overview of the issue, or just plug your zip code into the search box at Mygreenelectronics.org to find recycling centers in or around Ann Arbor.

Much like your primary living space, your kitchen probably has a proud role in your life. Even if you’re staying in the dorms, odds are good you at least have an emergency stack of disposable dishes, or maybe a trashcan filled with plastic bags from your last trip to Meijer. Ditch both habits immediately. If you have room to store dishes, consider buying an eclectic mix from a thrift store to build your own distinct collection. If disposable is a priority, there are a range of options beyond waste-heavy paper and plastic products. Companies like bambu make single-use dishes and utensils from bamboo, an easily renewable material and plastic dishes made entirely from recycled materials are another alternative (try Recycline). The fact that they’re often produced with modern design in mind beats out Dixie cups any day. And no, Chinet is not prettier.

As for those unsightly (and environmentally damaging) plastic bags, nearly every grocery store sells a reusable tote these days. If it feels a little out of your comfort zone to “lug” a few extra ounces to the store with you — or maybe your concern is treading the fine line between hip and hippie — ask for a few cents discount if you use an older paper bag from the same store. You’ll be surprised at how many places adhere to this semi-standard policy.

For the truly adventurous (something tells me most of you are longtime Kerrytown residents), composting is as easy as pitching your leftover produce into the trash. Don’t let Oprah and Julia Roberts convince you that you need a state-of-the-art compactor — a basic airtight container will work. With the ultra-rich fertilizer you’ll create, you can give your yard a healthy snack or grow fresh herbs far more cheaply than if you were buying them in a store.

If you’re dousing your bathroom in bleach every time you see a spot (or for many of you, not touching those tiled surfaces at all), it’s time to update your routine. Bathroom bleach may be the laziest form of cleaning — pour, wait, rinse — but it’s also one of the most toxic. Even if you don’t care where that bleach is going once it runs down the drain, you should be worried about its effects on your body in the meantime (read the label: skin irritation, irreversible eye damage and hazardous fumes). Do yourself (and your roommates) a favor by switching to an all-natural cleaning product like Method or Clorox’s Green Works. If you’re pinched for cash, a simple brew of vinegar and water will do the job just fine and often works even better than store-bought varieties.

You should all know by now that high-efficiency light bulbs exist, but there are a few catches that sometimes keep customers away. Even though they last far longer and save massive amounts of energy, the bulbs sometimes don’t fit appliances perfectly and they always take a little extra time to warm up to full brightness. If you can’t get past the hang-ups, try splitting your bulbs between regular and high-efficiency. Every bit counts, and your checkbook will thank you over time.

You know that precious corner in your kitchen or closet, the one stacked high with crates of plastic water bottles? That’s valuable space, and you’re wasting it! Say goodbye to your safety blanket — or what you may prefer to call liquid gold — and get yourself a reusable water bottle. Because what you consider a “minor” indulgence is overwhelming our landfills and sucking down costly oil in production, literally billions of water bottles at a time. Lucky for you, this is a trend that’s picking up speed, meaning the availability of fashionable and affordable options are popping up everywhere.

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