Families with college-age kids are checking off their Dorm Essentials lists and packing up the car for that iconic family event – College Move-In Day. Here are some tips to reduce your college student’s exposure to toxic chemicals in their new digs and making a healthy college dorm room for them.

1. Bedding: Make it cotton and Oeko-Tex certified

Standard dorm mattresses are Twin XL, which can be hard to find bedding for.  We found that Pottery Barn Teens has many Twin XL options that are 100% cotton and Oeko-Tex certified – one of the highest environmental certifications available – with reduced toxics in the textiles.

2. Personal Care Products: Skip the chemicals

Follow our tips for finding less-toxic personal care products for tweens and teens and pack plenty so they are on hand when school gets busy. Then buy extras during visits, and send some along in care packages.

3. Laundry: Lighten the chemical load

Again, send plenty of a less-toxic laundry soap with your student and replace during visits. Get wool laundry balls to avoid chemical-laden laundry sheets.

4. Coffee maker: Caffeine without chemicals and unnecessary waste

If your college student is insisting on a K-cup coffee maker for that early morning cuppa Joe, opt for one that has a filter insert that they can put ground coffee in instead of using plastic K-cups. To stop the protestations, make sure your student knows this option will save them lots of money! An even healthier option, and almost as convenient, is a single serving ceramic coffee cone and unbleached paper filters.

5. Hot Water Kettle: Skip the plastic

If your student prefers tea to coffee, get them a stainless steal electric kettle instead of a cheaper plastic one. In this case the healthier alternative is more expensive, but they are also more durable.

6. Cleaning Supplies: Hopefully not wishful thinking

Think about springing for a stash of healthy cleaning supplies for your student and their suite-mates if they are responsible for cleaning their room (though there’s no guarantee this cleaning will actually happen!). Budget-conscious college students may also like learning about how homemade healthy cleaning alternatives are easy on a college student’s budget when keeping a healthy college dorm room.

7. Shopping: Keep ’em stocked up

Find the nearest store that your student can get to easily that sells healthy personal care products, laundry soap, etc. In a city or suburb it could be a Whole Foods Market or similar supermarket. Small towns may have a good old-fashioned natural foods store. If your student knows where to buy, they will be more likely to shop there.

8. Healthy Eating: Cook food safely

College students living in dorms with food service don’t have much choice about whether they get organic foods or not. However, snack time and social get-togethers can be times they can consume fewer chemicals. Your student can store organic, fresh snacks and foods in a small room fridge— some dorm rooms include these or many students bring their own.  Many dorms also have large group kitchens available, but most require students to use their own kitchen supplies. If you opt to send cookware with your student, avoid non-stick cookware and get wood or food-safe ceramic tableware.  Avoid plastic – especially in the dorm microwave.

9. Air Filter: Breathe easier with a HEPA filter

Mattresses and electronics often contain toxic chemicals that escape out of the products and glom onto dust. Your dorm denizen probably won’t be vacuuming very often, so one way to get rid of toxics on dust is to use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter. Look for stack models with a small footprint as a space saver when keeping a healthy college dorm room.

10. Lounging Around: Choose healthier furniture

Bean bag chairs and other kinds of dorm lounge chairs are often filled with toxic-containing polystyrene beads or polyurethane foam and are covered with vinyl/PVC.  Healthier options are available. Soaring Heart makes floor and throw pillows in various sizes and shapes that are made of organic wool and cotton but are still relatively affordable. Pile these up on the floor for a comfy and healthy college dorm hang out spot.

Great job getting your student geared up for college! And don’t worry, your student will be back for summer before you know it. But now that you’re going to have lots more time with kids away at college, why not get involved with Washington Toxics Coalition!

Image courtesy Flickr user @NazarethCollege.

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