This is the situation: you are trying to become greener. You have already ditched plastic bottles and single use bags, you have covered all the basics to reduce your waste.
And you’re ready to take the next step. You sit in your rented apartment thinking, trying to figure out how to adapt it to your new green values.
But there’s a problem: you don’t own the place, so the changes you can make seem to be VERY limited.
And all the tips you read on the internet are: install solar panels! Isolate the floor, the walls, and the ceiling! Change the windows! Change the door!
But don’t worry, I gotcha.
There are actually many things – realistically doable – that can help you have a more sustainable home, even when you think everything is out of your control.
Trust me, I know that feeling and it’s not pretty, but I know these tested-and-true tips will get you a step closer to your ideal lifestyle.
This is how you turn your rented home into your eco haven
1. LED light bulbs
Next time you have to change the lightbulbs, make sure to get LEDs. They are both better for the environment and for you – they don’t contain nasties other older lightbulbs have such as mercury or UV light.
They will last for a very very long time, so you won’t have to worry about changing them in years. And they consume way less electricity than conventional bulbs, which also will help you save money in the long run.
This is the fact that convinced me: buying and using an LED bulb for 3 hours a day for a whole year is 2.81 dollars while doing the same with an incandescent bulb is 8.89 dollars.
2. Fix drippy taps
Conserving water is one of the best and easiest things you can do for our environment, so start by checking all your taps and make sure that they’re not leaking at all.
One drippy tap can waste as much as 5 gallons (19 litres) of water per day and over 2,000 gallons (7,500 litres) per year.
And you’ll finally get rid of that annoying *drip* *drop*.
3. Install a low-flow showerhead
A family can save around 2,900 gallons (11,000 litres) of water and between 40 and 60 dollars per year – all depending on how many songs long your showers are, of course.
These heads are so easy to find and install, and you can find a ton of options at different price points.
This high-efficiency showerhead is the one I installed in my apartment over a year ago and it’s still working perfectly – this one is perfect if the water in your area is hard or if your pipes are old and carry metals.
4. Don’t go crazy with the thermostat
I know I know, it’s a temptation. Who doesn’t want to be all warm and cozy and snuggly and toasty during the winter, and fresh and sweat-less in the summertime?
But don’t go bananas with the heating/cooling. Just be strategic: dress for the weather, have a cold/hot beverage according to the weather and consider other temperature-related house improvements (like points 18 and 19 of this list).
5. Turn of your electronics (aka electricity vampires)
But turn them for real, don’t leave them on standby. This is something so simple that most of us forget to do regularly.
My little life hack is putting a reminder on your phone every night before sleep, every day before leaving for work, and anytime right before going on holidays to remind you to turn off all the appliances if you haven’t already. I promise it’ll become second nature super soon!
You can save more than 10 dollars a year for EACH electronic you have plugged in, even if you’re not using it – some smart people did the math here and the whole thing is pretty interesting.
6. Get a power strip that you can switch on and off
You know, one of those with the little red light.
They are reeal cheap and convenient, and they actually make your life easier giving you that extra space you need to put all your electronics to charge. There are no cons here.
Just make sure you turn it off when you’re not using it to avoid having an extra electricity vampire in the house (as seen on point 5 of this list).
Just a finger movement and *snap* think about all the electricity you’ll save and the extra cash you’ll have in your pocket.
7. Use your dishwasher only when its fully loaded
Nowadays dishwashers are very efficient and they don’t waste as much electricity and water as they did in the olden days, but try to load it completely before using it.
And if your dishwasher is not energy efficient and you don’t have a busy household, maybe consider washing by hand.
8. About your laundry…
Do your laundry only when you have enough clothes to fill the whole thing up and do it with colder water as often as you can.
Generally, your daily laundry doesn’t need special care. And cold water is actually great at eliminating stains, and keeping the colors and quality of your clothes intact – then, making them last longer.
Almost 90% of the energy used by the washing machine goes to heating the water. So if you use cold water, you can save up to 1,600 pounds of CO2 yearly.
Extra eco points if you use a laundry bag to wash your synthetic clothes to avoid releasing microplastics into the water stream. These ones from Guppyfriend are the ones we use at home and I give them 5 stars.
9. You don’t always need to use a drier
At least when it’s possible using a laundry line.
Fun fact: I grew up thinking that those two machines on American movies and TV shows were two washing machines, and not a washing machine and a dryer, just because I never saw anyone in using driers around me, or even selling them in the mall. Ever.
So I guess this is proof that laundry lines do the job. Mostly if you’re lucky enough to live in a sunny place.
10. Get some house plants
I snuck this tip in here because plants just make everything better. They purify the air, they make the room feel alive, they’re healthy for you and they’re the perfect company.
But seriously, consider it. Plants can completely transform the air quality in small spaces like apartments.
You can check this handy infographic from NASA with the plants that clean the air pollution from your lovely home.
Pro tip: if you don’t trust yourself at taking care of a living being, start with a snake plant – she’s very tolerant and will survive any novice plant parent.
11. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products
This is a great idea because filling our homes with harsh chemicals when they’re not necessary is not the healthiest option.
I thought that these products would be pricy, but to my surprise they’re very affordable and easy to find.
You have another option, and that’s making your own concoctions. There are dozens of “recipes” that use ingredients that you might have around your home already like baking soda and vinegar.
I strongly encourage you to give DIY cleaning products a try. You’ll be shocked at how powerful natural products are at killing bad microbes and smells.
12. Don’t take the elevator
I live on a 6th floor without elevator. And if I can live in these conditions, anyone can.
This applies to your home, your workplace, or anywhere you go – exceptions may apply, as in the case of working at the top of the Rockefeller.
Oh. And by skipping the elevator your glutes will thank you for the lift 😉
13. Cook smarter
There are some extremely simple things like covering the pot with its lid while cooking or using a pressure cooker that will save you lots of time and electricity.
Also consider meal prepping for the whole week in one day. You will use less energy because your oven or stove will be already hot and ready to go.
14. Use food scraps
Use vegetable scraps to make veggie stock, bones for bone broth,… Get creative, there are many things you can do.
And when there’s nothing you can do to save your food scraps, think about composting them.
15. Consider composting
This is a great way to avoid throwing away your organic trash. You can find little apartment compost trash cans online that make it very easy and clean to collect your compost at home. You can throw your food scraps and other waste there until you have enough to add it to a compost pile.
If you don’t have a garden, you can always ask friends or neighbours if they have composters, but right now many cities have composting programs that can take your organic waste to compost to share with other neighbours and community gardens that might need it.
16. Buy second-hand furniture
If you need furniture, why don’t you buy it in a second-hand store instead of new? It will be waaay cheaper than the cheapest new furniture.
And you’ll be saving all the emissions related to the production and transportation of a brand new piece. If you don’t know any second-hand furniture shops around you, you can check Buy, Sell, Swap Facebook groups in your area, they are an absolute gold mine.
17. Get thicker curtains
I know that I’m becoming an adult because my greatest pride are my curtains – they’re serious game-changers. They will keep your home cool during the summer and cozy during the winter without looking out of place, as you can use them as part of your decoration.
Look, for two years, the wooden windows frames of my apartment were chipped and would let the most irritating cold breeze into the house. Winters were rough, to say the least, but the moment someone over here recommended to ditch our thin curtains and get thick ones…oh that glorious moment.
18. Use rugs
My living room looks like a bazaar full of carpets. Love it.
They really make a difference during the winter by trapping heat in and giving you a fluffy and warm surface to walk on.
Pro tip: they are awesome at concealing sounds, so you can also recommend your loud upstairs neighbour to get a carpet 😉
19. Don’t use conventional dish soap or detergent
Think that these liquids we put in the washing machine or dishwasher go straight down the drain and into rivers and seas.
There are many alternatives to these products – non-toxic and sometimes even plastic-free, like these solid skincare products.
20. Get everyone in the house involved
If you’re already considering living a more sustainable life, wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to share it with the people around you?
Your significant other, your parents, your siblings, your roommates, or your fluffy friends. Everyone can do their bit. And if you need some support introducing them to sustainability, I have this post to help you out.
Now it’s your turn. What are your tips to create your rented eco-haven?