In part one of this blog I focussed on energy, part two focusses on everything else 🙂 I have used the familiar headings of reduce, borrow,reuse and recycle to organise my tips.
Units often have minimal storage – this really helps keep a reign on unnecessary purchases. Often the first question I ask (after do I really NEED this) is where am I going to put this? Reduce is not only stuff in itself, but also the materials that it is made from and comes packaged in . Does it have unnecessary packaging, is it recyclable or made from recyclable materials? I have started to replace plastics with glass, bamboo or wood where practical. I have also been making my own cleaning products for a while now using a mix of vinegar, bi carb, borax, citrus and essential oils. I am starting to experiment with beauty products …
You can reduce waste through compost. I am currently not composting but it is not impossible in a unit. Things to think about are do you have a communal back area you could start one? Neighbours or a community garden nearby that have a garden or chickens you can donate food scraps too (balconies are a great scoping source for this)? It’s an excellent way to meet them and create a sense of community. We were giving our food scraps to a neighbour for their chickens for awhile. Worm farms are smaller, and I think less maintenance involved, than a traditional compost bin (I am thinking about trying this next). You could easily keep one on a balcony or small courtyard if the conditions are right. Then there are also bokashi bins which can sit on your benchtops – I haven’t tried these as they seem to require additional inputs.
Growing your own food can reduce your exposure to chemicals and get you in tune to eating food in season. If you have a sunny balcony/courtyard you can easily grow herbs or selected vegies in pots (using up the fertiliser produced by your worm farm or bokashi). Tomatoes, chillis, zucchinis, lettuce and capsicums are in my pots right now along with Basil, chives, oregano and parsley.I can’t keep a peace lily alive but doing ok with the veggies and herbs so far 🙂
Borrow. Again, living in a unit has storage space at a premium and it is a thoughtful Landlord who has installed BIR and ample kitchen cupboards. This is different to reduce in that you are still accessing ‘stuff’, but only for the time you need it. I am a member of my local library where I borrow books, magazines, dvds and cds. With a little one, I have found my local toy library invaluable – we get to give her ‘new’ toys every month without dealing with the accumulation that comes with purchase. There is a whole new world of borrow out there that I haven’t tapped into but definitely worth looking into as a renter (e.g. Freecycle, tushare)
Reuse. My cleaning cloths are old facewashers, cut up towels and undies. I also use cloth nappies, mama cloth and reusable wipes replacing single use equivalents. I also have an ongoing de-cluttering thing happening where I am regularly dropping off unwanted items still in good condition to second hand stores for other people to reuse (the old if you haven’t used it in 12 months rule). I also shop at second hand stores or gumtree to see if I can pick up used items before purchasing new for many things. This is not specific to living in a unit but definitely a big part of reducing your impact on the earth.
Recycle. This can be hard when living in large complexes as there are often only two recycling bins for a medium sized complex that get filled up two days after collection, and often with non-recyclable items. I try and squash down, crush, fold my recyclables to create as much space as possible in the bin. I use the mobile muster when my old phones stop working, drop old printer cartridges off at Officeworks and have just located a computer and camera recycler to take care of my latest e-waste.
One of the greatest things about living in a unit is that they make living near parks, shops, beaches, public transport and work much more affordable than if you owned a freestanding dwelling. Using public transport and parks reduces your carbon footprint and by living close to everything you need you can walk or cycle when you need to go places.
These are just some of the things I do, have done or looked into when renting a unit to reduce my carbon footprint and generally to have a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. For more ideas check out these resources specifically for renters:
and for inspiration on eco-living in a unit, in New York City no less, check out:
I often go through phases with this stuff, get really motivated and disciplined and make the changes I’ve read about or seen elsewhere. Sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I do the research and then it’s just too hard to follow through. That’s ok. I feel like as long as I keep trying and maintain the things that do work for me I am still in a better place. I feel like it is getting easier, there are more and more products and services compared with 10 years ago, even 5 years ago, that make it easier to live greener.
I would love to hear your tips on green living in a rented home, unit or otherwise. I find that is where I learn the most, shared tips on blogs! Sal x