Sustainable Life Hacks: Apartments edition

EDITOR’S NOTE: Water cooler conversations at Green Mountain Energy often center on sustainability and conservation. This blog series features some of our best ideas, or “life hacks,” to help you manage your daily activities more efficiently.

If you own or a rent a house, some sustainable best practices are relatively simple to implement. You may be accustomed to throwing your recyclable goods in your own bin and leaving for curbside pick-up, having a compost pile out your back door, a garden to the side, and stashing your two commuter bikes in the garage.

However, if you’re like me, you may be a single person who lives in a 500 square-foot apartment with a small patio and one closet for storage. Incorporating sustainable practices requires a bit more thought, but it is doable, we promise!

Apartment living has its benefits, environmentally. Less space means less energy to heat and cool as well as less space to clean. But what about recycling, composting and other general eco-habits?

How to recycle with no bin:

Some cities or apartments complexes do not provide recycling bins or options to non-homes (apartments, condos, townhomes, etc.). You can ask your property manager or your current trash service provider about providing recycling services.

You can also keep a large plastic container of your own and fill it with recycled goods. Be sure you aren’t using plastic trash bags. Though well-intentioned, plastic trash bags can jam up the sorting machines at recycling plants!

Dump your recycling in a center near you. Search for centers on where to best to deposit anything from batteries to glass to paint with this handy website:

How to compost with no yard:

According to the EPA, 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away is made of food scraps and yard waste – the largest category of municipal solid waste going into landfills.

Composting food scraps keeps these materials out of landfills. And the end result will yield compost, a rich organic matter that you can add to enrich soil, which is perfect for your lawn or in the soil of your garden plants.

If you don’t have a yard, use a container with ventilation and drainage holes in it (at least one square foot of space per pound of worms.) Learn how to compost in an apartment in this neat infographic from Sustainable America.

Need some help setting up a compost solution? The Compost Coalition provides numerous resources, forums and ideas. Read more in this Q&A.

How to store a bike with no garage:

Just because you live in an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t green-commute. Many apartment complexes are located conveniently near stores and shops, which means greater walkability. Biking is also a good option, and bikes can be stored on the wall if you are lacking in apartment floor-space.

Many bike storage racks and hooks are available for less than $40. Search “gravity bike storage rack” or “wall mounted bike storage rack” on your favorite online retail site.

General sustainability tips for apartment dwellers:

Simply put, living sustainably means being conscious of the world around you and attempting to limit waste while reusing and recycling to the best of your ability.

Whether in a house, an apartment (or anything else), remember to unplug devices when not in use. That means unplugging TVs, video games, cell phones, laptop chargers, etc. Otherwise, your device can still be consuming electricity in stand-by mode.

We all get mail, so try to sign up online for paperless billing and correspondences. It’ll save you the amount of documents you have to physically store, as well as numerous trees.

And if you want to support solar at your apartment, learn more in this blog post.

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