Canada's Condominium Magazine
Eco living may seem like an impossible task in a condo with limited space. In an ideal world, you would be living in a new or recently upgraded condo, complete with energy-efficient appliances, LED light bulbs, solar panels, and more. For the rest of us in condos, replacing appliances and adding solar panels may be out of reach for many. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy an eco-friendly lifestyle that will not cost you money — they should actually save you money. Eco-friendly cleaners and alternatives to chemicals is an important first step. [See our feature on Eco Spring Cleaning here>>] Here, we cover some of the other simple things you can do to green up, and freshen up, your condo home.
Consult with management to see if your condo has a recycling system in place. If there are, be mindful of any rules and regulations in terms of what can and cannot be placed in recycling bins. If they do not recycle, you can always do so on your own and deliver it to your local recycling centre. You may even be able to talk your neighbours into collecting their own recyclables, which you can deliver for them. Perhaps you and your neighbours can alternate delivering the recyclables every couple of weeks or so.
Gardening is relaxing, as well as good for the environment. It can also be fun for those who are blessed with green thumbs. In condos and apartments, it can be difficult to garden because the only personal, outdoor space you have is a patio or balcony. Some do not even have that. Vertical gardening allows us to continue growing our plants both indoors and outdoors, regardless of size and layout. Vertical gardening can be accomplished by creating hangers (typically wooden or wire, though they can be made from nearly any material) and attaching plants to them. Alternately, you can grow climbing plants where they will wrap around balconies, posts, furniture, etc.
Incorporate gardening into your décor to breathe some life into your home… literally. Small, indoor fountains can be a beautiful way to bring your passion for horticulture into the heart of your home, while simultaneously opening up your room so that it looks and feels larger and more open. A creative, artsy vertical garden will look gorgeous on your wall; and it can also make for a beautiful backdrop strategically placed behind your sofa, bed, dining table, etc. An herb garden would add a nice touch to your kitchen, as well as provide you with fresh herbs for your meals.
Composting should also be given a chance. Typically, it is associated with unpleasant smells. However, plenty of alternatives exist which can make composting more apartment-friendly. Stainless steel composters with carbon filters are reliable, they are easy to use, and the they result in odorless composting. Talk about a breath of fresh air!
Using organic produce and other organic products is another obvious way to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle despite small quarters. Carrying reusable shopping bags and travel cups for coffee are also smart ideas. They eliminate waste, and some places even offer discounts for using them because they do not spend as much money on bags and cups. Plus, it looks good for them to be supportive of the environment. Not everyone does this, however, so be sure to ask around and see if there are places like this in your community. Even if they do not, it will still be worth it, and you will not have as much trash to throw out. If you do as much grocery shopping (or drink as much coffee) as I do, it can make a world of difference.
Putting your computer to sleep when you are away from it for a bit but know you will be coming back to it within an hour or so can help reduce the use of electricity. Unplugging electronics and appliances when they are not in use is also beneficial. Even if they are turned off, they can still draw small, random amounts of electricity. Though it is a small amount, it does add up over time. Of course, there are obvious exceptions, such as alarm clocks, refrigerators, AC… but those go without saying (I hope).
Turning off water while brushing our teeth is something we all learned as children. Do not use more water than you absolutely need, and certainly do not waste it. You can also collect rain water for personal use, as long as it is legal to do so in your area. Some areas do not allow this for a variety of reasons, so be sure to check the laws regarding this where you live.
While there are legitimately some things that you cannot control when you are renting your home, quite a lot still remains in your hands. You may not be able to do as much as you could if you had a larger house with plenty of land to cultivate, but you can certainly do more than most people realize.