Living Green In Small Spaces

Living Green In Small Spaces

small apartment

Guest post by Mark Russell of Apartment Guys

These days we all want to go green. It is no longer a trend followed only by the tree huggers and the hippies – it is a fully fledged movement with C.E.O.’s and world leaders singing its anthems. Living an environmentally friendly, eco-conscious lifestyle is not just good for the planet; it is also good for your finances. When you use less energy, for example, you also spend less on your energy bills – makes sense, right? So there are a number of reasons besides plain old environmentalism to go green. Every person, though, needs to find ways to adapt their particular lifestyle to be greener, using less energy, and creating less waste. There are a number of ways to achieve these goals, no matter where you live or what you do.

Living in a small space presents a number of its own unique challenges. Where do you keep all of your things? How do you cook without a full kitchen? But going green is not hard to do in a small apartment or loft. Actually, you might find that it makes your life easier. Below are some tips for living green in a small space.

TIP #1 – It’s time to do some spring cleaning. Before you do anything else, you need to really clean house. Make five piles: keep, store, donate, recycle, trash. Go through everything you own and put it into one of these categories. Emptying your apartment of your belongings will make it cleaner, keep your air fresher, and even make your life less stressful. Donate everything you don’t want but someone else can use. Recycle things like broken or old electronics. Trash only the things that can’t be put in the other piles.

TIP #2 – Use only green cleaning supplies. While you are cleaning, make sure you are using only environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Avoid things like the chemical heavy bleach and instead use more natural products.

green cleaning supplies

TIP #3 – Get stackable trash and recycling bins. Part of the problem with recycling is that it takes up a lot of space. If you don’t have the room to spare, finding space to keep separate recycling bins can be a challenge. Stackable trash and recycling bins are all the rage right now with the environmentalist crowds. They save space and the environment at the same time!

stackable recycling bins

TIP #4 – Add some plant life. Now that you have gotten rid of all of your excess belongings, start adding a little bit of new décor. Plants are the perfect thing to put in your apartment. Especially in small spaces, a hanging plant can do wonders for a room. Plants can also be used in spaces that are not otherwise usable. They add fresh oxygen to the air and take out toxic carbon dioxide. They literally breathe fresh life into your apartment!

apartment plants

TIP #5 – Repaint with eco-friendly products. You might be surprised by how much a change in your wall color can really open up a space. The right color can transform a room and even make it feel more spacious. But if you are going to repaint a wall or two then you need to make sure you are using eco-friendly paint products. The conventional kind are filled with toxic chemicals that are dangerous both to the environment and the people living with it. There are plenty of great environmentally friendly brands and colors so you won’t sacrifice quality or selection.

TIP #6 – Cook more of your own meals instead of eating takeout. When you live in a small space it can be easy to fall into the habit of ordering takeout. Small kitchens are challenging to cook in and especially difficult if you are trying to experiment. But you might find that it is more intimidating than it should be. Once you get used to cooking in a small space, you will stop being scared of it! Cooking is more environmentally friendly than eating takeout for a number of reasons. It reduces all the waste that you make when you order takeout – all of those bags, containers, and disposable utensils add up! Cooking for yourself also allows you to choose better ingredients, save money, and eat healthier than eating from a restaurant.

TIP #7 – Take the stairs! If you live in an apartment building with an elevator, consider taking the stairs from now on. You will save energy this way and you will also get great exercise. You will probably find your jeans fit you better than ever after just a couple of weeks.

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Sarena - May 1, 2013 Reply

Great article yet there are a couple of things which should be reconsidered. Simple Green when sprayed is very harmful to inhale, you can find research online. And instead of buying separate recyling

Sarena - May 1, 2013 Reply

Continued…
bins, change the way recycling is picked up in your city. Co-mingled recycling makes recycling easier and more people will then recycle. A lot more!

sgl - May 1, 2013 Reply

re: kitchens, interesting article about the tiny kitchen of new york times food columnist mark bittman, and his philosophy about it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/weekinreview/14bittman.html
“So Your Kitchen Is Tiny. So What?”
By MARK BITTMAN, Published: December 13, 2008

Christine - May 1, 2013 Reply

Also, I’d mention cleaning using washable rags rather than anything disposable. Cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, and other readily available household products is also preferred. There are plenty of web articles about using natural cleaning products.

Virgil - May 1, 2013 Reply

Simple Green, despite the name, is anything but!

A couple more suggestions…
1) Do you really “need” all that technology? Some of the tiny houses here have been loaded to the gills with techno’ systems which allow fitting more into a smaller space, but it WILL break down and need replacing faster than you think. Key example – a good desktop PC with a common form-factor motherboard which can be upgraded over the years is way greener than a non-upgradable laptop which needs to be completely replaced every 2-3 years. My desktop PC is 9 years old and on its 3rd “build” cycle.

2) The article comes across as a bit “chemophobic”. Yes, regular paint contains some chemicals that are “toxic”, but guess what “green” paint is made of? Chemicals! Technically speaking, the ONLY component of ALL paint, is chemicals. So while some chemicals are more toxic than others, buying a “non-toxic” paint often means there’s just less information available about whether its components are actually toxic. Key examples on this would be BPA – everyone freaked out about it in their water bottles, but the replacements now being used in “BPA free” plastics are arguably more dangerous. Another one would be rotenone, a highly toxic and nasty poison which is linked to parkinson’s disease, but is allowed for use in organic farming because it’s derived from natural sources. Bottom line – enough with the “chemicals bad, naturals good” mumbo jumbo please.

3) Transport. So many of the “green” houses I see here are being hauled around by big a** trucks. You can have the greenest house of all, but if you’re moving around the country being a “free spirit”, burning diesel in your 10MPG truck for thousands of miles a year, sorry that’s not being green.

    Louise - May 5, 2013 Reply

    I had my laptop for 7 years and gave it to a friend who got it updated and used it an other 2 years. It is still being used as we speak. A memory stick makes a god add, if one needs paper copies they can always go to the librairy …. now how green is that …. no need for ink, paper and a lot of space

    alice h - May 6, 2013 Reply

    My laptop is now 10 years old and still functioning well enough for my purposes, though I did have to repaint the letters on some keys. It was not a top of the line fancy model to begin with but a good basic workhorse. I like being able to go outside or wherever to use it, much more flexible than being chained to a desk. When I’m done with it it can be refurbished and passed on to someone else. Not all the tiny houses on wheels are being moved regularly. Again, it allows flexibility and lets you use the same house in many different locations rather than selling and rebuilding or buying again when you want to move. Some “high tech” stuff uses less energy more efficiently and not all of it is flimsy, temporary junk. Some people use it for work, some for entertainment, some to make life easier and manage energy systems. There are definitely some problems with most commercial cleaners, even many that claim to be “green” (hopefully referring to more than just their actual colour!) Vinegar, baking soda, plain old hot water and soap and yes, elbow grease and time do wonders.

Martin Flanagan - May 2, 2013 Reply

Thanks for a great article Mark. I like your approach to de-cluttering and living more environmentally conscientious lives.

Crystal Laws - May 2, 2013 Reply

I remember reading that Simple Green wasn’t necessarily “green”…here’s that article:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/25/beware–some-green-cleaners-are-deceptive-and-toxic.aspx

hopefully this will help you make an informed decision. We use a lot of organic vinegar, and baking soda around here….that and plutonium. smile

Grün im (kleinen) Haus | wohnbu.de - May 5, 2013 Reply

[…] Der Tinyhouseblog hat da ein paar Tipps. Man merkt zwar das die sehr amerikanisch angehaucht sind (Recycling ist doch bei uns kein Problem mehr, oder?), aber lesenswert sind die so oder so. […]

Penny in SC - May 5, 2013 Reply

I like the basis of “green” living but I do find humor in some of it. My mother kept the cleanest house ever and she used bleach, vinegar, baking soda, brillo and scary enough my dads old undies for dusting. I think she may have graduated to 409 when I was in high school. So green is not a new idea. Green is good and some old school may be good to. The biggest thing missing these days is elbow grease and time.

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