Emma Pettit

This article is part 2 of a 4 part series on "Greening your college life." Read part 1.
As a college student, I know first-hand that it can seem difficult to lead a sustainable life in college. Dorm buildings are often less energy efficient, recycling options might be limited, and students don't have extra money to splurge on eco-friendly products.

However, even if you live in an older building — and even if you're not in college — it's still possible to make a difference and have a positive environmental impact.

Here's how 

Improving the air quality of a room is one of the best ways to enhance a dorm room’s environment. It can also help save power and eliminate harmful air-born toxins.

There are three simple things every college student can do to help better the air quality in their living space.

1. Create air flow

Typical household items can create problems for air quality. Older carpets can be breeding grounds for biological pollutants. Space heaters can produce carbon monoxide. Even artificial air fresheners have the potential to release unhealthy organic gases.

One of the best ways to clear out all of these harmful impurities, especially if you don’t have the ability to replace old carpets or heaters, is to create a draft. Open a few windows and doors and let outside air circulate through the apartment. Try not to turn on the air conditioner, which could also be a source of allergens and pollutants. This will save power and the cool air from outdoors will naturally condition your environment.

2. Limit tobacco usage

Tobacco smoke can be one of the most toxic things for a living space. It contains harmful chemicals and can make it difficult to breathe not only for the smoker, but for those around them. The best solution is to not smoke in the apartment or dorm room at all. But if you have to, open a window or use an exhaust fan, and limit smoking to one private area where it won’t disturb others.

3. Install potted plants

Plants are one of the easiest ways to help filter the air. Leaves, roots and stems take in pollutants like excess carbon dioxide, ammonia fumes, and benzene and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. Some plants do the job better than others. A NASA study found that aloe, spider plants and English Ivy are some of the best choices. If you prefer flowers, Gerber Daisies and Azaleas have also shown to be good options for air filtration.

Improving air quality through LEED

LEED recognizes the importance of air quality and thus has several credits dedicated to it including Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control, Minimum indoor air quality performance, and an Indoor air quality assessment. The goal for these credits is to “promote occupants’ comfort, well-being, and productivity” with clean air. Both mechanical and natural ventilation are important in a LEED building and each ventilation system that supplies outside air must have filters or air-cleaning devices that meet certain standards. Smoking is also prohibited in all LEED certified buildings and around the property to prevent carcinogens and pollutants from getting into the atmosphere of the space.

Clean air is incredibly important for both LEED certification and for living a healthy life. Limiting tobacco use, creating a draft and installing potted plants can help any student improve the air quality of their dorm or apartment.