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Sustainable Next Step Blog

5 Tips for Sustainable Apartment Living

by Gob Greene

When we think of sustainable living, we often think of things like installing solar panels to be energy-neutral, planting giant gardens to mitigate insecticide use and food transportation energy, or other large gestures to cut our carbon footprint by half or more. However, when you live in an apartment, big changes are often forbidden in rental agreements and you simply don't have the space for a large enough garden to feed yourself and/or your family.

While this is technically true, sustainable living doesn't have to be large-scale movements. In fact, it often involves many small changes that add up to large impact. Here are some small changes you can make for a more sustainable lifestyle, even while living in an apartment.

Go Second-Hand

There are some switches that are harder to make in an apartment than others, but luckily, this isn't one of them! Opting for second hand furniture, decor, and even clothes is an incredible way to cut down on your personal carbon footprint and that of the companies you would purchase new items from.


Switch out your Shower Head

Did you know that just heating your shower water can amount to up to 17% of your electricity usage? Not only that, but the volume of water wasted while waiting for the water to heat up is sizable — a standard shower head runs about 2.5 gallons of water per minute. If you let the water warm for 2 minutes before jumping in, that's 5 gallons of water wasted per shower, not to mention the energy wasted while you were waiting.

Opting for a low-volume shower head is an easy switch that will make a huge difference on your footprint and energy bill, even in an apartment.



Composting is a great way to cut down on waste, but many people in apartments just don't have the space for a smelly composter. Here are some ways you can get around that:

  • Use a Composting Service
    With a little bit of research, you will be able to find a recycling location that actually takes compost or compostable items. Check out your state on Litterless to find the spot closest to you.
  • Use a Smaller Composter
    There are smaller composting bins designed to sit on your countertop, next to your sink. It's a great way to dispose of small kitchen scraps. While it isn't quite as convenient as a large compost pile, you can still make your own quality compost right on your kitchen counter.
  • Take it Outside
    If your countertop bin doesn't filter the smell as much as you would like, and you have a balcony or patio area, you can always place the small compost bin outside rather than storing it on your countertop.


Start a garden

Once you have your homemade compost, use it to fertilize your new garden! Even if it is just an herb or flower garden in your windowsill, gardening is a great way to cut down on your carbon footprint by avoiding synthetic fertilizers and bringing your food (or herbs) much closer to your table.

Plus, your composted waste will now have a great purpose - growing new life


Harvest Garden Vegetables

If you have a vegetable garden, harvest everything that is ready before the storm hits, just in case. Cover what you have to leave to protect it from water and high winds, making sure to secure any covers firmly. You might want to consider harvesting fruit trees too, then putting the fruit out to ripen afterwards.


Change out your Lightbulbs


Switching out the lightbulbs in your apartment is a simple, effective way to cut down on your carbon footprint without having to do much at all. LED lightbulbs use only 2-17 watts; one third to one thirtieth of the energy it takes to power an incandescent or CFL bulb. Not only will it reduce your energy usage at home and put out less heat (keeping your apartment cooler), they also last much longer than other bulbs, which will cut down on money spent in the future on replacement bulbs.

Your Next Step

Even in situations where a lot of the control is taken from you (like in apartments) and you have less options for living sustainably, we have to find the small opportunities. Doing some of these small things like patio gardens, choosing sustainable electric options like lightbulbs, TVs, and appliances, and choosing to recycle/compost your garbage can make a big difference.

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