Five Eco-Friendly Actions You Can Undertake in a Small Apartment

Renting a six hundred square foot apartment prevents me from undertaking certain eco-friendly actions. For instance, I can’t compost, garden, raise my own chickens or upgrade existing appliances to be energy efficient. After living in this apartment for three years, however, I’ve found that there are quite a few things that I can do to reduce how much trash I generate and how much energy and water I use. Here are five actions from my list.

1. Air-dry your clothes

I air-dry all of our clothes using two of these metal drying racks. Since we don’t have any outdoor space, I set them up in our entryway. It’s not particularly pretty, but it works just fine. I like that I also save a little bit of money by skipping the coin-operated dryers in my building.

I have not figured out a way to air-dry our sheets, since they’re too big to hang on the drying racks, so I still use the dryer whenever I do a load of sheets and towels.

2. Use kitchen cloths instead of paper towels

I wrote about the reusable cloths I use in the kitchen a few months ago. I find that these don’t take up a lot of space even in a tiny kitchen: all you need is a basket to store clean cloths and another receptacle for used cloths. I then just throw the used cloths in with my sheet and towel laundry. Using these has saved me a ton of paper towels.

If you’re not really into the cloth idea, I also have a few reusable SKOY cloths that I enjoy using. They are sort of like a cross between a sponge and a dish cloth and are very absorbent, so they are great at wiping up spills or cleaning your counters.

(Side note: Have you seen that paper towel commercial that urges you to clean with paper towels because your dishcloth is full of germs? That ad drives me crazy! If your dishcloth is dirty, throw it in the laundry and get out a clean one! We don’t need to turn to paper towels.)

3. Use reusable menstrual products

I wrote about reusable menstrual products a few months back. If you, too, are a menstruating woman, switching to washable pads and/or a menstrual cup will prevent a huge amount of menstrual pads and tampons from going into the landfills. Neither of these options requires much storage space, so I have found them easy to use in our small apartment.

4. Buy local food

I don’t try to buy all of my food locally, as there are many things that I need that just aren’t grown here. I do try to buy local when I can, however, as transporting food locally takes so much less energy than shipping food across the country or world. For me, this boils down to purchasing all of my raw milk and meat locally, as well as CSA veggies during the summer and fall.

5. Use canvas bags (everywhere!)

This is a pretty obvious suggestion, but I see enough people opting for disposable bags even here in eco-friendly Boulder that I thought I should mention it. Storing your bags doesn’t have to take up much space. We stash ours inside a larger bag next to our front door.

Although we’ve been using reusable bags for groceries for ages, recently I’ve been trying to take the additional step of bringing a bag for non-food purchases, such as when I go to Target or the hardware store. You tend to get more odd looks than in grocery stores but it seems like people are becoming more accustomed to the practice.

This post is part of Sunday School.

What eco-friendly actions do you take? How does your living space affect what you can take on?  


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7 Responses to Five Eco-Friendly Actions You Can Undertake in a Small Apartment

  1. We do many of these same things that you do. I love reusable bags. I keep them inside of a zippered cooler type bag that I use for cold items at the store and then store the whole she-bang in my car. I got tired of getting to the store and realizing that I had forgotten to bring them. Problem solved. :0)
    • Meghan says:
      Great idea, Pam! I sometimes forget to bring my bags when I pick up my CSA eggs or veggies. It's a big problem then, since there are NO other bags available. I think keeping the bags in the car would be better, but at the moment I have to go down two flights of stairs and walk about a hundred feet to get to my car, so I haven't switched. :)
  2. taryn says:
    LOVE it. Great tips. I air dry our clothes too- even in our old apartment- nice dry CO air helps too. I have cloth pads and can't imagine going back to regular. totally doable in an apartment.
    • Meghan says:
      You're right, I bet the dry air here helps a lot. I didn't think of that. :) Do you live in Colorado, too? I love my cloth pads as well. I was reluctant at first (I switched to a Divacup but still used disposable pads for a while) but eventually I realized that I'm planning on using cloth diapers so I really shouldn't have a problem with the idea of reusable pads.
  3. I would add something about getting a water filter pitcher... the kind that Brita makes. That way you don't need to buy bottled water and store it around your apartment. The plastic is band news.
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