It seems like you usually answer inter-personal questions -- but my question is just about being a renter.
Especially since this oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I am really concerned about ways I can make my apartment more environmentally polite. But most of what I am finding that might actually make a difference involves altering the apartment in some way that is more my landlord's responsibility -- like solar-paneling the roof and changing hot water heaters.
I don't think it makes sense for me to do a lot of these things but are there any purchases I can make that I would get to keep when I move? Or is there anything I can do right now that makes sense as a renter?
-- Turning Green
First of all, I love that you are interested in making your life a little greener and especially for coining the phrase "environmentally polite." Excellent work.
In order to answer your question I went straight to Marie Holzer of GreenYourApartment.com because I knew she'd tell it straight --"You must understand that most of our environmental impact comes in the everyday things we do," she says.
Holzer points out that as a renter, your lease likely prohibits you tampering with appliances or the apartment itself. However, you can offer information to your management company or landlord on cost effective and environmentally safe alternatives. you just can't be certain they will do anything with it.
But there are still things you can do. "You should look to what you use every day, like your lights," suggests Holzer. "Changing your light bulbs from regular incandescent bulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) or LED bulbs will lower your electric bill drastically by reducing your lighting electricity use by 50 to 90 percent."
You might also want to consider how and how often you use your thermostat. Maybe invest in a fan and open windows on warm days, and use air conditioning only as a backup. Also use less heat in the winter. Invest in heavy window treatments, and use blankets and sweaters instead of cranking up the heat.
"Keep the thermostat at 76 degrees at the lowest during the summer," Holzer says, "and 68 degrees at the highest in the winter, instead of the typical 72 degrees year-round."
You can also consider your cleaning supplies and how they are made. Many products are effective and safe for the environment. Seventh Generation is one company to look into, but there are plenty of organic products on the market these days. Try to buy those instead of ones full of chemicals. Not only will you be doing right by Mother Earth, but you also will be doing something good for yourself!
"My final recommendation is so ridiculously simple you may laugh," Holzer admits. "Buy less. Not only less stuff but, also, when you do make a purchase, look for less packaging."
Our landfills are filled with packaging from fast foods, cereal boxes and electronics packaging. Also make sure you are recycling what you can and encouraging your neighbors to do the same. If your building doesn't offer recycling, try to get a petition signed to change that policy.
Finally, remember TG, it isn't all bad. Holzman reminds us that "just by living in an apartment, your environmental footprint is already smaller than that of a person who owns or rents a house. You are already being more 'environmentally polite' just by renting an apartment!"
See that? Already environmentally polite! Now get ready to go from polite to downright generous!
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