As an apartment dweller in the Washington, DC, metro area, I often feel like I have little control over my environmental impact. Living in a large condo building, my energy and water usage feel both inconsequential and beyond my control. My small balcony thankfully provides some outdoor space, but what can I really do with that?
All this makes it very easy to ignore the impact of what feels like a small environmental footprint. Can the small “green” things I do actually make any difference? I know I’m not alone so I’ve been thinking about the things we each can do on a daily basis to make a difference for the environment, our wallets, and our comfort. Collectively, our actions can make a difference.
We’ve all heard about walking more, using public transportation, recycling, etc. But what can we do that feels more proactive? After all, not many of us can afford to live off the grid for the entire summer.
So I’ve done some research and here’s what I’ve turned up: some ways to reduce our environmental impact this summer – and also stay cool!
- Compost: new compact, odorless composters make it easy for you to reduce your trash output and make your own soil on a small balcony or under your sink. You can either use the soil for your own plants, or donate your composted soil to community gardens.
- Green cleaning: vinegar and baking soda can help with your spring cleaning just as well as more toxic alternatives. Check out some simple recipes.
- Compact fluorescent lights or LEDs: these alternatives to traditional light bulbs not only have a longer life span, but also produce 75% less heat.
- Join a CSA: Community supported agriculture not only supports your local farms and economy, but delivers fresh, organic produce directly to you. This is a great alternative to growing your own vegetables. And you can put the scraps in your new composter!
- Unplug electronic devices: Most electronic devices use energy when they are off – they are referred to as “vampire” appliances. When you use a power strip, it is easy to flip the switch at night or when you go out of town.
- House plants: Having a few indoor plants not only brightens up a small apartment, but they help keep your air healthy by removing pollutants and toxins. This could include growing your own herbs on a kitchen window ledge.
- Reduce your AC usage: Turning your AC off whenever possible – on cooler days or at night – can drastically reduce how much energy you use. When your AC must be on, turn your thermostat up by 2 degrees. Even using a fan will reduce your energy usage.
- Close your blinds or curtains during the day: Remembering to close your blinds helps keep out sunlight and heat, and reduces your need for AC.
What other things can city dwellers with limited space do to have a green summer?
Kate Robinson is a Climate Change Marketing volunteer at The Nature Conservancy.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user City of Edmonton (City Hall Pool Summer 2011) via Creative Commons license.
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