California is famous for its environmentalist movement. Yet your options are limited if you don’t own your home. After all, you can’t install solar panels on the roof if you’re renting. However, there are ways you can make your rental more eco-friendly. Here are a few ways to “green” your studio apartment.
Look at Your Garbage
In IT, they say GIGO. This is short for garbage in, garbage out. Take a look at your own garbage can. What are you throwing out? What items landing in your trash can be recycled? What disposable items could be replaced with reusable items? For example, you could replace disposable water bottles with reusable ones. Use refillable glass bottles for various soaps. If you can find somewhat to take your compost, all the better. Buy and re-use cloth bags instead of relying on plastic shopping bags. If you need to use disposable items like takeout containers, ask for eco-friendly / compostable options. You could even ask the apartment manager to start one. Then you can enlist the neighbors.
This requires making changes to your consumption habits but has a major impact no matter where you live.
Buy Used or Handmade
Did you know that buying secondhand items is one of the greenest things you can do? That’s why buying second hand clothing is greener than buying new, eco-friendly fashion. Buy used furniture, art, rugs and accessories. You could find these items in vintage stores, estate sales, flea markets and garage sales. A side benefit of decorating your apartment this way is that you’ll save money. Plus you’ll be benefiting the local economy.
Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
If you learn how to make cleaning products out of baking soda, lemon juice and white vinegar, you’ll reduce the use of toxic chemicals in your apartment. You’ll generally save money, too. If you decide to have an herb garden or potted plants, don’t turn around and spray chemical pesticides on them.
If you’re renting a San Francisco studio apartment, you are probably responsible for your utilities in addition to your rent. This means you’ll save money if you can find ways to lower your utility usage. It is easy to say turn up the thermostat in the summer and turn it down in the winter. But this doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable. Put reflective sun shades in the window in the summer, and install insulated drapes. Sleep under extra blankets in the winter, and wear shorts in the summer. Turn on a ceiling fan instead of the air conditioner. Ask for a programmable thermostat or install one yourself, and allow it to reduce your heating and cooling bills while having the home comfortable when you get home.
You can further reduce your energy consumption by renting a smaller place. Then you need less energy to heat, cool and light it. Then there really isn’t a need to close off vents and doors to unused rooms, because there are none in such a small apartment.
Feel free to ask the landlord to upgrade to Energy Star appliances, if the unit needs to be replaced. If you have the option to install appliances like a clothes washer and dryer, then look for the Energy Star label. You can reduce energy usage by changing how you use the appliances, too. Don’t turn the oven on and leave it on. Use it, then turn it off. Shift baking and other heat producing activities to the evening if you can, so that you don’t force the air conditioner to work double-time.
Clear the Air
If the property owner painted the unit with regular oil or latex-based paint, it could release volatile organic chemicals into the air for up to four years. You can help remove these chemicals from the air by increasing ventilation in the unit. Open the windows, turn on the fans and get the air moving. That’s especially true if they repainted before you moved in. If they want to repaint, ask them to use low-VOC paint. Almost any home can benefit from an air purifier. Just make sure you get one that does not put out ozone. Replace the air filters once a month. And arrange for the air filters in the air conditioner to be replaced just as often, so they can clear the air. Explain to the landlord how this reduces wear and tear on the unit, reducing the risk of expensive, unplanned repairs.
Upgrade Your Lights
While renters aren’t allowed to rewire the apartment, you can generally replace old light bulbs for compact fluorescent lights. Open the blinds or curtains to let in natural light when it is available. Turn on a small lamp instead of an overhead light, if you need just enough light to get by. You could take things one step farther by installing a power strip. Then you could turn off all the lamps and your connected chargers at once.
If your apartment doesn’t have a ceiling fan, ask if you can install one where the current light fixture is. This allows you to add brighter, more energy efficient lights and a better way to keep your apartment cool.
Reduce Water Usage
As a renter, you can’t install rain barrels, but you can take steps to reduce your water usage. You could replace the current shower head with a low flow one, though you’ll have to put it back when you move out. If you want plants in the unit, try succulent plants that don’t need much water.
Only run the dishwasher or clothes washer when you have a full load. Go the extra mile and only use hot water when absolutely necessary. For example, don’t run clothes through hot water unless necessary. And make sure the washer isn’t set for an energy-intensive second rinse or heavy-duty cycle it is really needed.
As a renter, you may not be allowed to change out the toilet. However, you could buy a dual-flush converter kit to reduce water usage.
Choose a Green Power Provider
If you’re paying your own utility bill, you can choose a green energy option. You could buy power from a company that delivers wind and solar power, or you could ask your current utility company about their green power options.