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Renters can go ‘green’ even without landlord’s help

News about the conservation initiatives taking place in our homes generally centers on what “green” features developers and builders are offering, and what homeowners or new homebuyers are seeking in energy savings and use of more sustainable products. But what about the millions of people worldwide who rent their living space, be it in apartments or homes?

There’s no reason individuals can’t take it upon themselves to turn their rental unit into a more eco-friendly space, cutting their utility bills and perhaps even convincing the landlord to pass along some of the cost savings by lowering the monthly rent. There are many things a renter can do without any special requests, or even input, from a landlord.

The simplest first step is to recycle – and use recycled items, such as used furniture and even clothing – anything that would keep these types of items out of landfills.

Saving water in a rented apartment may not sound easy, but it’s doable. Place a brick in the toilet tank so it uses less water, like a low-flow toilet. Reuse bathwater or dishwater, with the aid of natural biodegradable soap, to water indoor or outdoor plants. Water monitors for the shower are available, and some even set off an alarm when you reach a pre-set limit on water use.

The discipline of simply using less electricity by shutting off lights and lowering the thermostat is obvious. Renters may also discover that their electric company offers renewable clean electricity at what may amount to only a slight increase in their payment. And it also is not impossible for a renter to buy a solar panel that can hang from a window ledge or clip onto a roof gutter or balcony.

There is no doubt that apartment owners are feeling the squeeze of the weak economy of the past three years, so convincing the landlords of eco-friendly investments might prove to be quite difficult. The trick is to document and keep track of money-saving improvements that the landlord can easily calculate and understand.

Many renters are now requesting what is being called a “green lease.” Under that setup, the renter and landlord agree to split the cost of eco-friendly upgrades and share in the cost savings over a period of time documented in the lease.

Landlords who are in tune with these kind of savings are already beginning to install motion-sensor lighting, timers for sprinklers, and replacing old appliances with Energy-Star rated products. Pushing the landlord to caulk and tint windows and add programmable thermostats are other simple ways to save money over the long run.

In addition, renters can simply follow the conservation habits that are commonly known – unplug small appliances when not in use, put coffee grounds and vegetable and food scraps into a composter, grow your own fruit and vegetables in a window box, clean the coils of the refrigerator and keep the fridge and stove far apart, buy chemical-free cleaners, put aerators on faucets to save water, and use bio-degradable trash bags.


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