If environmental sustainability is important to you, renting an apartment is not an ideal situation. It’s tough to be an eco-warrior if you don’t even have a say in the type of appliances installed. But in this economy, with jobs scarce and uncertain, it’s often a simple financial necessity. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean you have to completely give up your commitment to the environment. You’ll have to be a little creative, and avoid anything that makes a permanent change to the apartment. But if you plan your green initiatives well, you can do wonders to the apartment, lowering your environmental footprint from the day after you sign the lease. And none of these options will see you lose your security deposit. Here are just a few of the ways you can go green in your apartment without getting evicted.
First off, check in with your landlord and see if he’s willing to meet you halfway on improvements. He probably won’t let you rip the walls out to replace insulation with natural fibers, but there’s a chance he will work with you on certain things. One option is to offer yourself up as free labor. Remember that the work you put in won’t come with you to your next residence, but if you love the apartment and think you’ll be staying there for several years, it could be worth it to see what’s possible. If you want to purchase materials, ask if he’d be willing to subtract it from your rent. If not, at least see if his company would buy the materials if you do the labor. If he balks, at least you’ve done your best.
With or without the landlord’s help, you can do several things to make sure you are running an energy efficient apartment. When you get the keys, but before you move all your furniture in, get a tube of organic-based caulk and seal all of the cracks and corners around each window and light fixture. Use energy efficient power strips on all your computers, and strips on the entertainment center that shut the energy off completely when not in use. Replace all of the light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, and put up blackout curtains in the wintertime, to insure that you maximize the efforts of the apartment’s heating system. Finally, just like anywhere else, shut off all the lights when you leave a room, and don’t leave the heat or air conditioning on when you’re not at home.
The way you clean and maintain the apartment can also be green, even when renting. If you don’t have outside space, use a window planter to grow your own herbs, and even some vegetables if you get enough light. Shop locally, biking or walking to markets whenever possible. And never get groceries delivered. When cleaning the apartment, always use organic cleaning supplies, and make sure you regularly clean all of your appliances inside and out to make sure they are running at optimal efficiency.
Recycling will be up to you in a rental, and to a certain extent you’ll be subject to the operations of the building. But almost every city has a recycling program, so make sure you keep separate bins to organize everything, and cart it over to the recycling center if the city doesn’t pick them up. To really kick it up a notch, put a compost box on your fire escape to break down all of your organic waste. When it’s ready, donate the new dirt to a community garden. You’ll make so many friends in the process, the next time you’re looking for apartments for rent, you’ll have tons of recommendations of green buildings you never would have found otherwise.