Green-friendly vintage dorm room decor on a budget

The most green-friendly thing you can do is buy as much stuff as you can used -- or pull it out of dumpsters. That reality doesn't get a lot of press because no one can make money selling it to you, but it's irrefutably true. Using 100% post-consumer -- i.e. used -- is better for the planet than soy, hemp, or bamboo.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Record album covers: Some old records are worth a fortune, but most are worth about 50 cents each at yard sales, thrift shops, and flea markets. No matter what style of music you like -- punk, jazz, sixties rock, dance, etc. -- you can find tons of albums with attractive cover art that will spice up your walls, and give you a look that no one else in your dorm will have. Check out this lot of 56 New Wave/Punk LPs on eBay for some ideas of just how cool this look can be.

  • Vintage movie posters: You might think that vintage movie posters are outrageously expensive. But if you pass over the big hits with famous actors, you can get some wonderful period art for less than mass-produced Twilight posters cost at WalMart. For 99 cents on eBay, you could have had the poster for that 1958 classic The Hell Bent Kid. For $3, you can have Space Jam (but please, don't buy it),
  • Old books: This one has the potential to rub some people as uber pretentious (which it sort of is) but if you're looking to give your room that old world academia look, you can pick up old leatherbound books at yard sales or thrift shops for less than a dollar each.
  • Vintage magazines: Did you know that you can buy 1960s-vintage copies of magazines like Playboy, Life, National Geographic, and The Saturday Evening Post for $1 each or less on eBay or at flea markets? The covers and illustrations can make for interesting decor at almost no cost.
  • Old glasses: If you need plates, cups, and glasses for your dorm room, please, please, please: Do not buy this stuff at WalMart! There is so much excess dinnerware sitting in garages, thrift shops, and flea markets that it should be several decades before anyone buys this stuff new. Whether your style is stoneware, vintage kitsch, or modern, you can get better quality for a lot less money buying used. Any decent-sized thrift shop will have a good selection.
There's another advantage to decorating this way instead of heading to Ikea, HomeGoods, or Because you're buying something old that is already depreciated as much as it ever will, you will probably be able to sell much of what you buy for about what you paid for it when you decide to change things up.

Pay the right price and you might even be able to make a profit from your dorm room decorating -- and, your room won't look like every other dorm room at your school. Do it right, and it won't look like a dorm room at all.

The College on a Dime series is written by Zac Bissonnette, a junior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His book College On a Dime will be published by Penguin in the fall.
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