Certain types of phthalates have already been banned in children’s toys, but what about the thousands of other products containing the toxic ingredient? One often-overlooked phthalate-laden product is the vinyl window shade, an item commonly found in dorms everywhere. These shades are cheap, often a great motivator for the cash-strapped student, but the relatively low cost of vinyl shades doesn’t outweigh the potential health affects of surrounding yourself with chemical-laden sun screens. Besides, surviving the school year is hard enough without worrying your window coverings are making you fat.

By far the cheapest way to cover your windows in an eco-friendly way is to purchase a dowel rod at your local Home Depot and hang a dark-colored cotton sheet (preferably organic) from it. You can use old sheets that won’t fit the extra-long twin bed or buy new ones with colorful designs like these. Your friends may turn up their noses, but just remember that it’s not tacky, just thrifty, and you’d rather spend your money on books and booze anyway! But if you’re willing to spend some cash so that your digs will have a more upscale feel, check out West Elm’s organic cotton window panels or Rawganique’s organic hemp curtains. Rawganique’s 100 percent hemp linen fabric is naturally resistant to destructive UV rays and won't break down in the sun, even with prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.

No matter what you choose, try your best to stay away from vinyl. It’s old school anyway.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in July 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008