6 Tips to Living More Sustainably When You're Renting
For those who don’t own their own home, installing solar panels, adding better insulation, replacing windows, installing greywater plumbing etc is not an option. There are, however, lots of ways in which you can ‘green up’ your homes and live more sustainably. It’s simply a case of lessening our resource consumption, reducing waste and buying healthily and ethically where we can. Every little effort we make takes us a step closer to sustainability. Below are 6 suggestions for ‘greening’ your rented home.
1. Energy - Look around for energy efficient appliances. Turn off appliances and lights that you’re not using - appliances still use energy when on standby. Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs which will both reduce your electricity bill by approximately £7.00 a bulb per year. (In a 2 bedroom home, this could equal a reduction of £42 per year) Use natural light where and when possible. There are an increasing number of small-scale renewable energy devices and gadgets on the market. While they may only produce a small amount of energy in relation to your total energy consumption, they are a step in the right direction towards energy independence.
2. Heating -Draught excluders are a cheap solution (especially when homemade from old clothes) for keeping that sneaky wind from slipping in under the doors. Try setting your thermostat lower than usual in the winter and close doors to retain heat. If you feel a little chilly in the day then throw on an extra sweater, and invest in a snuggly throw or blanket to cozy up with in the evening. However, if you don’t want to compromise with heating or energy usage then you could always consider swapping to a clean green energy provider, such as Good Energy or Ecotricity who only use renewable energy. uSwitch will give a fuller listing of green energy suppliers and make the transition easier if you decide to change.
3. Water - Reduce water consumption by taking shorter showers and by not leaving the water running when you clean your teeth or when washing-up. Reuse washing-up water to water houseplants. If you’re able to - collect rain water to use on your garden or even to wash your car. Use eco friendly detergents and shampoos etc to help keep our waterways healthy.
4. Furniture - Consider buying secondhand items or even repurposing or revamping things that you already own. You can even find particular items for free from sites such as Freegle in the UK or Freecycle globally where people choose to give things rather than send them to landfill - You will be amazed at what you can find. I love using Freegle! The table I have as my current workspace - I obtained for free from the site and the condiment and spice rack in the picture below, I made from a rescued wine crate and shelving unit. If you do want to buy new, then at least try to avoid stores that specialise in mass produced products and look around for businesses or talented individuals who produce items in a more sustainable manner.
5. Waste - Many of the environmental health issues today originate from toxins released into the environment by trash. Therefore it is down to us to reduce our waste (stuff that goes to landfill) as much as possible. These are some questions we can ask ourselves when we make our next purchase - How long can the item be used? Will it have more than one use? When you’re done with it, will it end up in the trash? Is there a less wasteful/more ethical alternative. Have a go at phasing out disposable items and start investing in reusable products for the items you most often throw away. Recycle as much as possible. Check in with your local council to find out what you can put in your recycle bin or download the recycle smart app to have the latest recycling information in your pocket. Donate unwanted items to secondhand shops or give away on Freegle. Alternatively try and make some extra cash by selling them online if they are in good condition. Even if things are not in the greatest condition you can sometimes find people on Freegle who want to have a go at fixing things. I have given away faulty electricals in the past to someone who was studying electronics and wanted electricals to ‘play around with’.
6. Compost- If you don’t have one already, consider investing in a food waste bin, worm farm or Bokashi bin (uses microbes to break down scraps). Throwing food waste away with our normal garbage means that it will end up on landfill. That’s okay, you might think - it will decompose, well…….yes and no……I used to think that too until I learnt about the different ways that food waste can break down. Food waste in landfill is not exposed to oxygen and therefore produces Methane when it breaks down. On the other hand, food waste that goes through composting is exposed to Oxygen and produces CO2 as a result. Here is the big difference between these two gases regarding their contribution to climate change. Methane traps up to 20 times more heat in a year than Carbon Dioxide. Methane also dissipates more rapidly from the atmosphere than CO2. What this means is that a reduction in Methane would have a quicker and more noticeable effect in the reduction of global warming.