7 Ways to Embrace Sustainability When Living in a Rental

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As more people become aware of the toll their everyday choices take on the environment, many are trying to lead a more sustainable life. And while it’s certainly an adjustment to make more environmentally conscious choices, this type of lifestyle is often easier if you own your home and have the freedom to make changes and renovations that get you closer to your goals.

If you rent however, it can be a little trickier, since you’re unlikely to either convince your landlord to install solar panels on the roof, or to even get the approval to do so. But don’t worry, there are some choices you can make — big and small — to work toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

Here are seven tips for living sustainably when renting your home.

1. Skip the heavy-duty appliances

sustainable living green appliances

As a renter, you likely have no say in the appliances that come with your unit. But depending on where you live, you may be able to make greener choices that are better for the environment — and your energy bill.

While a dryer is convenient, appliances that utilize heat often take up a lot of energy. And your dryer is the worst culprit of all. While other appliances have become much more energy-efficient over the years, dryers still consume a concerning amount of energy.

Instead, opt to hang your clothes outside (if you have a backyard or a balcony), or invest in a wood clothing rack to air dry your clothes. Most racks fold up so you can stack them against the wall or on the side of your dryer. Even if you still use your dryer from time to time, cutting back on how often you use it will help.

Apply the same logic when it comes to the heat cycle of your dishwasher and using hot water in your washing machine. When possible, avoid the heat options.

2. Unplug electronics after using them

While it may not be realistic to unplug your television after every use, making sure other electronics are unplugged after using them can help you consume less energy. It can also help you save big on your electric bill.

Why? Well, these electronics actually continue to use your electricity simply because they’re plugged in. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that devices you leave plugged in account for up to 5-10% of your monthly energy consumption.

So instead of just turning off lamps and smart home devices, unplug the ones that you can conveniently plug back in.

3. Swap plastic bags & containers for sustainable counterparts

recyclable materials sustainable living

Reduce your use of plastic and other non-sustainable materials. Instead of bringing home dozens of plastic bags when you go grocery shopping, invest in fabric or recycled shopping bags that you can reuse.

And instead of buying plastic containers for your leftovers, consider using glass containers, jars, and bottles you’ve already purchased to store pantry items, leftovers, and more.

4. Swap your light bulbs with LED alternatives

You can’t always choose the light fixtures your landlord installs, but you can swap out standard light bulbs with LED bulbs.

LED light bulbs are much more efficient than traditional bulbs — and they last longer, too. LED lights that are ENERGY STAR rated can save you up to 75% in energy over traditional bulbs. That’s also good news for your electric bill.

5. Reduce your water consumption

Small habits can make a big difference, especially over time. Making small choices throughout the day to save water can really add up.

For example, turning off the faucet in between washing dishes or while brushing your teeth can prevent you from wasting water you’re not using. Additionally, opting to take a shower over a bath can reduce your water consumption.

6. Grow your own food (yes, even inside)

plant indoor garden green living

Sure, you probably can’t start as robust of a garden as you could if you had your own backyard, but you can grow your own herbs and some foods inside with an indoor garden wall or a water garden. Carrots, peppers, and lettuce are easy to grow inside with minimal effort.

And if your rental does have a backyard, your landlord might not mind if you start your own garden. Not only will it spruce up the look of your yard, it may even up the value of the home in the long run.

7. Find a composting style that works for you

If you’ve been wanting to try composting, you don’t have to wait until you own a home to get started. You can find small composting options that can sit under your cabinets, on your counter, or in other easily accessible areas.

This typically works best in a rental if you have a garden and you can use the compost for it, or if you have a local compost collector who will come out to collect your scraps.

Sustainability starts with a mindset shift

You don’t have to have a nonexistent carbon footprint to live a more sustainable life. And you certainly don’t have to own a home to get started. Small choices like using less water, opting for glass over plastic, recycling, and making a conscious effort to save energy can go a long way to helping you become a green renter.

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Mihaela Buzec is a senior writer and online content developer for RentCafe. She covers topics about everything related to the renting lifestyle, from decorating and interior design to finding the right apartment, frugal living, money saving advice, and more. She dives deep into topics of interest, writing well-researched comprehensive guides on subjects such as renting with pets, saving on utilities, or avoiding rental scams to help renters stay informed and live smart.

Mihaela holds a BA in English and German Language and Literature, an MA in Current Linguistics, and she is currently pursuing a PhD in neurolinguistics.

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