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8 Tips for Eco-Friendly Apartment Living

8 Tips for Eco-Friendly Apartment Living

Sustainable Home

Last Updated on June 2, 2021

I haven’t lived in an apartment complex for a long time, but I hear that it comes with a slew of challenges like not having access to recycling, composting, and generally not having control over your own space.

Now, I do rent so while I don’t have a lot of apartment experience, I do understand what it is like to not have complete control/ownership over my own space.

This post was sponsored. Some of the links below are affiliate links, for more information please see my disclosure policy.

No matter how bad I want an electric car… my landlord is NOT putting in a 240 Volt charging port… He’s also not going to install solar panels and a grey water system, but that would be dope and super green.

So, I wanted to round up all of the small things that you could do to make apartment/renting a little more eco-friendly.

1. lightbulbs baby:

The first thing I did when I moved into my rental was switch out alllllll the light bulbs. Instead of using the old school halogen light bulbs that came with the place, I switched them to LEDs.

This of course lowered my electricity bill and are much more eco-friendly.

Since LEDs are a little spendy… I kept all of the halogen bulbs and then just swapped them after I moved out…

2. opt for efficiency:

If you need small appliances, opt for efficient ones. Living in California during the past few wildfire seasons, a good air purifier has been essential.

Even if you’re not living through six weeks of toxic smog a year, did you know, indoor air pollution is around 3 times worse than outdoor air quality? According to the EPA our homes can be pretty toxic.

A study published in the journal Science found that deodorants, soap, perfume, hairspray, and household cleaners release V.O.C s (volatile organic compounds which are the building blocks of smog) that match the level pollutants emitted by motor vehicles on the road today!

EnviroKlenz offers an energy efficient system that uses hospital-grade technology to guarantee the air in your home stays as clean as possible.

The fully-recyclable air cartridge is made up of three earth minerals that are all sustainably sourced. There’s no additives or fillers, and never tested on animals. Their Mobile Air System is small, quiet, made in the U.S. and they offer a five-year warranty! I always look for items that offer good warranties because that ensures quality manufacturing.

3. energy, energy:

Just because you can’t get solar panels installed in your apartment doesn’t mean you can’t switch to renewable energy.

Companies like Arcadia Power and Clean Choice Energy are energy suppliers.

When you sign up, they work with your existing utility company to make sure all of the energy you use is supplied by clean energy sources.

This doesn’t cost anything extra for you and in fact, you’ll probably see your electricity bill go down!

And, did I mention if you sign up for Arcadia, you’ll also get $100 in Reformation credit? Yah. Clean energy AND sustainable fashion… being eco-friendly never felt so good.

But, in all seriousness, they just dropped their new shoe collection and I’m seriously lusting over a pair of their gold menage sandals.

If Arcadia nor Clean Choice supply your area, a quick google search should turn up an alternative!

4. recycle?

I’ve heard recycling in large apartment buildings can be tricky because of trash chutes?

I’ve lived in two apartment buildings one was two stories and the other was four stories… neither of them had trash chutes.

There was a dumpster and you were required to take all of your stuff out to the dumpster.

Come to think of it… the two story apartment didn’t have recycling which is a super bummer.

If I didn’t have recycling available at my apartment or only had a trash chute, then I would try to find another way of dealing with my recycling.

One of the great things about living a zero waste lifestyle is that I don’t have much recycling at all because zero waste is about recycling less – not more!

You can read more in this post What is Zero Waste?

So here are all the ways I would make recycling work for me:

  1. I would walk my recyclables down separately if my building had a designated recycling room.
  2. I would ask my friends who had access to curb side recycling if I could bring my recycling over to their house.
  3. I would bring my recycling to a drop point.
  4. I would ask my landlord to get curbside recycling or set up a recycling area and get signatures from other people in my building.
  5. I would bring it to work and use their recycling pick up.

Also, check out my series How to Recycle the RIGHT way.

5. compost:

Food scraps DO NOT break down in landfills! Most people I meet assume that their food waste will compost in a landfill (which makes sense because landfills are giant holes in the ground), but it doesn’t!⁠

Organics can’t break down in a landfill because they’re designed for storage, not decomposition. ⁠There’s no oxygen in a landfill so organic matter like paper, wood, and food scraps are stuck in a limbo state releasing methane. ⁠

Methane is a gas 30x more powerful than carbon which is far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat.⁠ In fact, 16% of ALL methane emissions in the US comes from landfills! ⁠

Making food waste, if it were a country, the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions behind China and the U.S. ⁠

So, if you want to make a serious impact and reduce 50% of your household waste with just ONE swap, start composting! ⁠I know this can be tricky in an apartment, but it’s totally doable. There are a lot of small space solutions.

If you have a small balcony you could easily implement a tumble bin, but if you don’t things might be a bit more challenging so I’ve got a ton of tips in my post How to Compost in an Apartment as well as a massive list of 125+ Household Items You Can Compost to get you started.

6. shower heads:

Who’s got two thumbs and swapped her wasteful shower head out for a very efficient one!? THIS GIRL.

JK. My husband did it as a surprise and it was the sweetest thing ever.

He bought this shower head which hasn’t sacrificed water pressure – which is so important to me!

High water pressure = big hair. I’m from the south and you know how we like our big hair.

Volume baby.

So, we saved the original shower head and will swap it back once we move.

7. insulate:

I’m not sure how insulated your apartment or rental is, and it’s not like you can start swapping out windows and filling in walls.

However, if you are building a home and looking for eco-friendly insulation… could I recommend old denim?

I’ve rounded up a few easy solutions to help insulate your home to keep it warm or cool depending on the season.

This will help keep your energy bill down which is good for the planet!

CURTAINS:

Dress your windows! Curtains help insulate a room blocking drafts and retaining heat in the winter.

They also help to shade the room from the sun in the summer which will keep it cooler.

According to energy.gov: “Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%.”

That will save you some cash on the air-conditioning bill. Not to mention that window treatments add a good design element to a room.

DRAFT STOPPER:

Stop drafts from coming in with a weighted blocker that you can take with you when you move.

WINDOW INSULATION:

Alright, so I know that these are plastic… but if you have old, thin, vintage single-pane windows and your house is freezing!

These could really help reduce your energy cost which in the long run, is actually going to be better for the planet than a little bit of plastic waste.

8. check your fridge:

Your fridge might be one of the biggest users of energy in your home.

In fact, 25% of your electric bill may be from the fridge alone. When I moved this last time (check out my Zero Waste Home Tour and Zero Waste Home Tour Treehouse edition ((I’ve moved a lot)) the fridge was from the 70s or 80s.

It was absolutely ancient and the shelves were actually duct taped inside.

It was completely falling apart and the cooling was sporadic.

Thankfully my landlord got us a new energy efficient fridge!

But, to keep it working well, it’s important to keep the compressor coils clean!

If you can, try to dust and vacuum the back of your fridge to ensure your energy bill stays low.

Cover Make surer your fridge’s seal is tight and keep your freezer full.

The more stuff you have in your fridge, the easier it is for it to cool.

So, if you don’t have a bunch of food in there, just fill up some old mason jars full of water.

Check out my guide How to Freeze in Mason Jars because yes, you can freeze in mason jars!

BONUS! furniture and decor:

Many of us will be moving with furniture, and of course the most eco-friendly thing to do is use what you have!

But, if you need to go shopping, opt for second hand! This is a great way to bring character to your apartment, you’ll get a bargain, and it’s great for the planet.

Check out my 10 favorite places to shop secondhand online.

Of course, if you can’t find something that you need or like, then check into getting something sustainable.

I have two end tables from Urban Wood Goods which was made our of reclaimed wood that I absolutely love!

I would love to know how you’re keeping your apartment eco-friendly?

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  1. We have recycling bins and a compost bin downstairs (and a trash shoot on each floor). So I have a big tote bag on the floor next to my trash can -not that much goes in anymore 🙂 When it is full I take that and my compost in a compostable biofilm bag down to the downstairs bins. I do this probably every 3 days so that the compost doesn’t begin to break down. It is pretty simple. I will try to take the stairs next time to make it even more eco.

  2. I live in an apartment building and we do have a trash chute but also recycling bins in each floor’s chute room for glass, plastic, metal, paper. While there is no place to compost in our homes you can take food scraps to local farmer’s markets or see if there is a local community garden that accepts compostables.

    I am working on getting a clothing recycling bin for our building, but in the meantime most of our farmer’s markets accept clothing for reuse or recycle. It takes only a small effort to set items aside to take to the market when we can. Also, we don’t wash clothes after every wearing unless it’s really necessary. I air out my clothes overnight and then put them away. This saves trips to the laundry room and water.

    While we can’t do anything about our energy provider, (it’s decided by the complex), we do try to minimize our electrical use by turning off unnecessary lights and taking advantage of natural lighting by painting our walls a light color and using mirrors to encourage more light inside.

  3. I live in an apartment that has a dumpster for regular garbage, 4 blue recycling bins for glass, paper, and plastics 1 – 7, AND a green bin for compost/food waste! We also have right in front of our unit what I call our "patch of dirt". It is literally just…dirt. So we are growing morning glories in pots right now with the hope of transplanting them into the "dirt" (with the help of some lovely enriched dirt from the local garden place), and letting them take over. Greenery!

  4. I live in an apartment, kind of duplex setup, that requires you to handle your own trash. Whether it be a road side pickup or you take it somewhere and pay to drop a bag/whichever.

    I’ve been here almost a year and just usually drop a bag in my upstairs neighbor’s p/up bin(with her permission) every once in a while. There’s a local recycling center in the town where I work that I can drop any plastics, glass, cans, larger items etc. off through the week days. Though my upstairs neighbor usually takes all of our cans to another recycling place in the next town since they pay more.

    I finally aquired some nice 2×4s and 2×2s to build my compost tumbler. I bought the 55 gal drum a couple years back at a rumage sale in town. Its served as a rain barrel till now 🙂 .

    Ive also been using the who gives a crap TP for about 8 months and it serves me well. Its no Charmin but its better than most cheaper tps and makes me feel better about what I’m putting on myself and and back into the environment.

    We installed the bidet tonight, its a lot stronger than I expected!! My new roomate wanting one was just the extra umpf I needed to convince me to buy it.

    Ive got the bamboo tooth brushes, the biodegradable dental lace, the plaines product shampoo, the metal straws, the reuseable bags, the travel utensils, bees wax wrap, the glass to go containers for eating out or packing lunches, all natural laundry soap from mighty nest, doTerra essential oils, a lady comp(to naturally track my cycles), the lady cup and even the Go Girl. I make my own toothpaste and buy all my vitamins in bulk. I try to buy off sites that have all biodegradable packaging and/ our prodcuts.

    Even with all that I still feel like I’m missing a ton if other things. But all the little things that I’ve been building up, since around 2013, make me feel so happy and less stressed out about being part of the problem. My favorite quote that keeps me going – "a little bit everyday makes a little bit go a long way"

  5. Before you give up on the electric car, do an online search to find out your nearest charging stations. I was surprised to discover that there are a great many in my county (and my county is not very progressive overall!).

    For energy, don’t forget to unplug and turn things off! This is actually a quite significant part of our electricity use. How often do you use your microwave? Do you really need the microwave clock plugged in 24/7? Do you leave lights on when you aren’t in a room?

    Recycling: Recently i started recycling "plastic film" because i discovered they collect it at Walmarts. You know… frozen vegetable bags, food wraps, etc. Of course it is better to avoid it in the first place, but if you can’t, then recycle it even if you can’t put it in your curbside can.

    Apartment composting: I have a house and a compost, but i recently bought a bokashi bucket also, and i’m very happy with it. If i were an apartment dweller, i would seriously have one.

    Shower head… don’t stop there. You can get an aerating filter for your kitchen and bathroom sinks as well, which let you wash with less water.

    Fridge… Number one useless carbon emission in the kitchen is probably wasting food! We throw out so much, and think of all the energy that went into growing it, fertilizing or feeding it, processing it, transporting it, keeping it in a store for you just to throw out! If we work on our routines of using up leftovers and rotating and cooking up the things in our cupboards before it spoils, we’ll be much better off.

  6. So many great tips! I wish I had considered these living in short-term apartments for so many years. Right now, I’m living in a studio apartment and it’s really helped me downsize and realized what I don’t need. I am also grateful to live in a city that requires recycling and composting. My landlord is also great about not using regular lightbulbs and has LEDs. I’ll have to look into a shower head, now that you suggested it…

  7. My brother Dylan would like to move out of our parents’ home and start renting an apartment. Anyhow, when he finally finds the right place, I would keep in mind to tell him that he must get solar panels for his apartment because this will help me conserve more energy. I’ll also make sure to tell him that he must invest in low water pressure showerheads. https://www.goldleafdevelopment.com/campus-downtown/

  8. I’m planning to rent an apartment this year, which is why I’m currently looking for a real estate agent that will be able to help me find one. Well, thank you for suggesting here that it would be a great idea to rent a dumpster so everything will be disposed of properly. Thank you for also sharing here the importance of installing low water pressure showerheads. https://www.meadowdale-apartments.com