A Guide to Greening Your Apartment

Greened Apartment

Image by zbowling, licensed under Creative Commons.

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Before Kari Volkmann-Carlsen sat down to write “Green Renting Revolution” (Jan.-Feb. 2009), my fellow editors and I dug into Utne Reader’s alt-press library—1,300 publications and growing— and scouted ecofriendly advice for apartment-dwellers. Wouldn’t you know it, the alternative press is chock-full of savvy tips for greening your rental pad. Here’s a sampling of the wisdom.

First stop, our sister publication: Natural Home. Many of the immediate ways to green your rental unit are the same starting points for home-owners: Eliminating chemical cleaning products or switching to non-toxic bedding, for example. The editors at Natural Home also offer tips to eco-minded apartment hunters and showcase some amazing apartment eco-remodels.

Terrain, the magazine of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, suggests slaying vampire loads with programmable or smart power strips. Programmable ones shut down the flow of juice on schedule, whereas smart ones know when appliances are off and adjust energy accordingly. It’s just one nifty idea in Terrain’s article “Don’t Be an Energy Hog.”

Philadelphia-based sustainability magazine Grid—the one that Volkmann-Carlsen mentioned in “Green Renting Revolution”—has put its first issue online, making it available for free as a PDF. Download the issue and check out “Renting Efficiently: 10 Steps” (p. 7), as well as a host of other eco-minded articles.

The Worldwatch Institute, publisher of World Watch magazine, lines up “10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green,” including using dryer balls (to cut energy-sucking dryer time!), eating lower on the food chain (a la Taras Grescoe’s Bottomfeeder ), and buying foodstuffs in bulk.

“Co-ops promote sustainable development and lend themselves to the sort of collective action that makes green living possible,” writes John Motsinger for the Sacramento News & Review. Read all about ’em—and why they’re different than having a bunch of roommates. Alternatively, check out Next American City’s  article about the Los Angeles Eco-Village.

Of the “three Rs”—reduce, recycle, reuse—it seems most often that reuse gets the least attention. Plenty comes to the rescue with ideas for “outfitting apartments with found and repurposed items.”

Check out a “Guide to Greener Living” from the National Resources Defense Council, publishers of OnEarth magazine, which includes tips for the home—as well as the office, on the road, and for investors and activists.

Geez—the magazine of “holy mischief in the age of fast faith”—gets the award for most creative eco-ideas. Its article “Do-able Ways to Harmonize Your Home with the Outdoor Environment” is both renter-friendly and smile-inducing. From the irreverently-put suggestion “compost your crap” to the koan-like maxim “collect rainwater and use it,” the article happily transcends the mundane.

And finally, one word: Grist. The website of environmental news and commentary, with its prolific columnist Umbra Fisk, is a font of green ideas for apartment dwellers, from container gardening to rental-specific energy efficiency tips.