The 15 Best Ways to Green Your Apartment
Posted by Katie Ostoich on April 18, 2012 at 9:41 AM
When people talk about the nuts and bolts of greening your home, sometimes it feels like homeowners (as opposed to renters) get all the good stuff! Photovoltaic solar panels, rainwater tanks, blown-in insulation, radiant floor heating, ENERGY STAR appliances, rooftop gardens, daylighting, salvaged flooring, tax credits and rebates...! The list goes on. And while that is wonderful and certainly something to aspire to, it’s incredibly costly, something young professionals really can’t afford. It can also sometimes feel a little discouraging to be a renter, where none of those cool green features are even remotely possible…
You can't exactly hack through the wall and replace your insulation. That refrigerator that was there when you moved in? Still there... and still not energy-efficient. And solar power? You're lucky if you get any sun at all in your basement apartment.
So what can you do?
As it turns out... plenty!
This one’s a bit obvious, but if your building doesn’t offer the service, the inconvenience factor can be off-putting. Find a local recycling drop off facility and make it a point to regularly recycle glass and plastic bottles, cans, and paper products. Or, talk to your landlord and neighbors about starting the service. I bet people would all want to join in!
Clean with Eco Cleaners
I know what you’re going to say. “They cost so much more.” Yeah, they do cost more. But, do you really want to be breathing in nasty chemical fumes. Or think about wiping down your kitchen counter with harsh chemicals and then making a sandwich…Personally, I love the Method brand or products because they work really well and smell good (and let’s be honest, they look pretty). If you want to go even greener, try making your own products. There are many great resources online (just google “homemade cleaning products”).
Forget trudging to the basement laundry room. Just line dry your clothes! Not only will you cut down on energy usage, but your clothes will last longer. Seriously! And you won’t have to deal with those jeans that just keep shrinking. If you’re concerned about wrinkles or your clothes being slightly crunchy, wait until they are dry and then stick them in the dryer on the wrinkle release setting, usually about 20 minutes. They’ll soften up, but you’ll still save energy.
Seal and/or paint over off-gassing walls.
The fresher the paint, the more off-gassing there is. Regular oil or latex-based paint can continue to off-gas VOCs for up to 4 years, depending on the amount of humidity and air flow. To speed up the off-gassing process and quickly improve your indoor quality:
- Increase the air flow in your apartment by using fans and opening windows and doors, because the more air exchange there is, the faster the paint will cure, thus minimizing your possible exposure time.
- If the original paint is still off-gassing, then it will continue to off-gas through a new green paint unless you seal it first.
- If it's been longer than 4 years since the apartment was painted with a non-green paint, then you should be able to paint over the walls with a new, no-VOC paint without sealing them first.
Get an Air Purifier
To further improve your home's indoor air quality, get an air purifier. Different air purifiers target different types of pollutants, so it's important to buy an air purifier that suits your needs. But our recommendation is to make sure to get an air purifier that does not produce ozone, and one that does eliminate VOCs that off-gas from paint, furniture, and cleaning chemicals. Check out this Air Purifier Buyer's Guide and this list of the Best Air Purifiers to get started. (I know air purifiers can be expensive, but you can buy them secondhand. I have a Blueair air purifier that I found on Craiglist for $45 — and it was practically brand new!)
Switch out the Bulbs to LEDs or CFLs
This is one of the easiest things you can do to seriously reduce your energy consumption and your apartment's carbon footprint. LEDs are fast overtaking CFLs at the green light of the future, although they're currently still much more expensive. Wondering what bulb is best for you? It all depends on what kind of light you're looking for. I've had good experiences with the EcoSmart LED light bulbs from Home Depot and the n:vision Soft White CFL light bulbs, also from Home Depot. Here are a few other resources to get you started:
- LEDGuide.com: Just click what your preferences are—what kind of bulb you want, your preferred power, the kind of lighting you're going for— and this guide gives you a recommendation.
- Eartheasy.com: gives a detailed comparison breakdown of LED and CFL bulbs, including benefits, styles, terminology, and color.
- ConsumerSearch.com: Ratings on both LED bulbs and CFL bulbs.
Get a Power Strip to Reduce Vampire Energy
A power strip is an affordable way to help reduce vampire energy and save money on your electricity bills every month. It can be pretty affordable, too. The Belkin Conserve Wireless Switch and Surge Protector ($49-$59) is a great option, and the selection of power strips and energy monitors at Green Depot is also a great place to start.
Retrofit Your Toilet
Yes, it'd be great to have a dual-flush toilet, but chances are if you're a renter, you just have a regular ol' toilet. But you can retrofit it with a dual-flush converter kit for under $100 and save a lot of water with each flush. Options include the