The Low Down On Green Living
June 1st, 2007
Many of our readers have rightly noted that we focus on greening homes– and you have pleaded for help on how to live a sustainable life in an apartment. Look no further! We have compiled a helpful list of steps you can take to live an eco-friendly life as a renter. And all of these tips also apply to homes as well– so everyone can use this list!
First things first. We know that as an apartment dweller your options are more limited. You can’t upgrade your insulation, replace your windows, or rip out that creaky old furnace or water heater (and some homeowners would be jealous because of it!). However, there are many changes you can make within the confines of your own walls. The projects below are designed with this in mind. Most landlords would gladly support these projects, as they will reduce not only environmental impacts but also their charges for apartment-wide water or energy sources.
Saving Energy, Saving Money
1. Make sure your windows and doors are sealed tight. Leaky apertures are some of the main ways we lose warm and cool air and thus waste energy and money. Get some caulk and door-stripping here– it’s cheap and this is a seriously easy project to undertake.
2. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They last ten times as long and use 1/3 the power. They come in a great selection of shapes, warm hues, dimmers, three-ways– and we have any type of CF light you’d need right here.
3. Change your heater’s air filter. This will make your heating system work more efficiently, save you money on bills, and keep your lungs free of the junk trapped in your nasty old filter. This will cost you $15 and take 5 minutes. Get a filter here.
4. Get a ceiling fan. These EnergyStar efficient models will allow you to use less AC in the summer and keep you warmer in the winter (yes! remember that warm air rises and a ceiling fan helps keep the warm air circulating when you use your furnace). See our selection of ceiling fans.
5. Buy an efficient air conditioner. If you need an air conditioner, choose one with the Energy Star label. And, not all Energy Star air conditioners are made alike. An Energy Star unit must exceed minimum federal standards by 10%; the highest efficiency versions exceed standards by 20% or more. For more information about Energy Star air conditioners and to find specific products, go to the Energy Star website.
It’s important to note that where you live has a dramatic impact on how bad using electricity is for the environment. If you live in Oregon, for instance, your electricity comes from hydro power and generates a small 0.33 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour used. If you live in Colorado, however, your electricity comes from coal-fired plants and produces over two pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour - not too pretty! To find out how much carbon dioxide you can cut by saving electricity, review the table on LIL’s electricity page.
Tidy Up Your Trash Load
1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We’ve been alarmed to hear how many apartment buildings don’t provide recycling options for their tenants. Gang up with your fellow tenants and take it to your landlord: everyone should have the opportunity to recycle where they live! And if you can’t get your building on the right path, ask any neighboring houses if you can throw your stuff in their recycling bin.
2. Yes, you can compost! In many apartment situations, your only private outdoor real estate is on a deck or patio. The Envirocycle Spinning Composter doesn’t leak, so it’s fine to use in this setting (as long as you follow the instructions so it doesn’t smell!).
For the ultimate in composters, consider the NatureMill automatic composter. This unit can sit right inside your kitchen, and no-one will know it is anything BUT an attractive appliance. In go all of your scraps, and out comes beautiful compost two weeks later.
3. If you have a dog, use biodegradable doggy doo-doo bags. Think how much plastic you throw out with your pooch’s poop each year. It’s enough to clog a landfill, and will sit there for hundreds of years inside that plastic bag. With these biodegradable bags you can walk your dog with the confidence of an environmental defender.
1. Get a luxury low-flow shower head. Saving water and energy while taking a shower doesn’t have to mean a major compromise. Taking a shorter shower is one way to save, but another is to use a more efficient showerhead. Conventional showerheads use 2.5 gallons of water per minute (measured at 80 psi of water pressure). Today’s high-tech low-flow showerheads can deliver the same quality shower, but will use less water per minute. You can save up to nearly 4,000 gallons of water per year with one of these great shower heads!
2. Only run full loads in the dishwasher and the laundry machine. You use the same amount of energy to power these machines if you have a 1/2 load or a full one– so wait a couple of days to make sure you have a full load.
3. Put aerators in your faucets. These aerators will keep your hands and dishes clean while saving water and water heating fuel.
Breathe Better Air
1. Use greener cleaners. There are great alternatives to the toxic bombs we buy at the drug store every day. Seventh Generation and Begley’s Best both sell a range of super toxin-free cleaning products. See our selection of green cleaners.
2. If you are doing any painting, use no or low-VOC paints. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound and you really don’t want any of those in your body. Fortunately there are new several great brands of healthy paints. Click here to find healthy paints.
3.If you dry clean your clothes with traditional cleaners, air out your clothes outside for as long as possible before bringing them inside. Most dry cleaners use a harmful chemical called PERC in the cleaning process. Better yet, find a green dry cleaner in your area.
As an apartment dweller, especially if you live in an urban area, you may already take the best forms of transportation to work - your feet, your bike, or public transit. If not, today’s best hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles not only save gas and the associated carbon emissions (as much as 50%), but they also save space, making that end-of-the-row parking space underneath your neighbor’s storage area that much more accessible. Visit LIL’s auto pages to find out more about hybrids and biofuel vehicles.
That wasn’t that hard, was it? And you saved so much energy, water and landfill space. Here’s a big sustainable high five to you!
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