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Question of the Week: What do you do at home to help protect the environment if you don’t own your home?

2009 February 3

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Many people don’t own their living space such as renters or workers assigned to temporary housing. Non-owners general don’t make major changes to their homes, such as buying more efficient large appliances or improving insulation.  Concerned citizens

What do you do at home to help protect the environment if you don’t own your home?

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12 Responses leave one →
  1. Maria, permalink
    February 3, 2009

    When I lived in an apartment, I turned the heat down on the water heater, I made sure to open the blinds in winter (for passive heat) and close them in summer (so the AC didn’t have to work as hard). I washed clothes in cold water as well. My apartment complex had recycling bins for bottles, cans, and newspaper so I made sure to recycle as much as possible. Renters can sometimes do minor fixes such as repairing a leaky faucet or replacing the air filter on the furnace.

  2. Tina Chen permalink
    February 3, 2009

    I have two other roommates and I live in DC. The last one out of the house always turns down the heat, or turns up the AC to help save on heating/cooling costs. We recycle everything we can. When old bulbs die, we replace them with CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs). We try to eliminate drafts from windows by using drapes. It really helps when everyone living together are like-minded in their environmental concerns.

    In DC, residents can receive free home energy audits and other services to help “green” their homes, thru the DC Dept of the Environment. See:,a,1244,q,461275.asp

  3. Melanie permalink
    February 5, 2009

    Either this question is badly worded or it is just dumb. You do not have to own your home to turn off the lights when not in use or separate your trash for recycling. A thermostat that you use to control the heat / air might be rented as part of your home, but the landlord doesn’t control the setting. You don’t rent the electric – or the water – or the gas.

  4. kchick permalink
    February 5, 2009

    I’m sure the question was intended to ask what someone who was not at liberty to make permanent changes to their home (install more insulation, change to a programable thermostat, install thermal windows, etc) might do to protect the environment either by reducing energy use or some other means.

  5. Matt permalink
    February 6, 2009

    Actually I think it was more an attempt to “connect with those who have been historically underrepresented in EPA decision making, including the disenfranchised in our cities and rural areas, communities of color, native Americans, people disproportionately impacted by pollution”. I hope this segement of the constituency is getting a lot of usefull info from this blog as they check it from their Iphones and laptops while waiting on line for their next round of stimulation from their leaders.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    February 9, 2009

    The obvious ones, yes. Turn off the lights, adjust your climate control temps, use CFLs, request air filter changes, etc…

    Many complexes do not have recycling, as mine does not. I take my recycling to a friend’s house, in a neighborhood that does get recycling pickup. If that’s not an option for you, consider taking periodic trips to the nearest collection center. Coordinate with your neighbors too – maybe each take a turn going once a month.

  7. permalink
    February 10, 2009

    I am sorry that anyone would think teaching and implementing new ideas to improve the environment are “dumb”!
    I personally grew up with parents that were “Depression era” babies so some of the things that conserve energy come naturally but I was actually trained to do it to save $$! amazes me now that so many things that were done to pinch pennies help the environment as well..turning off the lights, etc.
    A lot of people did not grow up this way..
    please send general enviro-comments to above

  8. Marie permalink
    February 18, 2009

    M,Stewardessfortheenvironment says… I agree with gogreenblah and anonymous… I think its great that we finally have awaken to the 21st century..and realized that if we do not take initiative whether we own or rent..we need to teach, and better yet show by action (example) to do our part to save energy, recycle, and be conscious of how we use our water, and other natural resources. As a contemporay song says: Mother earth can’t take much more….so we must be a light to furture generations…an oldie but goodie song says: will man be still alive in the year 2525???

    Many rental properties do not have recycling, mine does not..but it should not stop us from doing our part…I have sent and paid for phonebooks to go to recycle centers (and collected as many as I could from neighbors) before they had drop off sites, or waste bins available for public use…just look around..and you can see that more avenues are opening up for recycle, and reuse..hooray…do not forget to power down computers when not in use and use surge protectors for all electrical equipment…and yes..the last one out…should flip the switch off and check the thermostat…thats the easy part…also you can recycle old magazines, books..donate to hospitals, retirement homes and centers…alot of people would like to read and browse if they have the material there…knowledge is our greatest asset and gift in a free country…so keep on blogging…m

  9. sandy permalink
    March 6, 2009

    I live in a rental, and they have done a great job at collecting recycling various materials, so my husband and I definitely contribute to the cause. I was bothered by the older toilets in my unit, so I purchased the 1.6 gal Toto’s, and had them installed by my bldg engineer. I also use 13 gal kitchen garbage bags that decompose within 30 days of entering a landfill, I use a Brita pitcher at home in lieu of buying water bottles, and I use a big Sigg bottle at work. is a great website to find great recycled/reusable bags for all different occasions. Also, waste paper at work is brought home and used in our printer. Finally, prescription bottles can be reused to hold little things like paper clips, q-tips, etc.

  10. Liz Henry permalink
    March 6, 2009

    I do a couple things that were not mentioned above:
    I have a Vermicompost in a small bin off from my kitchen
    Use cleaners without phosphates or non biopresistant-cleaners
    Use reusable grocery bags when bringing groceries to my apartment, (I also found you can fit more into them and you carry less to your apartment, which can be difficult if you live alone)
    In my apartment, I was able to install energy star lighting fixtures and some appliances.
    My apartment complex also recycles and I try to purchase items that can be recycled. I try not to buy things that have a lot of packaging. It just more stuff for me to carry to my apartment and then out of my apartment, more stuff in the trash. Try to generate as little trash as possible.
    I also decorated my apartment through purchasing reused furniture and decorations. (It was also cheaper than buying new furniture).
    Using craigslist, thrift stores and goodwill made my apartment look AWESOME! and it was cheaper!

    Also I found you can have an effect on what you purchase in the grocery store, ie.. (organics, less meats, locally grown produce, more grains)

    In choosing an apartment, I choose a location where I was within walking distance to a grocery store, restaurants which was difficult in Raleigh. But helps me decrease my fuel consumption and its great when I forget something at the store, just grab my reusable bag and walk over and grab the things I forgot!

  11. Liz Henry permalink
    March 6, 2009

    I’m also looking at starting a container garden on my porch/patio

  12. Evan Baumgarten permalink
    March 12, 2009

    I am living in an apartment currently so this question is very relevant to me. I have 3 other roommates in a 2 bedroom apartment, so eliminating waste and saving energy can be quite difficult. I have realized that trying to be eco- friendly is not a chore, it becomes a habit. I subconsciously turn off all lights and appliances if no one is around or using them. In the cold months of January and February, running the heater is essential to staying warm, but once the weather starts to warm up opening windows and doors to the outside is a much more efficient way of staying cool than running the air conditioner. Recycling is now 2nd nature to me and has become a part of my daily routine. The tap water in my apartment is not the cleanest so instead of buying bottled water I have invested in a water filtration system that connects directly to the tap. Even though the water bottles claim to be “eco-friendly”, drinking water from the tap is much cheaper and sustainable. I opt to walk over drive whenever I can and I let the sun lighten my room instead of electricity. I am not the most environmentally conscious person in the world, but I do my part within my means to limit the amount of waste i produce. Obviously I can do more and I am always educating myself on new realistic ways to limit my carbon footprint.

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