By Lisa Walker, Neighborhood Sprout, Special to Lost and Found in Nature
Your choice of rental is the biggest factor in your footprint. Here’s what to look for.
In a walkable neighborhood, you can shop for groceries, grab a coffee, and go out to eat without ever firing up an engine. Well-maintained sidewalks, street lights, and bike lanes are “green flags” for a walkable neighborhood. Check addresses on Walk Score for a detailed breakdown of a property’s walkability and bikeability and look out for perks like bicycle storage when screening rentals.
When you have to travel further than walking or biking can take you, public transportation is the greenest way to get there. Trulia’s “Rent Near Transit” filter helps renters find homes within walking distance to transit stations in major cities like Boston, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. You can also use the transit layer in Google Maps to narrow down the best neighborhoods for public transportation and plug in addresses to compare commute times.
In an ideal world, every apartment building would be LEED-certified and solar-powered. While the number of sustainable apartments grows every year, they’re still hard to find outside of a few cities. Nevertheless, you can reduce energy consumption by choosing rentals with energy-efficient appliances and HVAC systems, daylight-controlled lighting, programmable thermostats, and water-saving fixtures.
From boxes and bubble wrap to fueling a moving truck, moving creates a lot of waste. Start your move off right by choosing a green moving company. Green movers minimize single-use packing materials, choose biodegradable and recyclable materials, and may even use alternative fuel. Interview moving companies to ask about their green practices and compare written estimates from three companies before choosing. While some moving companies may offer virtual video estimates, never accept an estimate sight unseen. Moving scams are surprisingly common so it’s important to work only with legitimate moving companies that are well-reviewed in a trusted platform like Angi.
Renting limits the options to customize your space, but there are still several things renters can do to make their home greener and more energy-efficient.
Apartment buildings that don’t recycle is a surprisingly common problem. If your apartment complex doesn’t offer recycling, locate the nearest recycling center or drop site using Earth911’s search tool. You’ll also need to create a system for cleaning and sorting recyclables prior to dropping them off.
Don’t forget the other parts of “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.” Reducing waste and reusing materials is more effective than recycling at shrinking your impact. It also saves trips to the recycling center! Avoid single-use plastics and plastic-wrapped products, buy food in bulk using reusable containers, make your own cleaning products using readily-available supplies, and give your waste a second life before you toss it out.
Choosing the right light bulbs is a small measure that saves a lot of wasted energy. LED light bulbs beat out CFL, halogen, and incandescent bulbs for energy efficiency, making LED the clear choice for household use. Buy bulbs with the Energy Star rating and learn to read LED labels to choose the right bulb for every use.
Household appliances and electronics use energy even when they’re turned off. This standby power, also known as vampire power, can account for nearly a quarter of your electric bill. Instead of plugging and unplugging appliances every day, use power strips to control clusters of appliances around the house. You can even use smart power strips to control power from your phone.
Clothes dryers are among a home’s biggest energy users. Switching to a clothesline saves energy and is better on clothes too, and you don’t need a big backyard to do it. Retractable clotheslines make air-drying possible in small spaces. Apartment dwellers can also use clothesline alternatives like drying racks to make the most of limited square footage.
Window treatments do more than add style to your space. They also save energy through natural lighting and temperature control. Solar shades are the best choice for temperature control during the hot summer months, but cellular shades, blinds, and room-darkening drapes are also great options.
Renters may not be able to choose everything about their space, but there’s a lot you can do to minimize your environmental impact at home. Let these ideas inspire you to find a rental home that aligns with your values and plan an eco-conscious move. Once there, look for little ways that you can make eco-friendly choices in everyday life to further your sustainable lifestyle.
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