Going green when you rent an apartment can be tricky for the simple reason that you don’t own the place. You landlord is the one who will decide if they want the new stove to have an Energy Star rating, for example. There are still some things that you can control, like the following:
1) Light bulbs
It should not be news by now, but compact fluorescent light (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are much better for the environment than conventional incandescent bulbs. The latter uses up five to ten times as much energy as the other two bulbs, and they don’t last as long. While incandescent bulbs initially seem cheaper, their comparatively short life span means they are more expensive over the long haul. An LED can last ten years, while an incandescent bulb lasts less than a year. An LED’s longevity also means that fewer of them end up in the trash over time.
2) Organic cotton bedding
While cotton is a natural fiber, the amount of pesticides typically used to raise it make it less than environmentally friendly. Pesticides and other chemicals take time to off-gas, so anybody sleeping on bedding made from conventionally produced cotton will be exposed to those chemicals for hours on end. By contrast, organic cotton is, by definition, not grown with pesticides or other toxins. Nor is it dyed with anything toxic.
3) Green cleaning products
A lot of soaps, detergents, bleaches, etc. are loaded with harmful chemicals. Replacing them with natural and safer alternatives is, fortunately, easier than it used to be. For example, the company Seventh Generation, which has been in business for 28 years, makes a variety of paper and cleaning products. Not only are Seventh Generation products environmentally friendly, they can be found at the local grocery store or Target. The website Environmental Working Group includes a guide to environmentally friendly and not-so-friendly products. Plain old apple cider vinegar is a surprisingly versatile product, for it can be used to wash dishes, unclog drains or eradicate carpet stains.
4) Plants as air purifiers
While air purifiers can improve the air in an apartment, so can some plants. NASA researchers once conducted a study that found some plants could filter the air and remove such toxins as benzene or ammonia. Even better, some of the plants, like Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) or the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), are extremely hardy and tough to kill. In its study, NASA recommended having roughly one plant for every 100 square feet.
5) Painting bookshelves or furniture
Many paints contain volatile organic compounds or VOCs that are supposed to help the paint spread more evenly. Unfortunately, they also contain chemicals that form compounds by bonding with molecules in the air. At least one of those compounds can cause a person to develop a painful headache while painting in a room with closed windows. Even worse, it takes years for the chemicals to off-gas. Fortunately, there are “Zero VOC” paints carried by places like Home Depot.