Thanks to USA Today on Sept. 7, 2010 and By Robert F. Bukaty, AP
Renting may limit how you go green — rain barrels, solar panels and wind turbines are obviously out. The good news: you can still do a lot to reduce your carbon footprint, and you’ll save money doing it.
There’s a myth that there isn’t a lot that renters can do, said Paula Cino, director of energy and environmental policy with the National Multi Housing Council, tells The Washington Post. Our individual behavior has a huge impact on sustainability.
Go back to basics. Turn off faucets while brushing teeth or soaping hair; unplug appliances when not in use; switch to compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs; install window treatments to keep your place warm in winter and cool in summer.
Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man, lived in a New York City apartment when he spent a year trying not to produce any carbon emissions. He and his wife stopped watching TV and using the air conditioner. They used candles instead of electric lights, went to bed early and walked to work. He unplugged his freezer and bought only local food that he could put in reusable containers.
The problem for apartment dwellers is that you can’t change the infrastructure of the building, he tells The Post. So it comes down to using less.
The story offers these tips:
- Use toilet tissue made from recycled paper and clean with rags.
- If every household in the nation swapped just one roll of traditional toilet paper for one made with recycled paper, the effort could save 424,000 trees, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The environmental group has created a shopper’s guide to recycled paper products.
- Collect your old bath water and dishwater.
- Known as gray water, it can be used to water houseplants or for outdoor irrigation. But you’ll want to use only natural, biodegradable soap to keep from harming your greenery and to keep chemicals from leaching into the water table.
- Reduce water that goes down the toilet.
- Toilet flushing accounts for about 30 percent of the water consumed in an average home, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Try a trick used by Sarah Masson, 25, of Los Feliz, Calif. The television writing assistant placed a 2-liter soda bottle filled with water in her toilet tank to displace some of the water, reducing the amount used in each flush-refill cycle. You can also buy a bigger float ball or adjust the existing one so that it rests closer to the bottom of the tank, shutting off the refill valve earlier.
- Install faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads.
- Buy green power.
- Clean power often costs more to generate than electricity from conventional sources such as coal or natural gas. To pay for it, some utilities are offering opt-in programs for ratepayers who wish to support clean-power investments through a small surcharge on their monthly bills. More than 750 utilities across the country offer similar options, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Unplug appliances when not in use.
- Even when they’re switched off, most home appliances and electronic devices continue drawing a little bit of power as long as they’re plugged in. These vampires account for an estimated 10 percent of residential energy use in the United States. Shedding these leeches is easy: Unplug the stuff you don’t use most of the time. Make it easy on yourself by plugging clusters of devices into a single power strip that can be switched on and off.
- Replace burned-out incandescent light bulbs with CFLs.
- Prod your landlord to go green.
- Some tenants are pushing for so-called green leases — a contract that would spell out how renters and apartment owners will split the cost of eco-friendly upgrades. Ask your complex to swap out inefficient outdoor lights with ones activated by motion sensors, install timers for sprinklers and replace old appliances with Energy Star-rated products. You also can try to persuade your landlord to caulk and tint windows and add programmable thermostats to get the most out of air conditioning and heaters.