How to be a green renter
Renting may limit your options when it comes to living green, but there are plenty of ways to lighten your environmental footprint — without taking a mortgage.
Thu, Apr 22 2010 at 3:18 PM
It seems that a lot of what is written about lighter living is targeted to homeowners.
How else would you install a solar electrical system? Or replace that rusty old gas water heater with efficient, on-demand models? These are all great ideas, but not necessarily within reach of someone living in an apartment or under the terms of a leasing agreement.
Fortunately, there's a lot that can still be done to reduce your environmental footstep and create a healthier, more efficient living space — even if you're paying rent. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Go with CFLs
Even though they contain trace amounts of mercury and should be disposed of properly, CFLs seem to be at the top of everyone's "green-up" list these days. Since light bulb replacement is usually the responsibility of the tenant, CFLs can be at the top of your list, too. Environmental bonus points if you leave the CFLs behind the next time you move. Check our guide to living with CFLs before you shop.
2. Weatherstrip doors and windows
You'll probably need clearance from your leasing agent to add or repair weatherstripping, but such requests are usually granted. $50 should take care of most apartments or small houses. The U.S. Department of Energy has a few tips here.
3. Indoor composting
Not having access to a yard doesn't mean you can't compost. Indoor composting machines use a small amount of power — about 10 watts — to rapidly turn everything from kitchen scraps to laundry lint into beautiful compost. NatureMill's automatic composter is a good example of a low-odor, high efficiency unit which will happily process up to five pounds of organic material a day. It yields every two weeks, leaving you high-quality compost for friends or your own projects.
4. Detoxify your living space
Apartments and rental homes are usually designed with costs, not toxins, in mind. Offgassing is a significant issue in homes with synthetic carpets, vinyl flooring and paints which contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Replace area rugs with wool or natural fiber equivalents. Consider a spray on sealer, such as the products made by AFM on wall-to-wall carpeting. Most renting agents will allow tenants to repaint. Re-cover your walls with a low-VOC paint such as safecoat. There are also low-VOC alternatives at most mainline paint stores. If you live in an area with lots of airborne dusts or molds, an air purification system might pay big health benefits.
Indoor houseplants also help clear the air and restore natural balance. Many renters do well with porch gardens or window boxes. A baker's rack makes a wonderful kitchen garden to grow and store herbs. Be creative!
5. Get organized
Talk to your landlord about the financial benefits of greening rental property. In many states, there are tax incentives for the addition of solar power or high-efficiency water heaters. Do your homework. If you happen to live in an apartment complex, knock on some doors and enlist neighborhood support. Greening your rental property is a win-win proposition for owner and tenant.
Copyright Lighter Footstep 2007