Being Greener When You Rent

Renting can be frustrating when you want to go green. There are a lot of things you just don’t have control over. You generally don’t own the appliances, can’t install solar panels, etc. It gets annoying sometimes.

I deal with this a lot as I do still rent. We’re fortunate enough to be renting a house rather than an apartment, but there are still a lot of limitations.

Start By Saving Energy

Even when you can’t replace that cranky old refrigerator, you can still save energy. Start with the light bulbs. Switch out to compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs. In many areas you can find them at a discount through your local electric company. I’ve seen them under $2.50 for a 3-pack in my area due to discounts run through my power company. Take advantage.


There is one catch to CFLs if you have a lot of closed fixtures. The standard spiral bulbs don’t work as well in closed fixtures. According to, you are best off using a reflector CFL in these areas. Similarly, if you have dimmer switches, you will want to be sure that your bulbs will work with these.

Also try to find out about recycling these, as they have a small amount of mercury and should not be just thrown in the trash. In my area Kohl’s recycles them.

You should also think more about when you are using electricity. Power down the computer if you won’t be using it for a time. Unplug appliances that don’t need to be plugged in all the time. Unplug the cell phone charger and other chargers.

Power strips can also be a big help. Use them to shut off all power to multiple items at once. This takes care of the “phantom load” that many electrical items have where they use electricity even when off. Often this is to run a clock or other nonessential. If you don’t need it to have electricity 24/7, find a way to make shutting it off all the way easy.

Clean Your Air

Grow some houseplants. These can help to clean the air of your apartment or home, as well as just looking nice. You can choose decorative varieties or grow more useful plants that don’t mind being indoors, such as many herbs.

If you have a balcony, you can take things a step further and grow a small garden outside. This won’t clean your air inside, but it is a great activity and can give you some wonderful produce.

Watch for Green Apartments

You may not be able to move into one right now, but in some areas green apartments are turning up. Just a few miles from where I live, there’s a new apartment complex that is powered by solar power. Believe me, I would have loved to get on that list, but by the time I heard of it, the list was full.

I expect green apartments to be a trend. It’s a good value for the landlords and very appealing to many renters.

Encourage Green Habits

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is that you may not have access to many of the basic things homeowners take for granted. For example, recycling may or may not be available in some apartment communities, even if single family homes are required to recycle.

If your complex doesn’t recycle, talk to the rental agents about it. If they learn there is a demand for it, they’re more likely to sign up for recycle bins to be put out by the trash bins.

Use Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products

Stop using the toxic stuff. There are some great, effective natural cleaning products, both homemade and bought at the store, that you can use. Baking soda and vinegar are a great place to start.

Being green in a rental situation is more difficult, but it is not impossible. These steps can help you to get onto the right path.

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