While we’re spending most of our days inside our homes, some of us may feel like our spaces are missing eco-touches. Home-dwellers can take advantage of their big yards and open spaces for planting and living sustainably; however, it can often feel more challenging to make these shifts when living in a small space or in one that you don’t own.
There is immense opportunity found in small spaces (enter tiny home efficiency), as long as the allotted space is maximized with creative solutions that can benefit both you and the environment.
Eco-friendly living goes beyond buying zero-waste products and minimizing your impact. The movement also includes feeling connected to the Earth—even when we’re seventeen floors above it.
I want to start with two tasks that people seem to think are impossible for apartments: growing your own food and composting.
Your home is probably filled with plants anyway! Why not grow and care for something you can eat instead? Balconies or large exposed extras are great for growing your own food, as long as you observe access to proper sunlight and shade. You’ll want to think about what can be grown vertically on trellises (inside or out), versus what prefers to be in planters. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you can try your luck with a no-soil hydroponic window farm or container towers if you really want to maximize your space. Focus on produce that grows in small spaces.
Having fresh food is a game-changer, and if you want to share the wealth, see if your apartment complex will allow a roof-top or common area community garden. This can be a great way to gather your community, connect with your neighbours and enjoy a space that would otherwise be wasted!
Now for composting and the “smell” problem. Food waste doesn’t actually smell bad on its own. When mixed with non-organics in the garbage, it stinks because the decomposition process is thrown off. Having a compost bin out on your balcony or in your home shouldn’t bring an unwanted smell, as long as you have the right mixture ratio of carbon to nitrogen.
There are many successful apartment composters, whether you want to experiment with worm composting, a classic tumbler that can fit in the spare closet or balcony or get an electric composter to do the work for you.
These seem like small shifts, but they can make a huge difference in how you view your apartment space and its ability to produce everything you need.
Some of the more tedious changes that you may be feeling frustrated with in your apartment space, like wasteful energy or inefficient insulation, also have quick swaps that you can easily take with you later when you move.
Changing out your shower head is a great start. You can find ones that use water more efficiently, which will reduce wasteful water usage, give you a break on your hydro bill and facilitate better water pressure.
Another great trick I recently learned about is talking to your energy company when moving into a new apartment space and asking if they have a renewable energy option. Depending on your area, they may have an eco-option for you that will help save on your electricity bills and reduce your carbon footprint. Every city is different, so it will vary depending on your provider.
The trickiest one to hack has been the lack of proper insultation in apartments. No, you can’t tear up the walls and add insulation, but there are a few ways that you can save on energy and money.
Medium-coloured drapes with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 per cent and will help to block any cool air coming through in the winter, hold in heat and vice versa for the summer months. A weighted blocker or window insultation will work great too, and even though they’re made of plastic, will reduce energy costs enough that it outweighs that little bit of plastic.
We’re all doing our best to make our homes more sustainable and efficient and it can feel overwhelming to have to make big changes yourself. An alternative is to talk to your landlord and see if they’re interested in implementing a building-wide composting area, recycling system, or in retrofitting your building to save everyone the money and energy. You may be surprised at what they’ll say!
In the meantime, it’s the little eco-changes that add up and make a difference in the long run. Remember: whatever you’re doing already is enough, and the planet appreciates you.
P.S. What about your laundry?
Did you know that annually more than 750 million plastic laundry jugs end up in our landfills? Tru Earth has the solution.