Contributed by Tylene Welch
Sometimes, it seems like homeowners have all the fun of being eco-friendly. But renters want to be eco-friendly too!
I rent a small apartment that I can’t paint. It doesn’t offer space for a garden, and I don’t have any control over the materials used for home projects.
But that didn’t stop me, and it shouldn’t stop you from green living. Here are my tips for making your apartment more eco-friendly.
Recycle the right way
If your apartment doesn’t offer recycling, ask your landlord about it. You might have to pay a few more dollars a month, but you can discuss it with them.
Alternatively, look for drop-off recycling centers around town.
I recycle my plastic bags and glass at the local grocery store because those items can’t go through the regular recycling service.
If you’re lucky enough to have recycling services at your apartment, be sure to check what’s recyclable in your city and learn the recycling rules whenever you move. Recycling the wrong materials causes more waste than you’d think.
If you’re moving to a new city like Chicago, there are a few things you need to know beforehand, in addition to recycling guidelines. For example, most people in the city use public transportation and don’t own a vehicle; parking options are also scarce, even in some suburbs.
As for recycling, in Chicago you can recycle aluminum and aerosol cans, but not baby bottles. You’ll have to find one of the many other recycling outlets for certain items whether your apartment offers recycling services or not.
Reduce food waste
Americans throw away 63 million tons of food a year, and the problem is at its worst over the holidays. It’s a huge problem in our society. We buy more than we need, and we waste it while other people in the world go hungry.
When you don’t have control over every aspect of your home, you have to look at other ways of being eco-friendly. Minimizing your food waste is a great place to start since it’s probably the most environmentally detrimental habit we’re all guilty of.
Most food waste goes straight to the landfill. Do you toss leftovers and expired goods in the trash? Maybe you don’t have a yard or space for a big compost bin. That’s OK!
The best thing you can do to reduce food waste in your own home is to buy only what you’ll use and keep an inventory of what you have and when it expires so you can plan to use it beforehand. Also, use food storage tips to help keep your perishables fresh for as long as possible. And make sure to eat your leftovers!
There are also very small compost bins that can sit right on your kitchen counter or in the cabinet under the sink. You might not have a garden to use it in, but this is at least a better option than the trash. Some cities have also started offering curbside composting service alongside regular trash and recycling bins. If you have this option and your landlord is willing to opt into the service, be sure to take advantage of it. Otherwise, check to see if your municipality offers a drop-off composting facility.
Keep it cool
Another great way to make your home more eco-friendly without making any major changes is to minimize using your heating and cooling system. Many green home enthusiasts boast about their own habits of keeping the air somewhere between 65-69 degrees in the winter and even lower during the night.
It might be tough to get used to wearing extra socks and sweaters around the house but it’s a good habit. Plus, you’ll feel good about your contribution to protecting the environment and you’ll save money every month. Here are some tips for keeping your home warm without using the heater:
- First, check your energy provider. You might be able to opt into using more eco-friendly energy options like solar and wind.
- Cover windows with clear insulation film.
- Use cloth draft stoppers.
- Use thermal window curtains.
Could your cleaning habits use a sustainable makeover?
Instead of heavily advertised commercial cleaning products, use cleaning classics like salt, baking soda, and borax. To make your cleaning routine extra eco-friendly, purchase these items in biodegradable packaging and reuse your spray bottles.
Maybe you’ve heard about the eco-friendly wonder cleaner, vinegar. But keep in mind it might not be the all-purpose cleaner you thought it was. Vinegar can be too harsh for some surfaces, causing damage your landlord wouldn’t be happy to find, and it can cause severe chemical reaction when mixed with other cleaning products.
Upgrade Your Light Bulbs
We all know by now that LED light bulbs have acquired rapid popularity. LED light bulbs not only use less energy to operate, they waste less energy. Most bulbs produce more heat than light which is a huge waste, especially when you’re running your air conditioner, and can also be dangerous. What’s more, LEDs can last up to 25 times longer than incandescent, saving you money. You might have thought the switch would be too expensive, but prices are dropping, making them the obvious choice for eco-friendly households.
See? Renters can get in on the sustainable household trends too! Even if you don’t have a yard and you can’t choose the materials used in your home, you can make these simple changes: ensure you’re properly recycling materials, minimize your use of the heating/cooling system, clean with eco-friendly products, and upgrade to LED light bulbs. What else have you done to make your apartment more eco-friendly? Add your thoughts in a comment below.
Tylene is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer in Idaho. She writes about gardening, nutrition, and sustainable living.
Apartment building. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons
Recycling dropoff center. Kansas City Public Works
Food waste. Some rights reserved by Nick Saltmarsh.
Borax, vinegar, washing soda. Photo by David Guion