Feature

15 ways to green your rental

Green Lifestyle online

Renting sure can have its limitations, but rest assured there are still plenty of ways you can create an eco haven at home.

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So you can’t rip out that wall for more light, install solar power or greywater… welcome to the world
of the rental house.

Although renting means you can’t build your dream eco-friendly home from scratch, don’t give up on the idea altogether. You still have the power to make the right choices, no matter your living situation.

Around 2.2 million homes in Australia are rented, meaning there are millions of people who want to live a greener lifestyle but might think it’s too hard or costly when renting.

True, you might be living in someone else’s house, but you can live the lifestyle you want without upsetting your landlord with non-permanent solutions to reducing emissions, waste and energy and water consumption.

1. Ask for it

Having to ask your landlord to replace broken appliances is one of the annoying aspects of renting; turn this obligation into a way to green your rental by asking for more eco-friendly replacement appliances. You could even tempt them to install water-saving showerheads, solar panels or water tanks by pointing out rebates offered by the government and other benefits such as reduced energy and water bills.

2. Reduce travel time

When picking your rental property, think about where you spend most of your time. Where do you work? Where do your friends and family live? Living as close as possible to these places will reduce emissions produced by travelling, especially if you have a bike or easy access to public transport.

3. Look for alternatives

If your rental doesn’t have eco-friendly appliances and your landlord isn’t on board with replacing them, there are still simple ways of keeping your energy use down. Set up a makeshift clothesline in your garage or balcony to reduce your need for the dryer, pick up a few flow restrictors from your local hardware to halve your water usage in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry or fill a drink bottle with water and place in the cistern of your toilet to use less water with every flush. Experiment with what size bottle works for your loo.

4. Shrinking space

Let’s be honest, we don’t actually need a lot of space to live comfortably. Choosing a smaller rental property will reduce heating and cooling costs, which, in some cases, can make up 40 per cent of your household’s energy use. Less space also means you are less inclined to buy items you don’t need.

5. Re-use it

US research shows the average renter spends $4300 on new furniture each time they move. Reduce this unnecessary cost and waste of resources by re-upholstering old armchairs and lounges, or sourcing some great secondhand furniture. If you must purchase new, invest in quality pieces made from sustainably sourced materials, rather than trend-driven cheapies that will need replacing.

6. Sharing is caring

Living in a share house is not only for university students; living with other people means sharing resources, appliances and space, which in turn reduces costs and the impact on the planet. Plus, with the right mix of people you can foster a great little community at home!

7. Switch to GreenPower

GreenPower is energy generated by renewable sources certified under the federal government’s GreenPower program. By signing up for GreenPower, you are purchasing an amount of renewable energy to be fed into the national electricity grid. You can choose the amount of GreenPower you purchase, from 10 per cent of your bill, up to 100 per cent. With electricity bills set to rise even more in the coming years, renewable energy sources such as GreenPower are likely to reduce in cost.

8. Get into the habit

Focus on the little things that add up and make a big difference. Recycle as much as you can, replace energy sucking halogen lights with more energy efficient LED light bulbs, turn off lights and appliances (at the power point) when not in use and take shorter showers.

9. Insulation

If heat is escaping through your windows like crazy, counter this by creating your own insulation that’s cheap, easy and removable. Get yourself some bubble wrap, cut to shape and sticky tape it to the glass to keep the warmth inside. Consider insulating your hot water heater too; wrapping the outlet pipes with an old towel secured with tape, and wrapping the heater itself with an insulating wrap that you can purchase from your local hardware for under $100 will make the system much more efficient.

10. Heat zone

When choosing your rental, have a critical look at the layout of the house. While an open plan might be great for entertaining, a home with enclosed rooms means you can zone off areas for heating and cooling. Adjusting the temperature in only the rooms you are using can reduce your energy consumption drastically.

11. Write a checklist

Picking the right rental can be hard when you are under pressure to decide quickly. When you view a property, take a checklist with you. Does it have a gas stove top and oven? Is it orientated in a direction that will make heating or cooling hard? This will help you make sure you are choosing a home that can be sustainable.

12. Start a share system

If you‘re renting a share house or in an apartment block, why not pool some of your resources? You could car pool to work or the grocery store to save money and the environment. Or, if you have room, start a little herb or vegetable garden in planter boxes and share the produce with your neighbours. Gardening is a great social activity too!

13. Adjust the settings

Even if you don’t have the latest energy-saving appliances, you can make some adjustments to the ones you already have. “You can still improve efficiency by making sure that the fridge is set between 3-5°C and get rid of any spare fridges,” says Roland Dillion from Just Change, a not-for-profit organisation that provides expertise in reducing home energy use.

14. Kill the draught

If your rental is on the older side, you may have trouble with draughts that make you dread winter. Seal gaps easily and cheaply with some Blu-tack, or, if you can convince your landlord, caulking is a more permanent solution. Weather stripping can also do the trick. “A roll of weather stripping costs about five dollars and is easy to install around windows or doors,” says Roland.

15. Compost

Composting your leftover food scraps can halve the amount of waste your household puts into landfill. A bokashi bucket requires no outdoor space, but does still need to be emptied, so find a friend who could use it on their garden!

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For more advice, workshops and tutorials, visit www.greenrenters.org