by Ivory King
If you don’t own your own home, it can feel really limiting to think about how to make it more eco-friendly. But don’t despair, there are plenty of ways to decrease your various resources footprints and make your immediate vicinity less toxic. We have some super easy switch outs for you, as well as a few more labor-intensive improvements that you may have to ask about first. Check your lease before you do these!
Let’s start with the simple stuff. You’re sure to be aware that compact fluorescent light bulbs are more efficient than incandescent or filament bulbs, but those are being outmoded now that we have affordable LEDs. They also come in warmer versions than they used to, and they are even more efficient than CFLs. Plus, you don’t have to panic if you break an LED bulb - you know CFLs have mercury in them right? Terrifying.
lightbulb cluster photo by Diz Play
Sure, LEDs are still more expensive at purchase than the other types of bulbs, but they are extremely light on electricity use (pardon the pun). A traditional 60 watt incandescent bulb has a light output (measured in lumens) similar to a 15 watt CFL and a 10 watt LED. The LED bulb uses 80 percent less power than the incandescent bulb of similar lumens, so you save 80 percent of what you spend lighting your home on your electric bill. LED bulbs tend to last about 25 times longer than incandescents, further driving down costs after that initial investment. As a final perk, they have a similar silhouette to a traditional incandescent so they don’t look ridiculous in an otherwise well-designed lamp.
Blackout or thermal drapes keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. If you have big windows, this could really make a difference for your heating and AC efficiency. As an aside, they block sound; a lovely perk when living in a noisy neighborhood, or protecting your neighbors from your new hobby of learning the oboe. Since they are simple to install, you can also take them with you if or when you move.
Now how about water usage? There’s ways to cut down on how much water you use for your shower, sinks and toilet that need hardly any tools. For the quickest low-flow toilet hack ever, just fill one of those 20-ounce plastic bottles of water that you shouldn’t be buying anyway and stick it in the tank. If you are so inclined, you can also purchase a dual-flush converter for your toilet. For faucets, there are simple aerators that you can get at the hardware store for less than a dollar. There are similar devices for showers, or you can get a replacement shower head that has the fancy multiple modes and pause button. While some of these are not necessarily water-saving functions, the pause button really is great for saving water while you shower.
Another way your apartment uses a lot of unnecessary energy is with dirty appliances. Your AC has an air filter and your refrigerator has an air intake fan covered with a screen. Make sure that these are clean - some ACs can be brushed off or vacuumed, though others you need to buy a replacement filter regularly. If the air intakes on these appliances are clear, they work much better and consume less electricity. Related to this, many appliances consume power even when they are switched off, especially in entertainment systems. Unless they need to be plugged in at all times, an easy way to cut off the slow power suck that TVs, computers, cable boxes and many more commit is to plug them into a surge protector with a master switch.
For air quality, you could buy a purifier, but you could also go the natural route and get some plants. They not only absorb toxins and increase the oxygen in your home, but some say they help with stress levels. But speaking of stress, I would recommend plants that are easy to take care of. Some of us have black thumbs and killing houseplants definitely stresses us out!little potted plants in copper containers
These are just a few easy ways to make your home eco-friendly, even if you don’t plan on staying there forever. There’s much more you can do, like switching out cleaning products and even asking the owner of your building to do some bigger green projects. But this is a great start that doesn’t take a lot of monetary investment.