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New home, New you: A Renter’s Guide to Living Green

By George Hadgelias

If you’re not a home owner, and therefore can’t be popping solar panels on top of your rental, you may have to find other ways to make your home more sustainable.

Besides remembering to turn your lights off and sticking to four-minute showers, what are some of the other ways you can make your rental property a bit greener?

1. Plant a garden

We all know a renter whose home looks like this….

House plants are a great start, but you can take it a step further if you have a yard. As we know, planting trees helps convert all that CO2 into sweet, sweet breathable air. Plus, if you start a veggie patch, your plants can help feed you.

If you don’t have a yard or if your landlord doesn’t want you digging it up, pots and planters go a long way.

Live in an apartment? A little windowsill herb garden is a great place to start and can look cute to boot.

2. Consider compost

For those with outdoor space, consider a compost bin for your food waste. Instead of turfing those eggshells and veggie scraps in the bin, popping them in a compost will help reduce landfill and generate some ace fertiliser to feed your plants.

Amy, an apartment-dweller from Melbourne’s north, went the extra mile to arrange for her scraps to go to a local community garden.

“My local cafe has a veggie garden near my house. I was quite friendly with the owners anyway, so one day I just asked if I could bring scraps to their compost bin,” she shares. “I find that people who share the same values and outlook on sustainability really welcome sharing and being communal.”

Another option, if you have a yard, is to invest in a portable rainwater tank to catch and reuse those excess drips of water.

3. Take control of your heating and cooling

“My housemate and I always close the blinds before we leave the house if it’s going to be a hot day,” Alex from Sydney says. “Then after we come home from work, we can open up the windows as the temperature drops. It’s been an effective strategy so far!”

Whether in a rental or not, reducing your reliance on aircon is a solid step on your path to more sustainable living.

Here are a few other things you can do to help with heating and cooling:

  1. Use a fan
  2. Close blinds on hot days to keep the house cool
  3. Open your windows at night and let the breeze in
  4. Invest in door snakes to stop draughts in winter
  5. Get rugs and heavy curtains for winter. Check with your landlord, but small adjustments like hanging curtains should be permissible

4. Invest in greener wares

If you need to buy appliances for your rental, opt for more energy-efficient models. When it comes to white goods, like washing machines and fridges, the appliance should come with an energy efficiency rating sticker to help you understand how much power it sucks up.

It’s also a great idea to purchase appliances second-hand to save money and stop perfectly operational machines being thrown into landfill.

“Our entire home is second-hand!” Alex adds. “I bought our couch off Gumtree; I bought the dryer off an old housemate; the washing machine is second-hand. You just save so much money.”

Emily from the NSW South Coast says she swaps many of her generic household items for ones that are safer for the environment.

“We tend to use eco-friendly soaps, laundry detergent and dishwashing detergent whenever we can,” she says. “We also minimise our single-use plastic use. I just think wherever you can feasibly make a swap to a better [more environmentally friendly] product – you should. It’s the least you can do.”

5. Change the bulbs

We all know to switch the lights off when we’re not in the room, right?

Well, the other easy task is swapping to more energy-efficient bulbs, if your lighting permits.

Swapping incandescent bulbs to LED lights is a good place to start – just be sure to check precisely which bulb you need. If unsure, unscrew the bulb before heading to your hardware store.

Another option is to light your space up with lamps instead of full room lighting, especially if you’re only hanging out and watching TV. Subtle lighting does wonders to set the mood – no one wants stark harsh lighting when they’re relaxing, anyway.

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