It may seem easier to go green and adopt an environmentally-friendly lifestyle when you’re a homeowner.
After all, that allows you to compost, install better materials for trapping heat and cool air in the summer, choose eco-smart appliances, and start your own garden, among other things. However, living in a rented space doesn’t mean your hands are tied.
By making a few simple changes and thinking ahead, we can be environmentally-friendly apartment renters. Here are some great ways to start.
Use the EPA Green Power locator to see if your local utility company offers options for green power. Clean energy options will include combined heat and power and renewable sources. Switching over will usually cost no more than a few more cents per kilowatt hour—which you can make up by using less energy.
Look for LEED certified rentals
Apartment developers are now seeking LEED designation more often, and that’s great for would-be green renters. LEED certification means eco-friendly, healthier, more sustainable apartments, because LEED buildings offer features such as advanced air filtration, energy-efficient AC, heat, appliances, and windows, better parking for fuel-efficient vehicles, smart home thermostats and lighting, low flow water fixtures, onsite recycling, sustainable landscaping, and electric car charging stations.
If you can afford or find a high-end LEED building, look for landlords and property managers to advertise properties that are eco-friendly. Search engines like Trulia let you pull up properties marked “energy efficient” or “eco-friendly.” Finally, look for a home close to work, school, or wherever you go to reduce your carbon footprint.
Use your outdoor space
Use your outdoor space well, and that includes window boxes. You can grow vegetables and herbs in pots, reducing your need to buy them. Some of the best herbs, fruits, and veggies to grow outside include basil, cilantro, chives, lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, squash, strawberries, tarragon, tomatoes, and thyme. Not all herbs will grow in all places, so check with your nursery or find out which zone you live in to get the right kinds.
Green and clean
Use green cleaning products no matter where you live—not just for the environment, but also for your health. Baking soda removes stains, softens fabrics, cuts grease on dishes, eliminates odors, and can safely scour countertops, dishes, and appliances. Lemon juice cleans glass and eliminates odors. Lemon juice plus sunlight can bleach stains out of porcelain and aluminum.
Salt is a stain remover and an abrasive cleaner. Finally, vinegar, a mild acid, cleans glass, and removes grease, soap scum, mildew, and wax. It is also a primary component of natural, green carpet cleaner.
Rent your furniture
Renting furniture recycles materials that already exist and creates less waste. Furniture rental also lowers demand for raw materials that can be both expensive and environmentally destructive. Wood harvesting hurts natural habitats, and foam is made using toxic chemicals and cannot biodegrade. Renting furniture eliminates demand for those products and keeps usable furniture out of landfills.
You can’t upgrade everything in a rented apartment, but there are some things you can do. A huge source of energy use worldwide is cooling and heating, so air-seal and insulate your apartment by caulking cracks and using weather stripping around doors. Bonus: lower utility bills.
Using less water reduces greenhouse gases, conserves energy, and saves potable water for tomorrow. If you can install low-flow toilets and shower heads, great! If not, you can still work on this problem.
Place plastic bottles full of water in your toilet tank. When you do this, some of the water in the tank is displaced, leaving less room for water to fill up the tank. This in turn reduces how much water used in each flush, because the toilet gets flushed by less water from the tank. Take shorter showers, and track how much time you’re using with a timer.
Smarter appliance use
You probably can’t control which appliances are in your apartment, but you can control how you use them, and how often. Only run the washer, dryer, and dishwasher when they’re full. Wear clothing and use towels more than once so you generate less laundry. And, try a natural laundry detergent that’s less impactful on the environment.
Reuse and recycle
If you don’t have curbside recycling where you live, ask your landlord to implement it. If they won’t, drop your recycling off at whatever recycling center is closest to you—and see if you can share this job with your neighbors. Reuse everything you can, like durable takeout containers, boxes, and jars so there’s less to bring.
Green it up
You don’t have to be a homeowner to make a big difference from an eco-friendly standpoint. Once you start working to be an environmentally-friendly apartment renter, you’ll find that a greener lifestyle is within reach. It’s also easier, and more satisfying, than you might think.
Author: Heidi Thiel
Image: Kinga Cichewicz/Unsplash
Editor: Catherine Monkman