12 ways to live more sustainably in an apartment

12 ways to live more sustainably in an apartment

Domestic housing accounts for a fifth of UK's greenhouse gas emissions. After the government dropped their zero-carbon homes pledge in 2015 the onus is on individuals to push forward sustainability.

Even if you are renting, you can take steps toward more sustainable apartment living and if you can get some neighbours on board, you might be able to do something special.

Here are 12 ways to live more sustainably in an apartment.

1. Use energy efficient white goods

Increasing the sustainability of your home is all about reducing energy consumption.
Installing energy efficient devices can reduce energy consumption by as much as 80%.
Look for the energy star ratings of 7 or over for your fridge, washing machine, dryer, dishwasher and all your other appliances.
Keep the back of the fridge clean, and remember to defrost the freezer regularly to keep it working efficiently.

2. Keep tabs on your devices

Lots of devices are still zapping energy even when they're off. To stop wasting energy, unplug and switch off rather than keeping things on standby. Standby functions still consume 14% of energy.

Unplugging your phone charger when it is not in use saves 7 kilos of CO2 a year.

If you're serious about saving some power, try a solar powered charger for your gadgets.

3. Avoid the dryer

When using the washing machine, it’s most energy efficient to use cold water and wash at non-peak hours. Usually between the hours of 6-8 am and 8-10 pm.

A drying rack or clothes line is much more environmentally friendly than dryers. Clothes dryers can use anywhere between 1800 - 5000 watts of energy making it one of the most energy draining appliances in the home. If you must use a dryer, make sure it's an energy efficient model. Check for dryness at regular intervals and take clothes out when they are ready rather than relying on automatic programming. Dry towels and heavier clothing separately from lighter items. Clean the lint trap and make sure the dryer vent isn't blocked.

Remember to load up the dishwasher and washing machine, only running a load when it is full.

white Scandi style loungeroom Ask og Eng

Image credit: Ask og Eng

4. Use LED

In 2019, everyone should have LED light fittings.

They use only 2-17 watts of energy and given that they last 10 times longer than fluorescents, are cooler, more durable, cheaper,and are mercury free. It is an absolute no-brainer that if you haven't already, you should make the switch.

If you are renting, you can just swap out all the halogens for LED and put the halogens back in when you leave.

5. Insulation

Insulation is so important. Unfortunately, so much energy is sucked up on badly built, poorly insulated, drafty buildings. Do what you can to fix your apartment at a structural level.

Double glazed windows can save up to 50% of heating. If you can't get double-glazing, dress the windows with heavy curtains - they block drafts, retain heat in winter and cool in summer.

The key is to try and regulate temperature fluctuations. Close doors to any unused rooms to avoid heating or cooling them. You could also consider installing a programmable thermostat. This will automatically turn down your heating while you're at work and crank it up for when you arrive home, or when you wake up in the morning. It's not only energy efficient but luxuriously convenient.

eco house open kitchen area concrete walls green accents

Image credit: Dion Robeson

6. Switch to renewable energy

Ideally, all buildings would have solar panels. You can start lobbying and in the meantime, you can still make a switch to renewable energy by changing your energy provider. In Britain, there are a few options you can explore;

Ecotricity were the first 100% renewable energy company to emerge in the UK in 1999 and boast recognition by the Vegan Society.
Bulb is the newest player and have become the UK's biggest supplier of green energy. They boast the cheapest renewable energy on the market and are ranked 4.8 on trust pilot.
Ebico work in partnership with SSE and founded in 1998 and is the only not-for-profit energy company.
You can also check out Good Energy, Green Energy UK and Octopus Energy.

7. Recycle

Almost half of UK households throw away at least one or more item that could be recycled and two thirds aren't sure which bins to use for what!

Contact your local council to find out where and what you can recycle. If you're in London, you can pop your postcode into the London Recycles page. You can then prep at home with some boxes or bags in the hallway, laundry or even boot of the car, to separate your recyclable items.

Ideally, food waste should be composted although this could be a bit of an overwhelming undertaking in an apartment! However, if you're in London, you can still reduce landfill if you sign up for London's food waste service. Many London councils collect food waste as part of their weekly services - just put it out for collection in a separate container. Check the link above, contact your council or the the City of London (recycling@cityoflondon.gov.uk) to find out if this service is available for your home.

8. Eat your groceries

Try cut down food wastage to begin with by planning your meals for the week, and buying just the amount of ingredients you need to stop things going bad and ending up in the bin. Food subscription boxes are good for cutting down on waste as you only get the amount of food you will use, and aren't left with bags of veggies.

Another way to avoid buying bags of food you might not be able to get through is to buy by the kilo at your local farmers market or shop at bulk markets where you bring your own food containers and fill just what you need.

neutral loungeroom in eco house
Image credit: Homes to Love

9. Furniture that lasts

Buy furniture that lasts. Durable, sustainable furniture is the way out of a disposable society.
Resist any impetus to change furniture for fashion. If you need a change, try updating your apartment layout or see if you can swap things out rather than replace them.
If it's time to say goodbye to a piece of furniture, see if you have a friend or marketplace you could swap, donate or sell to, rather than throwing it out. Look for a marketplace in your area on facebook or donate to a charity.

10. Saving water

There's the little things you can do to save water, like turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, but the big wins are in your bathroom and kitchen fittings.
Install a high-efficiency shower head, make sure you have a dual flush toilet and faucet aerators on all your taps- it halves water consumption.

If you're a bottled water drinker, cut out the PET and install a water filter attached to your kitchen sink faucet.

11. Use some Apps

Serious about this sustainability business? There's some apps that can tailor some data for you.

Oroeco allows you to track your carbon footprint based on your electricity consumption, leisure, food, transport. Joulebug allows you to share your sustainable advances and tricks with other users through videos and consumption and savings statistics.

The HowGood platform offers its users a catalog with over 100,000 food products analyzed for sustainability through sixty indicators like ingredient supply, community impact, food processing or the level of producer commitment.

12. Work together

You can do more if you can get your neighbours on board. You could build a green roof or a veggie patch. A communal composter, a water tank or bike rikes. Or start small with some shared appliances.
Check out this Swedish block for inspiration.
There are lots of little things we can do like using low VOC paint and swapping out cleaning chemicals for vinegar, but its important to tackle the big ticket items first.

Look at how you can reduce your energy consumption by covering the fundamentals of good insulation, energy efficient white goods, lighting and appliances and water saving faucets and toilets.

Beyond that, you can switch your utilities to renewable energy and live sustainably by cutting down your consumption.
If you're buying or moving, look for buildings that are being sustainably built or refitted. Check out developers like Citu for inspiration, or Fabrica and Hill. 
Citu home
Image credit: Citu
In apartment living, there is power in numbers. In addition to the sustainable steps and decisions you can take in your own apartment, work with your neighbours and/or the body corporate about collective initiatives or shared facilities that can make your whole building more sustainable.
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