However, you can still take steps to make your rented house or apartment more environmentally friendly.
“There are quite a few things we recommend for people who aren’t permanent,” said Ben Kolo, an electrician with nearly three decades of experience and owner of Mr. Electric of Central Iowa.
Focus on major appliances
The first step should be to improve your home’s energy efficiency, because reducing electricity consumption is good for both your wallet and the environment. While buying new appliances or installing better insulation is out of the question, there are a number of techniques that can help reduce your overall electrical consumption, save you money while being better for the environment.
Energy efficiency has helped the Empire State Building save money and reduce carbon emissions. It can also help you.
While it’s not possible to turn off your existing devices, there are steps you can take to maximize their effectiveness. If you don’t have a high-efficiency washer, Kolo suggests running a second spin cycle to reduce drying time. Heating water accounts for around 90% of the energy used by a washing machine, so opt for cold cycles whenever possible. For your dryer, make sure your lint filter is clean, as this extends drying time.
In the kitchen, make sure your refrigerator is not overfilled, as blocked airflow reduces its energy efficiency. “A fridge accounts for about 13% of your device usage,” Kolo said. For your dishwasher, one way to reduce energy consumption is to stop after the wash cycle, open the door and let the dishes air dry.
Beware of the “vampiric power”
“Vampire power”, also known as standby power, refers to the energy used by gadgets and devices when plugged in, but not in active use. Vampire energy alone costs consumers about $3 billion a year and is responsible for about 10% of residential electricity consumption, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The best way to reduce vampire power is to unplug appliances when not in use. This can be made easier if you buy a power strip, which will allow you to switch off several devices at once.
How to start reducing your home’s water and climate footprint
When it comes to conserving water, there are a lot of small actions that can really add up. Some of the actions recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency include turning off running water when brushing your teeth; take showers instead of baths; using a dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand; and scrape your plate before putting it in the dishwasher, rather than rinsing it.
Help your air conditioner
To maximize efficiency, it’s a good idea to run the ceiling fan in addition to your air conditioner. “A ceiling fan can help adjust your temperature setting by up to four degrees,” Kolo said. “A ceiling fan costs around 1 cent per hour, while an air conditioner can cost up to 36 cents per hour.”
If you like to set the temperature at 72ᵒF, running a ceiling fan may allow you to run the air conditioner at 76ᵒF with no noticeable difference. It’s also a good idea to change filters regularly, as this helps the air conditioner run at peak efficiency.
Incandescent bulbs are on the way out. Here’s how to shop for more effective replacements.
Ask your landlord to use LED lights
As Kolo points out, not only do LED lights use 70-80% less electricity than conventional bulbs, but they also last longer. Although LED lights are more expensive, your landlord may be willing to make the switch because on their end it means fewer trips to replace dead bulbs. “There is also a maintenance factor in replacing conventional light bulbs with LEDs,” Kolo said.
If your landlord refuses and you plan to live there long enough, it may be worth doing the trade-in yourself, as the reduced energy consumption will save you money. (If you choose to do so, you can keep the conventional bulbs, replace them just before you leave, and take the LED lights with you.)
How to start composting at home, even if you don’t have a garden
Incorporate sustainable personal habits
When it comes to your personal habits, there are plenty of eco-friendly actions that don’t require expensive changes to your living space. This includes avoiding single-use plastics, whether it’s carrying a water bottle, using reusable tote bags, or drinking your coffee from a reusable cup.
Switching to bar soaps and shampoos can also reduce plastic use while saving energy, with a study showing that liquid hand soaps require five times the energy to make and 20 times the energy to be packed, compared to bar soaps.
Other habits include recycling whenever possible and composting food scraps. If you’re short on space, there are composting options that can be done in a confined space. Some cities also have municipal composting programs.
How to Cool Your Home Without Relying on Air Conditioning
Consider installing window tints
While you can’t replace your windows as a tenant, there are inexpensive ways to make sure they’re as energy efficient as possible. One way is to install window tints, which are an inexpensive alternative to energy-efficient windows. Tints will keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, helping you save on energy costs.
Installing tinted windows can be a do-it-yourself project, although “I recommend if you’ve never done it before that you call a professional,” said Ken Fisk, technical services manager at Window Genie. “The trickiest part is cleaning the window and applying the film without any wrinkles.” In his 21 years of window work, Fisk has installed window tints for a number of tenants.
The added benefit of window tints is that they will protect your furniture from harsh sunlight. “It doesn’t stop the discoloration, but it definitely slows it down,” Fisk said. “I’ve seen it many times in the past where one cherry table looks like a pine table and the other black cherry.”
Are you trying to buy sustainably? Here’s what you need to consider.
Try thrift stores to furnish your home
One way to help the environment is to buy second-hand clothes, whether it’s clothes, kitchen utensils or furniture. Fast fashion is a leading cause of pollution, with the EPA reporting that 11.3 million tons of textiles ended up in landfill in 2018, nearly double the amount of textile waste in 2000. When it comes to furniture, buying second-hand helps limit deforestation and plastic production.
Going to your local thrift store will keep these items out of the landfill while avoiding the environmental impact associated with production.