Going Green: The Apartment Dweller’s Guide

If you live in an apartment and you’ve been thinking about how you can reduce your home’s environmental impact, you’ve probably realized: a lot of advice out there is not applicable to renters. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to make your apartment—and your life—greener. Most of these steps are quick fixes that will also save you money on energy costs.

Banish Standby Mode

A surprising share of every home’s energy usage goes to fuel the little red and blue lights that shine from your electronics, chargers, and appliances after you turn the lights off. That’s because when you hit the “off” button on your remote, your TV and other items don’t really shut off at all. They switch into standby mode, where they continue to drain a lower-but-still-significant share of electricity. Avoiding this waste involves one straightforward step that takes just a few extra seconds—put all your electronic items in one room on one or two power strips, and switch off the power strips whenever you turn off the lights. You can even buy “smart” power strips that sense when you’re not using electronics and do the work for you.

Dress Your Windows

You probably know that the number one route of escape for heated and air-conditioned air in your home is your windows, but you’d be surprised how much energy you can save simply by closing your blinds and/or curtains when you’re not around. If your only window-coverings are the standard-issue blinds that came with your apartment, you can increase your energy savings by adding heavy curtains—bonus, you get to customize your apartment’s décor while you’re at it. By taking the extra few seconds to cover your windows when you’re not in the room, you can minimize your energy consumption while still enjoying that gorgeous balcony view when you’re home. 

Maximize Your Machines

If you only use a few dishes each day, get in the habit of loading your dishwasher every night but only running it when it’s full or you run out of clean plates. Another thing is to do loads of laundry only when you need to. When you do run the washing machine, use the coldest possible setting that will do the job. Most pieces of clothing list the ­maximum temperature that fabric can take, but if you’ve only worn that item lightly, you may not need to wash it on the hottest cycle. In fact, washing clothes in cooler water, you’ll prevent fading and extend their life spans, further decreasing your environmental impact. Also know that many clothes, particularly jeans, aren’t meant to be washed each time they’re worn—this comes from denim designers everywhere.

Cut out the Junk Mail

This is one step that involves no sacrifice and only requires an initial investment of a few minutes of your time—and will save you the hassle of recycling all that junk mail in the long run. You can go to www.dmachoice.org/MPS/ to opt out of the Direct Marketing Association’s member mailings. Likewise, to stop getting prescreened credit card and insurance offers, head to https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0148-prescreened-credit-and-insurance-offers. The latter can also help prevent identity thieves from getting hold of sensitive personal information.

Make Your Space Greener, Literally

Adding plants outdoors and indoors won’t just make your space more attractive—they’ll help pull carbon and pollution from the air, and if they’re indoors, they’ll purify the air you breathe. At the same time, plants can give your home a more peaceful, relaxing atmosphere, so you’ll benefit as well.

Choose a Green Apartment—and Location

If you’re searching for a new apartment, ask landlords what they do to reduce their units’ environmental impact. Apartments that have recently been renovated are more likely to offer energy-efficient appliances, water-saving plumbing features, and well-insulated windows. Some buildings even boast LEED certification, the industry’s independently verified certification for green buildings. You’ll save money on your utilities by choosing an eco-friendly building as well. Also remember that a location that’s convenient for you will also reduce your use of fossil fuels. A shorter commute will save on gas, and a location near bus or rail lines will encourage you to use public transportation more often. Some green communities will promote the use of electric transport. The electric bike is one of the most popular alternative forms of transport for urban dwellers and it’s being recognized as a viable solution to combat global pollution and traffic congestion.