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Top 10 Eco-Friendly Things to Pack for College

B.A. Winner

Is there a Dr. in the house? M.A.ybe so – help your kid, friend, or sibling hit the books with a degree of eco-style, by sending them off with supplies like recycled bulletin boards and reusable laundry gear – or bundle smaller stuff into a PVC-free backpack or storage bin as a care package. No PhD required.

(For pre-college kiddos, check out A Biter’s Guide to Hitting the Books next month.)

1. Sheet smarts.

All-nighter pulled. Paper slipped under the Prof’s door five minutes before it was due. Time to crash…on soft, 100% organic-cotton sheets – no pesticides involved. PBteen’s Organic Sheet Sets ($89) come in twin size, with cheery graphic prints like flowers and turntables. Also: organic towels. Give it.

2. Board games.

Great for keeping class schedules and phone numbers handy, Envi Combo Magnetic Dry-Erase/Cork Bulletin Boards ($38) are Cradle-to-Cradle certified – made from recycled materials and designed to be recycled. Pair with nontoxic pens, and emblazon it with a bon voyage message (or a reminder about your birthday – oh, whoops, was that permanent ink?). Give it.

3. Electric bookaloo.

One thing’s for sure – they’re going to read. A lot. Give ’em an electronic book reader like the new bigger-format, 9.7-inch Kindle DX ($489) – no trees necessary. They can download 300K books (lighter and cheaper than paper = less shoulder pain, more beer money), plus magazines and newspapers; highlight and make notes as they read; and download books anywhere. Give it.

4. Shower power.

Prep their feet for shared showers with a pair of germ-deflecting Splaff Flops ($40), made from recycled materials like race-car tires and easily renewable materials like hemp. Consider packaging with an eco scrubber or soap; they come in both guy and girl sizes. Give it.

5. It’s in the bag.

Between advanced calculus and Proust is another subject: the Laundromat. Make it easy for them to haul their dirty socks cross-campus with a Rice and Feed Laundry Bag ($39), one-of-a-kind heavy-duty laundry bags (big enough for two loads) made from old…wait for it…rice and feed bags that’d otherwise get tossed. (Throw in a bottle of eco stain remover or laundry detergent for the works.) Give it.

6. The incredible drinking woman (or guy).

School should quench their thirst for knowledge, but not for water. Help them stay hydrated (and away from nasty chems like BPA) with an aluminum Greensender SIGG Bottle ($25-$28) that they can fill up and take anywhere. It’ll help cut back on disposable plastic water bottles, which require 1.5 million barrels of oil each year to make. Give it.

7. Sa-wing battery!

Can one set of batteries last till graduation? Yep – if they’re rechargeable. Americans buy three billion batteries per year, tons of which get trashed; rechargeables cut way down on that waste. Pack some USBCell AA Batteries ($18/2), which juice up when you plug them into any computer’s USB port (so even if they get nowhere on their paper, at least they accomplish something). Give it.

8. Balls out.

Your gift: if you’re a mom, less laundry to do each week. Their gift: 2+ years of soft, static-free clothes…if you set them up with some reusable Wool Dryer Balls ($24/4). Unlike disposable sheets, they’ll last for years, contain no animal byproducts, and create zero waste. Nice with a couple rolls of quarters. Give it.

9. Bin there, done that.

Load ’em up with a few Eco-Fabric Open Bins ($13) for extra storage of shoes, toiletries, whatever there isn’t room for in their 2-by-2-foot closet – you can even use it to package other things they’ll need. Simple, stylish, and easy to move around, they’re also made mostly out of recycled bottles. Give it.

10. Pure energy.

Even if they get stuck rooming with a knuckle-cracking Religious Studies major who’s light on showers, you can make sure dorm life’s a little comfier with an Energy-Star-rated, energy-saving coffeemaker (great paired with a reusable mug and organic coffee). Other bigger-ticket options: an ES-rated mini fridge, computer, monitor, or printer. Give it.

For care-package ideas, check out the Daily Tip.

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