7 Ways to Create a Healthier Living Space in College

If you or your children plan to live on-campus this year, you probably have a lot of concerns about health and safety. After-all, dorm room living won’t be what it used to be even just a few short months ago. There will likely be social distancing requirements, masks, and (sadly) a whole lot of over sanitization of common areas. However, while many things may seem out of our control there is plenty you can do to create a healthier dorm environment to support optimal immunity and well-being.

Tip #1: Get in the habit of opening windows

Opening windows twice a day for 10-20 minutes is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective ways to improve your indoor air quality. If you’re unsure if your assigned dorm room will have windows that open, we’d highly recommend calling and requesting this; though most buildings must have functional windows for safety reasons. 

BONUS TIP: If you have the space and budget and/or your dorm is located in an older (think “possible mold”) or brand new building (think “VOCs outgassing”), using a high-quality air purifier can make a significant difference. The Bedroom Machine or Junior Size by Austin Air or the Aireox Model 45D are all great choices for small spaces.

Tip #2: Invest in affordable non-toxic linens

Why bother with organic sheets? Because many other types of sheets, especially those labeled: “easy care” or “wrinkle-resistant” are treated with a chemical process that leaves behind formaldehyde1, a known carcinogen (in the very fabric you lay your head on at night!)2. Plus, the nature of the fabric treatment process ensures the chemicals remain in the fabric…even after many, many, many washes.

The good news is organic sheets don’t cost an arm and a leg anymore. For example, Target stocks some super comfy 300-thread count organic cotton sheets for under $30.00, check them out here.

Tip #3: Create a non-toxic cleaning and laundry caddy

Space is always at a premium in dorm living—as is the desire to spend any precious free time cleaning and doing laundry! Which means you won’t have space for a bunch of cleaning products…Branch Basics Concentrate to the rescue! No harmful fumes, it removes germs, and it can be used to clean nearly everything from bathrooms, counters, and floors to dirty clothes, fruits and vegetables, and even your hands, body, and car. Click here to learn more. Laundry is an especially important use as detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets contain fragrances that pollute the entire room’s air as well as absorb into the skin.

Tip #4: Swap out synthetic air fresheners/diffusers for pure essential oils

If you implement only one tip from this post, we’d suggest not using products made with synthetic fragrances! Chemical fragrances in the form of scented candles, air fresheners, etc. are endocrine disruptors, asthmagens, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and obesogens. They are considered one of the world’s top allergens and lung irritants! 3!

Don’t want to go fragrance-free? Grab yourself a 100% beeswax candle or an inexpensive essential oil diffuser and choose a selection of 100% pure organic essential oils to diffuse away any funky smells.

Tip #5: Filter your drinking water and keep a reusable water bottle handy

Just because you’re living on campus doesn’t mean you have to settle for chemical-laden tap water. Unfortunately, most pitcher-style water filters do little to reduce serious contaminants beyond chlorine (like heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, VOCs, etc.), but there are some good small filters out there. Our favorite effective dorm-friendly filters include: CWR Enviro’s Emergency Gravity Unit Filter, or if you have very limited space go for the Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher, which independent testing shows removes 99.7% of 232 harmful contaminants (if you’re concerned about storing your water in plastic—like us—you can filter it in this pitcher then transfer to a glass or lead-free stainless steel container).

Tip #6: Avoid microwaves 

Microwaves are a convenient and fire-safe way to heat up leftovers or make a quick meal. Unfortunately, they’ve been shown to degrade the quality of your food, your eye health, and may even leak radiation. Instead, consider a mini slow cooker to heat up soups, casseroles, and other foods or use your dorm’s kitchen to safely heat up food on a stove.

If your dormitory building does not have a kitchen and microwaves are the ONLY cooking tool allowed, use them sparingly. Make sure the door seals well and be sure to leave the room while they’re in operation.

Tip #7: Keep your hand-washing and beauty routine au-naturale

Personal care products, including makeup, face lotions, body lotions, hair care products, etc. are notorious for containing harmful chemical ingredients, such as carcinogens, allergens, lung irritants, endocrine-disruptors, and a slew of other unsavory characters; most of which are not tested or regulated by the FDA.

The best tool to measure the toxicity (or lack thereof) of personal care products is to use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database and app to evaluate ingredients. We recommend products with all ingredients rated a 1 or 2.

Did you know, you can replace toxic personal care products with Branch Basics? Use our Foaming wash to clean your face, remove makeup and even shave.

Insofar as handwashing goes, numerous studies and experts show that soap is the most effective way to disarm coronavirus and other pathogens4, 5. Branch Basics Concentrate can be made into a 100% natural foaming hand soap in about 2 seconds (we include a soap dispenser in the Starter Kit) that you can use in your dorm room and carry with you to class.

We hope these tips are helpful! Learn more by watching our #TossTheToxins series on YouTube!

  1. https://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10875.pdf
  2. https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1048AppC
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093181/
  4. https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/12/science-soap-kills-coronavirus-alcohol-based-disinfectants
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/health/soap-coronavirus-handwashing-germs.html

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for this!! I have been wondering what to do for my daughters as they went off to college, especially in regards to their water. This article was helpful on so many levels. I certainly appreciate your commitment to our health!


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