I wish I could live a sustainable lifestyle in which I conserve energy, diminish excess waste, and contribute to a safer planet. But my dream of living on a small farm in a self-sufficient home powered by solar energy is vastly different from my current reality of living in a rented apartment in the city.
However, I am using my reasonably sized apartment to practice green living with simple yet impactful changes to my daily life. After research and trial and error, I have found limitless ways to create a more environment-conscious home. A huge added bonus is that conserving energy saves you money!
Here are my favorite green habits:
When I think of composting, I think of large plots of land; but composting can be as simple as using a bucket and a few worms (also known as vermi-composting). Start by compiling your supplies -- you'll need some black-and-white newspapers (or use sawdust), topsoil, a bucket, a cover, and worms. Feed your food scraps to your worms (remember: they are mostly vegan), and keep the dirt balanced by adding small amounts of newspaper to absorb the moisture. The dirt that the worms produce by breaking down scraps is clean and does not release any odor, so you may keep it inside or outside. If you make too much of it, you can also donate the composted dirt to your local community garden.
Escape to a Tropical Patio
As long as you have sufficient light and a big enough container and you remember to water your plants, you can grow herbs, flowers, and vegetables. I have turned my lanai (as they say in Hawaii for "porch") into a beautiful and tropical escape in Virginia. I grow three different types of herbs and three different types of vegetables with practically no effort. Bringing life -- even plant life -- into your space can give it a more homey atmosphere. My favorite space in my home is on the porch with a good cup of coffee or iced tea.
Reduce, Reuse, Ask!
If you live in an apartment complex, ask about your apartment's recycle options. My apartment doesn't have a recycling option, but the owners are thinking about bringing it back to the complex in the near future. For now, I take my recycling to a drop-off recycling spot every Saturday morning. Nothing like kicking off the weekend with errands that save the planet -- and it boosts my mood, too!
Wine Bottle Emergencies
A good bottle of wine has many functional uses after the contents have been consumed. Wine bottles are great for filling up with water in case of emergency (that came in handy in Hawaii during tropical storms). If I want to feel like I'm back in Italy, I infuse the water with my homegrown herbs. You can also use old wine bottles to spice up a romantic night. Find skinny candles or a small bunch of flowers to place in the neck of the bottle for an automatic ambience enhancer.
Ditch the Tupperware
I haven't purchased Tupperware in several years for a few reasons. When I buy any food items in a jar, I clean them out and store them for future use. Jars are great as drinking glasses, and they can also store leftovers, sauces, etc.
In New Zealand, you have to turn on the outlet before you can access the power; but in the States, we don't have that option. A plugged-in microwave eats about $0.24 per month by simply sitting there in standby mode. Sure, 25 cents a month might not be a lot of money, but think about the other plugged-in appliances in your home that are sucking up energy (computers, television, surround-sound, stove, etc.). An easy fix to conserve money and energy without compromising your lifestyle is to keep your larger appliances on a power strip and turn the power strip off when you're not using the appliances.
Share Your Water!
In Massachusetts, my roommates and I had a habit of leaving partially full cups of water around the house. Instead of pouring the liquid of life down the sink, I poured the water into the plants in our home. Just make sure it's water before you pour it onto your greenery!
I love reusable bags. In the last few years, they have become even more widely used. Be sure to have enough to keep in your cars and purse for those last-minute purchases.
Replace the Paper
Try replacing paper towels with washable cloths. If your go-to drying machine is the beloved paper towel, try reducing the frequency of your use to only two days a week at first. According to several green-living sites, paper towels are created with a bounty (no pun intended) of toxins. Paper towels account for 25 percent of landfill waste and are difficult to recycle. Switching to cloth also saves you money. You can easily wash the cloth in your weekly laundry and throw your sponges in the dishwasher. If you live without a dishwasher, you can boil your cloth or sponges! Welcome to 1950!
I could list so many more ways to live sustainably, but I would love to hear from you. What are your favorite urban green activities?
Want to learn how to make your own eco-friendly cleaning products? Watch the video below!