Today’s WWW question comes from Theanne in Florida, USA, who left a comment for me over on the Simple Green Frugal Co-op. I feel that I did not respond adequately. Here is the question;
Now, I know that I do write a lot about sustainable living things for home owners (or mortgagor as most of us should be known as), because that is the situation I find myself in. I can only write about those things that I experience myself.
However sometimes I feel that I may be leaving behind part of my audience, which are people who choose to rent a home/apartment/townhouse and want to live sustainably as well. Heck, I was a renter all of my life until 12 years ago, when I bought this place!
I know that many renters read this blog and live as sustainable as they can, so lets share as many of your ideas as you can. I am sure Theanne would really appreciated the suggestions.
Over to you, educated reader!
I live in an apartment, but I own it. There will not be a garden nor chickens. Green investments on the building have to be done as a collective.
I think the answer is to think small: Look at whatever you can do by yourself without a large investment.
– find a local source of organic vegetables. I get a weekly bag of vegetables and fruits from a local company.
– learn about edible weeds and find places where it is safe to gather them for salads. Enjoy the walks.
– Grow sprouts in your home, grow herbs on your balcony.
– Buy only products that are not packaged (bring your own packaging to the store) or sparsely packaged. See also: http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/
– Every 4 weeks I go by bike to a local farm for cheese and yoghurt. Every 6 weeks I cycle to a windmill for organic flour that I use to bake my own bread.
– find a neighbour that produces excess eggs and become a regular customer.
– Make sure you cut back on usage of water, electricity, natural gas.
– look at the possibility to replace lights on the outside of the building with energy-efficient alternatives. This calls for a collective action of renters to invest in technology that pays for itself in 1 or 2 years.
I hope this helps a bit.
thank you…some good things that I can easily do!
From a plant... says
In some respects people who live in apartments are ideally placed for green living: check out the book “Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability” (or my review on my blog).
If you think of the areas of our Western lifestyle where we can make the biggest difference I see: 1) driving, 2) food, 3) energy.
(1) If you live in an apartment you probably do not own a car or need to (ie. you can just hire a car on the odd occasion where you go out of town).
(2) Food is an area your choices can make a daily difference. If you live in a big city you probably have easy access to a farmers market (or vege box delivery) where you can buy from local responsible farmers (and you will probably bring minimal packaging home). Else wise we can do the same as those mortgagors: cook from scratch, etc. One difficulty of apartments is what to do with food waste – no compost bin. Some cities have green waste disposal but otherwise I am still on the lookout for a solution.
(3) You may not be able to put up solar panels or insulate your property but you can make sure you are purchasing 100% renewable energy and reducing your usage (although if you live in an apartment your energy use should be lower by default!). An easy step is drying your washing on a clothes horse, you don’t need a back yard to line dry!
I would love a garden one day but in the meantime I rest assured that I can be just as (if not more) green living in an apartment!
thank you…will check out the book! since the major reason I moved to Florida and am living in an apartment was to help out the DIL and son with the g’kids, I hate to say it, but I have to have the car. I rarely go out more than a couple of times a week, which while not a cost effective use of the car, is better as far as saving petrol.
yes I do have access to several “farmer’s market” stands that sell fresh (and hopefully Florida grown) produce. I promise you I’ll check them out.
hate the fact that I can’t compost!
luckily I live where it is warm(er) and I try not to use the heat or AC anymore than I have to…easier all year EXCEPT the summer when the humidity can sap the strength right out of a person.
I’d been thinking about drying my clothes on inside racks or using my portable dog fence on the patio. I promise you’ll I’ll give this a try too!
One area that frustrates me as a renter is that I’m unable to escape slavery to the power company, and here in Oz power costs are going up, up and up! Ironically, we could afford to install a solar system – just not a house or land to put it on!
Of course we do as much as we can to reduce usage – nothing left on standby, lights out in rooms not in use, don’t heat/cool more than absolutely necessary, use the oven for two or three things at once – all the usual suspects. ..but you’ve heard that all before.
Here’s a new idea, at least new to me (actually it’s very old!). This weekend I’ll be recycling a double wall cardboard box and an old bean bag to make a ‘hay-box’ for some retained-heat cooking. I got the idea from an article about the ‘new’ ‘Wonderbag’ currently on the Guardian website in the Life and Style section, and from posts on caravanning and camping forums and the Mother Earth News website.
This style of cooking works for things like stews, curries, pot-roasts etc – basically things that are cooked with liquid in a covered pot. You put the ingredients in the pot (brown etc first as required), simmer for 5 minutes to make sure everything is heated through, then put it in an insulated box/bag to slow cook. Not unlike a mains powered slow-cooker, but you’re only adding energy for a short time at the start. I wish I knew about this a month or two ago when the weather was hot here, because it will be a great way to cook in summer without heating up the house.
It will also be great if we ever are in a position to go off-grid, or if we wind up in financial hardship and have to conserve power as a matter of necessity, not choice.
On a different note, an area that is sometimes dismissed too quickly is the value of water or energy-efficient appliances. We bought a new washing machine a couple of years ago. I used to collect grey water (rinse water) from the old one for the garden. The new one is so water efficient that it is impossible to collect meaningful quantities of grey-water and has good energy efficiency, especially for cold washing – and it wasn’t super-expensive. It was the base model of the range, in fact.
thank you…and you’re right about slavery to the power company! I discovered, after I moved back to Florida, that apparently the people, the state government (whoever) voted to allow the power company to bill the electricity users for a new power plant that may or may not be built…either way the electric company makes money and the consumers (me) pay a higher rate for something it’s looking like now will never be built…asinine!
interestingly enough my DIL said something the other day about solar cooking and I remembered years ago the Mother Earth News had the plans for a solar cooker which I tried back during my hippie years. Time to trot out the aluminum foil and make me another solar cooker…now what to do about the squirrels and cat and doves and lizards who traverse through my patio each day! I don’t share my food easily 😉
I’m currently renting my washer and dryer and if I phase out the dryer…then perhaps in a few months I’ll purchase a new more water/energy efficient washer! I always buy basic models too…don’t need bells and whistles to do a tub of laundry!
Drew Harvey says
There’s a great book called ‘The Edible Balcony’ by Indira Naidoo that is all about growing your own vegetables and herbs on an apartment balcony.
Keep up the good work Gavin!
thank you…I’ll check out this book. Growing my own is something I’ve already started. Have Yellow Onions, Chives, Dark Green Lettuce and Ginger started on my patio. Of course now I’m going to have to think tighter to squeeze in my dog fence for laundry drying…it can be done…I’m sure going to give it a try!
Gavin Webber says
Until two years ago, I lived in a condo townhouse. Our backyard was a shady 18×18 feet, minus the stairs.
Despite the lack of growing space, I did manage to do a lot.
– I found an allotment garden close to home and learned about gardening.
– I learned how to make more things from scratch, like cheese, soap, and all my meals.
– I vermi-composted in a bin in the kitchen.
– I built a raised bed in the backyard and planted shade tolerant plants, like certain herbs and greens.
– I learned about home and herbal remedies.
– I learned how to make my own hand cream, hair gel and “no-poo” shampoo/conditioner.
– I kept the car in the driveway and bussed to work. Learning how to knit while on the bus made it productive too!
– I made the house as energy efficient as possible.
– I read and researched a lot, on the hope that someday I would have a bigger backyard, and should the zombie apocalypse ever hit, I’d have some useful skills. 😉
I did find that living in a townhouse was much more energy efficient. I frequently didn’t have to turn on the furnace in winter until December.
thank you…fantastic! Vermi-composting in the kitchen…my question is if I did figure out a way to compost what do I do with the resulting soil? I could do like they did in the movie “The Great Escape” and haul soil around here and there and spread it in amongst the flowers and shrubs!
it’s proven difficult for me to do, but I have been trying to cut down on prepackaged grocery items!
my patio is positioned nicely on the southside of apartment, longest measurement running east to west! minimal amounts of shade! so a great growing area for container gardening.
I’m all for survival skills…hope I continue to have some as I age.
I agree one of the pros for apartment living is not having to have the heat on till later in the season. of course this winter has been warm here so have had the heat on maybe 2 or 3 times.
Although postage stamp size, I did have a backyard, so the compost went either there or in the allotment garden I rented. If you don’t have either of those, do you have any friends who would appreciate it? Some of it could go into your own balcony garden too – just be careful with seedlings.
Thank you Gavin for using my question…and thank all who’ve responded with some really great tips and suggestions!
Gavin Webber says
No problem Theanne, happy to help, as I didn’t have a good answer for your question. I am chuffed that it had such a good response.
There is a great blog run by someone who cooks amazing stuff sustainably and buys sustainably…and lives in a small space….City Hippy Farm Girl.
And I must say , Theanne, you are already doing a lovely sustainable thing by asking the question, ‘how can I do more?’ …so thankyou.
IMO, you can live a good green life in a city. It is just different.
-Learn crafts, such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, soapmaking, repairing furniture. Even beginner level skills will enable you to make useful things that are superior quality compared to what stores have to offer, ethically produced and possibly even made from eco friendly materials.
-Learn to mend your clothes, dye faded clothing etc. Find your way to dress ethically.
-If you live in a city, recycling opportunties are often better than those available in rural areas. Also libraries and thrift stores may be more conveniently available.
-Grow something. If you have a window, grow herbs and sprouts. If you have a balcony or a patio, you can grow a wide selection of vegetables and fruits that are specially bred to thrive in a limited space.
-Enjoy your green hobbies outside the home. Maybe there is a community centre nearby. Maybe local clubs and organizations arrange courses, events and clubs. Socializing is also a great way to meet like-minded people.
-Learn to bake your own bread and baked goodies, and make baking a weekly habit. Cook from scratch.
-Clean your home with eco friendly products such as vinegar and baking soda.
-Recycling and waste reduction opportunities are usually better in cities than in rural areas. Take advantage of that.
-Become an active citizen in your neighborhood, city, community. Join a club, volunteer, contact decision makers, join a political party, blog…the opportunties are endless.
Here is a blog I follow that is about a Canadian who lives in an apartment and does all she can to be self-sufficient. http://www.canadiandoomer.ca/blog.php Sharon
Darren (Green Change) says
You’ve already got a lot of good ideas here, which should keep you busy for a while!
I’d just like to add a general principle to keep in mind – every dollar you spend is a vote. Whether you’re buying a product or a service, the money you spend is casting votes in support of how it was produced, what it’s made of, who is providing it, how it’s being packaged and delivered, etc. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the basic necessities like food or high-tech big-ticket items like solar panels, it all counts.
How you spend your money makes a difference!
Maybe you could introduce your new discoveries and ideas to your grandchildren and children in a gentle friendly way. Do they have a yard that could use a child friendly vegie patch? some herbs for cooking? I think just being aware is a big start.
And thanks again for all the helpful comments…some easy to initiate, some I’ll research the area and see what I come up with!
Greg Foyster says
There’s a group called Green Renters that publishes just the sort of information you’re looking for. See http://www.greenrenters.org/
They’re based in Australia, but I’m sure the information is applicable everywhere.