Moving out on your own and into a new apartment is an exciting, freeing, sometimes frightening experience. There are so many things to consider! Getting used to the foreign notion of a budget, finding your way around a new area, charming your landlord, locating nearby banks and grocery stores, maybe even learning how to do your own laundry; the list goes on and on.
In addition, as a mature, responsible adult who's now on their own and without mom and dad to turn off the lights, close the refrigerator door, or unplug appliances, we hope you've at least thought about how you'll make your new living-space more eco-friendly. With the following list of simple ways to green your apartment, we hope you'll turn that thought into a reality.
Green Apartment Tips
Furnish: Visit Freecycle, Goodwill, or Craigslist for incredibly low prices on tables, chairs, couches, mattresses, or whatever else you may need. This method of shopping is truly environmentally friendly because you're buying merchandise that already exists, so no additional raw materials like foam or wood are being used.
Grow: Grow food in your apartment? It is actually possible: with the help of a Tosy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato Planter you can have your own CO2-absorbing, indoor garden. You can also grow basil and thyme on your windowsill. Or if you're really ambitious, you can grow fruits and vegetables in outdoor window boxes, on your balcony area, or on your porch.
Get an Air Purifier: Plants can only do so much for your apartment's indoor air quality. A used air purifier from Craigslist will eliminate VOCs that off-gas paint, furniture, and cleaning chemicals. Be sure to find one that doesn't produce ozone, however.
Recycle: Set up a recycling area in your apartment. It's as simple as placing a grocery sack with handles next to the trash bin for collection. If your apartment building doesn't have its own recycling bins, ask your house-dwelling, recycling friends if you can put your recyclables with theirs. You can also take your recyclables to your city's local recycling center.
Get a Power Strip: Reduce vampire energy and save money on your electricity bills each month by purchasing a power strip for $30-$40, plugging your energy-sucking appliances into it, and turning the switch off when they're not in use. Since appliances need to be near each other, put a power strip in the kitchen and hook up your microwave (if you don't care about using the time display), toaster, toaster oven, coffeemaker, and electric kettle; or use one in the living room and plug your TV, DVD/Blu-Ray player, and sound system in it.
Install a Low-Flow Showerhead: Low-flow doesn't have to mean wimpy pressure, sporadic spray, or more time spent washing your hair. The Green Choice Power showerhead lets you control the water pressure during your shower; you can turn it down while you shampoo, then turn the pressure back to normal as you rinse off. It's available at Costco or ShowerTek for $24.95 and serves as an easy way to save water in the shower.
Control Lighting and Temperature: Simply by hanging blinds or sun-shielding shades in your windows, you'll have much more control over the amount of light in your apartment, without using electricity. Blinds or shades will also help control the temperature in your apartment: keep them closed during the summer to keep it cooler, open them in the winter to help it stay warmer.
Clean with Green Products: Perhaps the simplest way for both house- and apartment-dwellers to live eco-friendly is to clean eco-friendly. You can try your luck picking natural cleaners off shelf at random, or you can pick up the Nature's Source line of products that carry the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval. Nature's Source partners with popular name brands like Scrubbing Bubbles, Shout, and Windex to make the transition to green cleaning simpler, since they're already widely available.
WITH YOUR LANDLORD'S PERMISSION
Paint Over Off-Gassing Walls: Regular oil or latex-based paints can off-gas VOCs in your apartment for up to 4 years, depending on the amount of humidity and air flow. Try Sherwin Williams Harmony paint that's completely VOC-free, or paints by EnviroSafe that emit no toxic fumes and contain no preservatives like formaldehyde or petroleum.
Caulk or Seal Air Leaks: To reduce heat loss and for better insulation, seal the air leaks around your apartment's doors and windows with an inexpensive, eco-friendly caulk like Green Series Acrylic Urethane Indoor/Outdoor Sealant.