Let me start by saying that in my dorm room, there are exactly three electrical outlets. One is directly under my bed and not in easy reach. The other is right behind my roommate’s desk (also not easy to reach), and the other is in the back corner of the room, right in front of my roommate’s closet. Not very strategically placed.
And yet, there are SO MANY things to plug in! Who knew, right? But when you get around to it, you have your computer, your printer, your alarm clock, your hair dryer, your cell phone charger, your bedside lamp, and (for me, at least) your keyboard, your amp, and your electric water heater.
Question being, how on earth can you POSSIBLY manage to plug all of these things in without it being a ridiculous hassle? Well, let’s just say that I have three 8-plug power strips and two extension chords, literally the only way that I can both reach the outlets and have enough outlets.
So now the question is, how much energy do I waste by having all of these appliances in all the time? Well, Wellesley College did a study in which they found that each dorm room uses 2,142,616 kWh of electricity every year, of which approximately 59,120 kWh is due to unnecessary waste. Not so good.
Let’s look at a couple of ways to reduce this. First of all, using a surge protector or power strip is a good way to reduce electrical waste. So I’m doing good so far, right? Well, that’s good for when you’re using all of those chords, but not so good for when they’re not in use. Tip: Put all of the appliances that need to be plugged in all the time on one power strip (alarm clock, lamp, etc.) along with the chords that can be unplugged for most of the day (cell charger, electrical tea kettle, keyboard, amp, etc.). Unplug the latter whenever possible. Put the rest of your appliances (like your computer/laptop and printer, which generally can be turned off overnight) on the other power strip and just switch the power strip to “off” overnight. Easy, right? Right.
Also, there’s a lot of cool programs that colleges are setting up to deal with this energy waste. I know that at Tufts they set up a competition called “Do it in the dark”; students are urged to unplug their appliances when not in use, not have the heat on with the windows open, and turn off the lights when they aren’t needed. The dorm that uses the least amount of energy after two months gets a prize. It makes students more conscientious about energy usage and trying to conserve it.
Tufts also has a program called “Get clean! Power your room green!” in which students can pay an extra $10 per semester that goes toward purchasing renewable energy sources for the Tufts campus. I did it last semester, and I’m hoping that a lot of other people did too, because if enough people do it there should be a significant difference in energy waste.
Note to self: Remember to unplug. It is not necessary to have everything on at once.
Lily Berthold-Bond grew up in a chemical-free zone and has struggled her whole life to understand and accept this non-commercial lifestyle. Now a freshman at Tufts University, she has embraced her green life and hopes to share its possibilities with the rest of her generation.