I’ve lived in an apartment in NYC for over ten years now (since I was a little girl), and I honestly love it. But ever since going zero waste and learning more about the climate crisis, I’ve been thinking up ways to make an apartment more sustainable. Because let’s face it, it’s not like we can stick a bunch of solar panels on our roofs or have a huge garden thriving in the backyard. Apartment buildings aren’t exactly designed to accommodate those things – it’s all about using the living space you’re given strategically. Thankfully, there are a surprising number of ways to have an eco-friendly apartment. Here, I’m sharing my eco-friendly apartment living tips with you that cover everything from renewable energy to houseplants, because green living isn’t just for homeowners!
This post is kindly sponsored by Inspire Clean Energy. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains some affiliate links. If you choose to purchase one of these items, I will make a very small commission at no extra charge to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.
Why is having an eco-friendly apartment important?
Any space, no matter how small, can be green and sustainable. If we’re going to fight the climate crisis, we need everyone on board – not just a select few. That applies to people living in apartments as much as it does to those who own homes.
We must make green living accessible to all if we truly care about saving both the planet and its people. Not to get all doom and gloom here, but we have about nine years to make sure we don’t hit the maximum of 1.5°C, beyond which (even half a degree) will significantly worsen the risk of floods, extreme heat, and drought for millions of people. So, it’s crucial we make sustainable living accessible and attainable to all including apartment dwellers.
I’ve been living in the same apartment since I was seven, and likely when I move out to get married, I’ll start off in an apartment. I like apartment living, but there are certain things you have no control over. That said, this is all the more reason to optimize the things you do have control over.
There are several benefits to having a green apartment beyond simply reducing your carbon footprint. Environmentally friendly apartments are energy efficient and tend to reduce energy costs. In other words, there’s the potential to save money on your electric bill. Also, you’ll be creating a healthier, happier home you and your family can thrive in.
How can I have an eco-friendly apartment?
So happy you asked! Here’s where the fun starts – taking charge of the space you own.
Ever dream about having an apartment that runs on renewable energy? Well, now you can, thanks to Inspire Clean Energy. This clean energy company makes it easy to access renewable energy with no interruptions or installations – even in an apartment.
Let’s get real – energy is often out of sight, out of mind. But it’s so important to be conscious of where you’re sourcing your energy from and if it has a positive or negative impact on the planet.
Most electricity is sourced from fossil fuels that pollute our planet. Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources like coal, oil, and natural gas. These are available in limited supply and harm the environment when used to generate electricity.
However, when our electricity is sourced from renewable sources, like wind or solar farms, it generates zero emissions. Inspire makes sure your home, be it a house or apartment, is always sourced from renewable energy. You don’t even need to switch utility providers to get started.
Interested? Here’s how it works.
- Sign up in minutes – Seamlessly switch your electricity supply to Inspire’s 100% clean energy plan without any interruptions to your current service.
- Pay a flat monthly price – Say hello to predictability. Enjoy a flat monthly price for electricity supply with no usage restrictions.
- Make an impact – You’ll be doing your part to avoid carbon emissions and help the planet.
It’s that simple. If you’re curious, you can check availability in your area right on their website by entering your address or ZIP Code. They’ll use this information to calculate a customized clean energy subscription price based on your past energy usage — not only will you pay the same price every month, but there are no hidden fees and no price fluctuations – nothing but clean energy.
With a regular utility bill, your price will vary month to month based on your usage (think higher in winter + summer months due to AC and heating). But with Inspire, you get one flat rate every single month and say goodbye to bill volatility.
Plus, you can feel good knowing you have the power to make a difference, even from your apartment. Every year, the burning of nonrenewable fossil fuels for energy makes up 93% of the U.S.’s total CO2 emissions. But by choosing to support renewable energy, you have the power to help bring that number to zero.
Also, you don’t have to install any solar panels on your roof or worry about the fees for them. All the renewable energy is sourced from sources like wind and solar farms – in other words, it’s all hands-off.
Why I’m switching to clean energy
One of the biggest things you can do for the environment is making the switch to renewable energy – and Inspire makes it so easy. If there’s one thing on this list you do, I hope it’s this. Help create a greener future for our planet today from the comfort of your apartment.
Yes, you can compost in an apartment. And there are ways to do it completely hands-off if that’s more your style (aka what I do). We’ll be covering both the hands-on and hands-off approaches for every walk of life out there.
First off, let’s chit-chat about why composting even matters. This might come as a surprise, but none of the food scraps you dump in your trash biodegrade at the landfill. Instead, they produce methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
When methane leaks into the air, it absorbs the sun’s heat more effectively than carbon dioxide does. While this greenhouse gas doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide does, it is initially far more devastating to the climate due to its potency.
Composting our food scraps can help curb the methane gas released into the atmosphere and give your food scraps a second life. But don’t stop at food scraps – there are tons of compostable materials lying around your home!
If I’ve piqued your interest, consider making room for an indoor compost bin of some sort. For apartment spaces, think small and compact. There are several options to consider – a DIY compost bin, vermicomposting, or a bokashi bin all work. To learn more, check out my guide to composting in an apartment.
I love this video by Kathryn Kellogg, aka Going Zero Waste – it shows how you can build a compost bin for less than $15. You need a bin, a good mix of browns and greens, soil, and water.
Composting hands off
This is the method I use for composting in an apartment. My folks are completely turned off by the idea of a DIY bin, worms, or bokashi – so I find outsourcing my compostables to be the best option.
What you can do is invest in a compost pail or utilize an empty sealable container (like for take-out food) and save your food scraps and compostable materials inside. Then, come the weekend, drop it off at a site that accepts compostables, like the farmers market, community garden, or a friend with a compost bin.
Personally, I do a mix: I take it to my local farmers market, where they have a food scrap drop-off setup. You dump the scraps inside these big green bins, and they take care of the rest. But I also like to drop off the scraps at my local community garden if I can’t get to the farmers market. They have a bin set up for scraps and someone on-site that transforms them into beautiful rich compost — they even use it to feed the plants there!
See what your community has. You can always check Share Waste, too – they can help you locate nearby composts in your area.
Get others on board
See if other people in your apartment building are interested in composting too. If they are, maybe your building can apply for curbside pickup bins in your complex! In NYC, they have initiatives that let you sign up for this – you have to meet specific requirements.
If your fellow apartment dwellers are really on board with it, maybe you could find a space to setup a compost heap outside – assuming your apartment building has any outdoor access. Mine does in several spots because it’s a complex, and there’s even a sitting area and pool. If yours is similar, maybe see if residents would like to transform one of these spots into a composting oasis. It can’t hurt to try!
3. Thrift for furniture + clothing
Did you know the furniture and clothes you own have a carbon footprint?
Think about it: Every single item made takes resources and energy to produce. Let’s analyze the couch in your living room as an example: What materials is it made from? What plants were needed to grow those materials and how much pesticides, fertilizer and water were used to upkeep them? Was a rainforest torn down? How much pollution did it create to make this item in a factory? Are there any synthetic materials, and if so, how were they made? Were workers treated fairly while making this product?
Now imagine someone taking that item and just throwing it away. All the resources, energy and time put into making it is wasted and left to sit in a landfill somewhere.
As you can see, there are lots of ways just one item can impact the planet. That’s why it’s a much better option to thrift your items whenever possible.
Thrifting helps curb waste and keeps perfectly good items out of landfills. You can head over to your local thrift, antique or vintage stores to see what they sell. You never know what gems you’ll find!
Some general thrift stores you might want to check out include:
- Salvation Army
- Facebook Marketplace
When it comes to the online resources mentioned above, always be cautious and remember to look into the sellers and ask for pictures. Other than that, happy thrifting!
4. Start an herb garden
What’s better than plastic-free produce? Produce growing right on your windowsill you pick yourself. Starting an indoor herb garden is a great way to reconnect with nature even when you don’t have direct access to the outdoors (ah, apartment life).
Just because you can’t have a massive outdoor garden doesn’t mean you can’t do some indoor container gardening. I recommend trying your hand at growing herbs from seed – especially basil, chives, and mint. Those tend to grow easily and quickly. But feel free to try out whatever herbs you like best and will use.
You can thrift some nice pots for your plants and get some compost from a local community garden for your herb garden. See if there’s a local seed bank you can grab some herb seeds from too. If not, you can always ask around your friend group to see if anyone has some seeds to spare. Then get planting! If all else fails, I like to use Burpee organic seeds – I’ve had many successes with their seeds in the past.
5. Use low VOC paint
First off, VOC stands for “volatile organic compound,” and they’re found in many building materials. Ironically, they’re partially responsible for that new paint smell. Unfortunately, these unstable chemicals let off gasses that are harmful to both people and the environment.
VOCs can contribute to several health problems. This includes irritation to your airways, headaches, nausea, and even damage to the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system! It’s best to avoid them altogether.
In an apartment, depending on if you’re renting or buying, you may want to paint a few walls to spruce up the place. I totally get it – one of my room’s walls is lavender while the rest are white. But you want to make sure you use non-toxic paint for the job – BEYOND simply avoiding VOCs.
I’ve heard many good things about Clare – they’re a toxin-free paint company, black-owned, and GREENGUARD Gold certified. In a pinch, brands without VOC options include AFM Safecoat, Behr, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, and Yolo Colorhouse.
6. Have a paperless kitchen
Paper products, like paper towels and napkins, tend to come wrapped in plastic. Plus, they take a lot of resources to make – water, trees, and chemicals included. After all, most paper products are bleached.
In America alone, we use more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year. That doesn’t even count paper napkins: If just 50 percent of America used three paper napkins a day, that would total 450,000,000 napkins for one day. Yikes!
Go paperless in your kitchen by switching over to reusable napkins and unpaper towels. I’m sure you can find some dish towels at thrift stores for reasonably cheap. You can also make your own napkins by cutting up some old t-shirts. If you’re good at sewing, you could try to sew your own! Otherwise, I recommend checking out Tiny Yellow Bungalow’s selection of reusable napkins and un-paper towels – they’re what I use and love!
7. Reduce food waste
Composting isn’t the only way to combat food waste. Truth is, 40% of food is wasted in America and 90% of Americans throw away their food too soon. And, as a refresher – any food that heads to landfill won’t decompose properly. Instead, it’ll generate methane gas.
If you want to have a more eco-friendly apartment, you should consider meal planning. You can start by writing down what you’d like to eat over the course of the week, what ingredients you’ll need for each, then shopping for them. Once you have all the ingredients, some items might need a little prep beforehand to save time throughout the week – like making rice or chopping veggies. Food prep helps you purchase only what you need – so you’re less likely to leave things to rot in your fridge.
Another way to fight food waste is storing things properly – sometimes we don’t know where to put our produce items, which can cause them to go bad prematurely. Generally, similar foods can be stored together, like leafy greens with leafy greens, while root vegetables should be stored in the dark.
One last hack? Freeze herbs by ripping them up, putting them in an ice cube tray, and adding your favorite cooking oil. This creates herb-infused cooking oil cubes you can cook with on the fly. Herb waste is real, so this helps curb that!
8. Choose an organic mattress
What’s an eco-friendly apartment without an organic mattress? Honestly, I’ve had the same mattress for 5+ years now, and it’s certainly time for a change. Especially because most mattresses are made with synthetic filling. While these are cheaper, they tend to wear out quicker and release gases into the air.
Here are a few mattress companies doing right by the planet:
● Avocado Green Mattress – Uses 100% Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) organic certified cotton and wool and 100% natural latex. The GOTS certification ensures the fabric is truly organic and sourced from green supply chains. You can get an Avocado Mattress in twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, and cal king size.
● Happsy – Uses certified organic cotton, organic wool, and organic latex. You can get one in twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, and cal king size.
● Eco Terra Beds – These beds are handcrafted in California using natural, non-toxic materials like certified organic wool, organic cotton, and natural latex.
● Brentwood Home – Made with 100% Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certified organic latex, organic cotton, and natural wool from New Zealand. The GOLS certification ensures the latex comes from trees which are grown to meet organic practices and ethical manufacturing processes. Brentwood Home’s organic hybrid beds are responsibly made in Los Angeles.
Plus, Avocado Mattress, Brentwood Home, and Happsy all offer sustainably made pillows and sheet sets! Avocado even has throws and mattress protectors too.
9. Houseplants for air purification (without peat)
What’s an eco-friendly apartment without some houseplants? But did you know certain houseplants can help curb indoor air pollution? Truth is, building materials and air fresheners contribute a lot to indoor air smog. But certain plants can help – along with avoiding cigarette smoke, artificial candles, and toxic cleaners, of course.
Here are some air-purifying plants worth growing:
- Golden pothos
- Snake plants
- Aloe vera
- Spider plants
- Gerbera daisy
- Rubber tree
- English ivy
Whatever kind of plant you choose to grow, opt for peat-free soil mixtures. Peat is formed from decayed organic matter and is the forgotten fossil fuel.
Peatlands are intricate carbon sinks that foster biodiversity and store 1/3 of Earth’s soil carbon. When peat is harvested, it releases millions of tonnes of CO2 every year. Not to mention, peat emits greenhouse gases and is very flammable.
Sadly, peat is cheap, and alternatives aren’t in high demand. But you can go peat-free by opting for peat-free soil mixtures like Den or using locally made compost.
I personally have a pothos plant, and it’s super easy to care for – I just have to remember to water it every so often, otherwise it droops. But it’s a very forgiving plant, and I’ve had it for literally 8+ years now. It’s also so easy to propagate! Just note that it’s toxic to pets and children – so choose another plant on the list if you’re a parent, grandparent, or pet owner.
10. Avoid single-use plastic
Last but certainly not least, avoid using single-use plastics in your home whenever you can. The average American generates 4.4lbs of trash per day – and most of it isn’t recycled. Only 9% of plastic gets recycled at all. Considering we’ve made over 8.5 billion tons of plastic since its initial production in the 50s, that’s a lot of waste.
I don’t expect you to be perfect or have a trash jar, just do your best. You can start by conducting a trash audit to see where you stand – where’s your trash coming from? Food packaging, take-out containers, food scraps? Once you know, you can better reduce that trash pile with sustainable alternatives.
Here are my top resources for going zero waste:
- The 5 R’s of Zero Waste
- Zero Waste Beginners Guide: 20 Tips to Get Started
- 60 Easy Zero Waste Tips for Beginners
- Zero Waste Food Shopping: How to Use Bulk Bins Without Creating Waste
- How to Freeze Food Without Plastic (Using Glass Jars)
- Zero Waste Farmers Market Essentials
- Zero Waste Lunch Essentials (+ Zero Waste Salad Recipe)
- 10 Zero Waste Shops for a Plastic-Free Life
- Zero Waste Contact Lenses and Glasses: How to Recycle Them
Just remember, you don’t have to be perfect. Yes, you can still be zero waste, even if you create some waste. Because truthfully, there’s no such thing as zero waste. But we can get pretty darn close.
In what ways are you creating an eco-friendly apartment? Share your best tips in the comments!