When one thinks about the energy use involved in a college dormitory, the image of television sets on, lights being left on, micro-fridges running, and various other electronic gadgets being used on a daily basis comes to mind.  It would seem that all of these amenities would give little reason for students to live any other way.  But what if there were a group of students that would compromise most of their technology and the luxury of the easiest living style all for the sake of helping to save the environment and reduce their carbon footprint?  Imagine living in a dormitory dedicated to sustainability and working with the environment.  This is the concept behind the EcoDorm at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina.  First proposed over a decade ago, this innovative dormitory has incorporated a number of sustainable processes to achieve one of only two of LEED’s platinum ratings for student dormitories.  Building materials for the dorm were even chosen with recycling concepts in mind.  The building is built out of trees from the campus that had to be cut down due to a pine-beadle infestation.  Even the kitchen cabinets are made from recycled wooden fence posts.  Altogether, this structure comes together to accommodate the living needs of thirty-six students from the Warren Wilson campus.

            In the EcoDorm, student residents pledge positive actions towards sustaining the dorm and aiding in the quest for eco-friendliness.  This means that students ditch the hair dryers and put down the electronic music devices (instead, students create their own acoustic music and develop other alternative methods to college living).  In the backyard, clotheslines are filled with drying laundry, and numerous fruits, nuts, and other foods are grown in the permaculture garden for the use of the residents.  The EcoDorm also incorporates low-flush toilets on the first floor, for the flushing water comes from rainwater collected in a railway tanker that they managed to salvage. The second floors hosts compost bathrooms, in which wood chips are used as a decomposer.  With other factors, such as solar energy for lighting, the dormitory uses about two-thirds less energy than a normal building of the same size would.

            Although the functionality and extent of sustainability that the EcoDorm at Warren Wilson College exemplifies is rarely replicated among colleges and universities across America, the trend is, however, catching on.  As of now, over six hundred colleges and universities across the nation have pledged to become carbon neutral and LEED, one of the most widely accepted standards in eco-friendly designs, has certified ninety dorms.  Since college settings are typically a place of high energy usage and unsustainable practices, a shift towards the eco-trend could result in vast improvements to the environment.  By providing students with the knowledge and the means to live sustainable lives, they hold the key to teaching future generations the same, all in hopes of providing for a better environment and future.


The New York Times. (2009). The renewable dorm. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved on November 9, 2009 from http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/09/27/magazine/20090927-ecodorm-slideshow_index.html?scp=3&sq=warren%20wilson&st=cse
Wilson, C. (2009). When your dorm goes green and local. The New York Times. Retrieved on November 9, 2009 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/magazine/27Ecodorm-t.html?scp=1&sq=warren%20wilson&st=cse