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Environmental Living in an Apartment

Updated on October 25, 2016
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy lives in Austin, Texas and has written about environmental issues and conservation for more than a decade.

Apartment Living and Environmental Conservation

Do you live in an apartment or condo?  You can still go green and buy things that leave a smaller carbon footprint.
Do you live in an apartment or condo? You can still go green and buy things that leave a smaller carbon footprint. | Source

How to Save Electricity and Water in Your Apartment

Some people have the mistaken idea that you have to own a home in order to take steps to conserve energy and protect the environment. This is far from the truth; being environmentally conscious is a matter of how you live, not where you live!

Although you may have little control over the types of appliances installed in your apartment or rental home, or the way the building is insulated, you have complete control over how you monitor and use resources. You can make easy choices each day that will save money and also help save the planet.

The financial savings may surprise you, once you do a quick assessment of your apartment, your daily habits and how much energy can be saved. You can also Go Green by reducing your use of chemicals and pollutants.

Here are some easy ways to embrace the environment in apartment life.

How Green are you? Take this short quiz and see!


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Recycling Means What You Discard Gets Used Again

Look for the universal recycle emblem when you shop. Those green arrows mean everything can be recycled or has been made from repurposed materials.
Look for the universal recycle emblem when you shop. Those green arrows mean everything can be recycled or has been made from repurposed materials. | Source

How to "Buy Green," and how to recycle

Be sure to look for Green choices in paper products, light bulbs, small appliances and electronics. And don't forget to recycle paper, plastics and metal!

Light Bulbs: Immediately remove all bulbs that came in the apartment (unless they're energy savers), and store them in a box. Then install energy-saving bulbs in every possible outlet. Usually, they will be covered in some manner, so the unusual look won't be noticeable. These bulbs last a long while, and you can take them with you when you leave (just replace the ones that were in light fixtures before your inspection - because you saved them, remember!). My electric bill dropped noticeably when I switched the bulbs in fixtures I most commonly use.

Paper Products: Look for recycled materials, if possible, when you buy paper towels, toilet tissue, facial tissue and drawer liners.

Appliances: Look for Energy Star labels on any appliance you buy. These are certified to use less electricity, and they're so common now that they don't cost any more than other appliances. They conserve energy through better design, less warm-up time, automatic shut-offs and other features.

Bigger appliances (washers and dryers, if your unit has hook-ups), come with bigger savings and sometimes even come with rebates. Front-loading washers save a tremendous amount of water and also save on drying time, because they spin more water out of the clothing. Look for dryers with sensors that will shut off automatically when they 'feel' the clothes are dry.

Electronics: When you buy any new toy (your next phone, a printer, anything), look for an Energy Star label. Older printers used huge amounts of electricity to warm up or cool down before and after use, all of which was basically wasted energy. Be sure to unplug chargers when not in use - they still drain a tiny amount of energy, even when not charging; if multiplied times millions of cell phones, it adds up.

Recycle! Naturally, you'll want to recycle everything on a regular basis. If you have separate bins in your kitchen or utility area, it becomes second nature to toss garbage in one bin and recyclable material in the other. If your apartment complex doesn't yet have recycle bins, encourage them to get involved. Perhaps you can take your bottles, cans and papers to a neighborhood recycling spot, or even to your office, if you're not able to recycle where you live.

Source

Best Ways to Save Water

Saving water is one of the easiest things to do, and it's also one we overlook in our daily habits. You can make simple changes that will save many gallons of water. In some areas, water is supplied as part of the rent, which is a nice benefit, but can often seduce people into thinking they can use it liberally and it doesn't matter.

It does matter, though, because the more water tenants use, the higher your rents will go when it's time to renew. And, worst of all, the harder the impact on the environment. Many parts of the world are facing water shortages, so conservation is important for everyone.

Some simple steps:

Washing dishes: Fill the sink with a shallow amount of water, and use that to pre-rinse dishes before loading the dishwasher. If you wash by hand, fill another basin with water for rinsing rather than running the tap the entire time.

Shaving and Brushing Teeth: If you shave over the sink, fill it with hot water and dip the razor into it rather than running the faucet the entire time. Consider shaving in the shower, where your skin will already be moist and softened. When brushing your teeth, fill a glass with water and use it to rinse your mouth and the brush.

Baths: Bathing in a tub typically uses more water than running a shower (especially if you have water-saving shower heads). Baths are luxuries in more ways than one - don't feel you have to give up that sensuous, sudsy soak, but take a few more showers now and then to save water, if possible.

Showers: Try timing yourself to see how long you typically stand under the running water, then set a goal of reducing the average time by a few minutes. If you save two minutes a day, and you shower daily, that's more than 12 hours of shower time a year. Quite a bit of water down the drain, when you think about it.

Laundry: Fill your washer only to the appropriate water level for each load (and try making your loads larger rather than doing small loads). Wash in cold water rather than hot or warm for most loads to save further energy with your water heater.

Green Apartment Complex - Eco Building!

Electric fans save money and use less energy than an air conditioner

Invest in a few electric fans to keep you cooler this summer!
Invest in a few electric fans to keep you cooler this summer! | Source

How to Save Energy and Lower Your Utility Bills

If you're in a rental unit with shared walls, you're particularly fortunate when it comes to saving energy (and money) on heating and cooling. This means you have an automatic barrier of insulation on the sides protected by other units, or even those that face interior hallways or entry ways.

We spend most of our lives in controlled environments, and quite honestly, the temperature levels considered 'comfortable' are almost out of control. The same people who happily jog or play golf for hours in 80-degree weather insist on setting the thermostat at 68 degrees when they go indoors.

Similarly, when winter hits, you'll find people commenting on what a warm day it is when thermometers hit 60 degrees, and yet they will freeze to death if the thermostat is set that low at night.

The way to adapt yourself to more sensible (read: environmentally friendly) settings is to go about it slowly. Don't make a 10-degree adjustment in either season and expect it to feel anything other than too hot or too cold. It's human nature to want to change dramatically, and then immediately decide that's not for you, so you switch back to the old ways (this is true in diets as well as in setting the thermostat).

Instead, adjust your thermostat a few degrees above or below what you normally would choose for that particular season. If you're used to a frigid 68 degrees in the summer, let it creep up a few degrees every day or so. Many people find they can be comfortable at 78 degrees, once they try it for a short time. This is especially true for those who find themselves shivering in theaters or restaurants. Why subject yourself to unnaturally chilled air?

In the winter, wear a sweater or sweatshirt, some cozy socks, and start lowering the thermostat a few degrees at a time. You may find (as I did, to my own surprise), that 60 degrees is actually quite comfortable in most circumstances.

Buy a Fan! Such a simple solution, and one that will make you feel so much cooler, all summer long! If you move from the apartment, you can take it with you.

Programmable Thermostats: Perhaps your apartment has installed these amazing devices; if so, you are doubly fortunate. If the programming puzzles you, ask the maintenance staff for a brief how-to session, then adjust the settings according to the guidelines given by your local utility firm (which generally will be on board with the idea of saving energy).

If you do not have a programmable thermostat, mention this idea to the owners or managers as a cost-savings feature for the future. Some utility companies will install them for free, even in multi-family dwellings.

The savings for taking these steps can vary greatly with the age of your heating and cooling units, the size of your apartment and whether it has good weather stripping and insulation. However, you will indeed notice a drop in your bill (sometimes a dramatic drop), and you will likely find you haven't sacrificed comfort through changing your habits.

Proper Use of Blinds and Draperies: Be sure to close your draperies in warm weather and open them in cooler weather. This will keep the heat inside during the winter and will avoid having the sunlight heat up your cooled air during the summer.

Solar Film: If you plan to be in the apartment for a long while, and if you find an uncomfortable amount of heat comes in through the windows, consider investing in solar film for large windows or patio doors that have southern or western exposures. It might be possible to get the owner to install the film, but either way, you should get permission to put it in.

If you have single-paned windows, you will notice an immediate and dramatic drop in the temperature. Good films vary in cost, but can pay for themselves in just a few months of warm weather.

Use spray pumps rather than aerosols; they're safer for the environment

Save your spray bottles and use them for vinegar and water, or other homemade cleaning liquids!
Save your spray bottles and use them for vinegar and water, or other homemade cleaning liquids! | Source

Always look for eco-friendly and biodegradable products

Buy Green Cleaning Products

One important (and easy) way to Go Green in your apartment is to use non-polluting products when you clean. Here are some tips and ways to stay green:

  • Use Biodegradable Laundry Detergent: This type of detergent will clean your clothes just as well as soaps with harsh chemicals, and the residue going down the pipes won't harm the environment. Some products are actually cheaper to use than other detergents because you use far less. In fact, unless your laundry is in mud, stained, or smells badly of body odor, you probably need only a tiny bit of detergent to get it clean and sweet-smelling again.
  • Use Biodegradable Cleansers: These are easy to spot in the household department. Most are clearly marked and state that they are biodegradable cleaning products and don't harm the environment. The products clean generally perform well for cleaning surfaces (floors and counters) and even bathroom cleansers do the trick.
  • Avoid Harmful Aerosols: Look for pump-sprays rather than pressurized cans that emit harmful vapors into the air (and eventually into our ozone layer).
  • Go Easy on Bleach: You may need to use bleach now and then (we all do), but use it sparingly to avoid fumes as well as to prevent further pollution if it is flushed down the toilet or rinsed down the sink.
  • Clean With White Vinegar: This is one of the cheapest, least-offensive cleansers you can use! A bottle costs only pennies (compared to expensive commercial products). Dilute it with water, put it in an recycled spray bottle and use it to clean your counters, stove, sink and other surfaces. The vinegar cuts grease and the slight odor evaporates harmlessly in a matter of minutes.
  • Avoid Scented Sprays and Cleansers: Scents are fun, up to a point, but do you really need those extra fumes in your apartment or house? The biggest offenders are scented room fresheners in pressurized aerosol cans, which basically give you a double-dose of potentially polluting vapors.

A Final Word: Report maintenance problems immediately!

Do you have a leaky faucet? Does your toilet run longer than it should? Does any other appliance or fixture show signs of needing repair?

Report these problems promptly, and if they're not fixed in a timely manner, report them again and mention that you've already requested a work order. Even small drips can use many gallons of water over a period of time.

Your apartment manager doesn't know the small things you might notice in your daily life, and it's your jobs to report anything that needs to be repaired. In some cases, reporting a faulty appliance may save you money (if it's the apartment refrigerator, for example, and you pay the electric bill).

If an appliance or fixture needs to be replaced, ask whether they have energy-conserving options. Chances are, they're already thinking this way, but if not, you might raise awareness and help them go that direction in the future.

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  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, rgmg50 - I'm so glad you enjoyed the hub, and I appreciate your comments. I agree, going green is more important than ever!

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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Great score, Deb! I'm glad you like the tips here, and it sounds like you're already ahead of the game. Thanks for your comments!

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    rgmg50 4 years ago

    Going green is very important. It was nice to read your hub and see what else one can do. This hub is very complete and a check list at the same time. Very good hub, thanks

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    Deb Welch 4 years ago

    I scored an 88%. Pretty good. Excellent advice given. I've been an apartment dweller most of my life and I went to being an energy saver plus a recycler. Important to follow through on these tips especially when we must save on everything because of the environment or other problems in this world. Useful, Awesome and Interesting.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Absolutely! Thanks for reading, commenting and linking, Watergeek!

  • watergeek profile image

    watergeek 4 years ago

    I scored 96% too. Nice hub! I've been thinking I should write one on water conservation in apartments, but now I don't have to. OK if I link my main conservation hub to this one?

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Alocsin - that's the great thing about Green Living - you can do it anywhere! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • alocsin profile image

    alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

    These are obviously tips that would work for many living situations, not just an apartment. But because they don't leave any lasting changes on the structure, they're obviously well-suited for rentals. Voting this Up and Useful.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Many thanks, VocalCoach - as we know it goes up and down fairly often, so I'll enjoy it while I can!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    I'm addicted to tomatoes - I grew up in the tomato state (Ohio) and I still have the juice in my veins! Thanks for reading and commenting, VocalCoach! And I appreciate the insight on the hanging plants. I have hopes for them, around here, a lot of critters take huge bites out of our produce!

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

    Mary - have you taken a peek at your hubscore? It has reached 99. Congratulations!

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

    Last summer tried the hanging tomatoes. They did ok but not as good as the regular standard...altho' they may have been a bit neglected because they were hung high and hard to get to. Good luck...my neighbors hanging tomatoes did well! Nothing like a fresh picked tomatoe.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Allie - I've gotten to where I feel guilty if I inadvertently let the water run longer than I'd planned here and there. I sort of look at it running down the drain and wonder if I can get it back. Nothing neurotic here, right?

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • alliemacb profile image

    alliemacb 4 years ago from Scotland

    Great advice - seems I need to think about how much water I'm wasting. Voted up and interesting.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Thundermama - I love your idea of getting buy-in on at least have of the things we can do to conserve and save our environment. You're right - just think of the impact that would make!

    Thanks for reading, and for your enthusiastic comment!

  • Thundermama profile image

    Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

    Great hub! You highlighted some tips in here that I had forgotten about and they are all very "do-able." Imagine if we everyone we knew decided to do just half of the items on your list. Voted Up!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    I think we must shop at the same home stores, JamaGenee - I probably have more lap blankets than I do real ones. I've finally gotten used to having the thermostat pretty low in the winter, and it's not bad - unless there's a major ice storm. In the summer, I just put up with the heat as long as possible and rarely turn the thermostat below 78. My bills are a fraction of my neighbors on either side.

    I'd miss having a bathtub, too - it's one of those little luxuries we deserve now and then. Especially if we're behaving so well the rest of the time! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • JamaGenee profile image

    Joanna McKenna 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

    I used to live in an apartment with a dishwasher but no cabinets to speak of, so I used it mostly to store clean dishes! Living alone, it'd take around 10 days to justify using it for its intended purpose, so I did dishes by hand. Once or twice a year, though, I'd run a load of crystal (glasses, fruit bowls, vases) to get them sparkly.

    I was on the 3rd floor and could keep the thermostat much lower in the winter thanks to heat rising from the apartments below. (This is also how I knew when they were empty, because the floor would be much cooler!)

    The place I live now has no DW and...boohoo...no bathtub, only a (great) shower. There are just some parts of a girl's body that need a good soaking from time to time, but I'm getting used to not being able to sit and soak. (But it IS fun to shock people by saying "I haven't had a bath in over a year"!)

    To save energy, a heavy blanket is my constant companion when watching TV in the winter. I turn the thermostat wayyyyy down, but do bump it up a couple of degrees if my nose and forehead become painfully cold. I can tolerate a bit more heat in summer, so the trigger for flipping on the A/C is when sweat forms on my forehead.

    I also unplug **everything** not in use, even the kitchen stove (gas, but electronic ignition). My low electric bill is proof unplugging really does save a TON of energy AND money!

    Voted up, useful and awesome! ;D

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, vocalcoach! I admire your opinion (and your hubs!) and I so appreciate that you stopped by and commented here!

    Have you ever seen the hanging planters for tomatoes? A friend gave me one of those, and I am trying to learn how to use it. The plant hangs upside down, and you can grow them indoors!

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

    Thank you for listing these insightful easy ways to embrace the environment in apartment life. At present I am renting my home and it is very old. I'm always searching for ways to go green.

    During the spring and summer I grow most of my vegetables and herbs in containers. Not only am I getting fresh, delicious flavor, but saving a whole lot of money.

    Voted up and across except for funny. Thanks Marcy!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Amy - thank you for your comments! I agree - these steps can save energy and make your life greener no matter where you live. And we can do things in baby steps. Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts!

  • Amy Gillie profile image

    Amy Gillie 4 years ago from Indiana

    Excellent, informative, and easy to read! I don't live in an apartment now (but have on many occasion), but I can still apply many of your tips to my house. I especially like how you compared changing thermostat settings to dieting...so true!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, That Grrl! I think that's the main thing that counts for recycling - just remembering to put that stuff in a separate bin is huge. I was amazed when I first started doing it that the vast majority of what I throw out each week can be recycled. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • That Grrl profile image

    Laura Brown 4 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

    88% - the recycling gets me. We just put out the bins once a week. I toss in paper and such all week but I don't really think about it all till Monday morning when I have to lift it all out to the curb.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Hi, Margie! I'm glad you liked the hub - and don't worry about sharing your shower routine here - what happens on HubPages stays on HubPages. Right? (Please say yes!)

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  • Mmargie1966 profile image

    Mmargie1966 4 years ago from Gainesville, GA

    This hub is awesome, Marcy! I try very hard to be as green as possible. What I didn't know was that a bath takes more water than a shower. I prefer a bath when I have time to relax, but normally I take showers. My showers are quick since I wash my face at the sink, and have a specific shower routine. I guess everyone didn't need to know that, huh? LOL

    Anyway, I voted up and across...Great Job, as usual!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Many thanks, FiltersFast! I'm glad you see some ideas here that you can implement!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Many thanks, Pamela! And great job on the test!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

    Excellent suggestions that work in a home also. I scored 92%, so there is still room for improvement. Voted up and useful.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Michael - you make a great point; the little things add up to big things if everyone pitches in! I appreciate your comments!

  • Michael J Rapp profile image

    Michael J Rapp 4 years ago from United States

    Great ideas, Marcy. I believe if everyone does their small part for conservation it will add up to a big benefit for the planet.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Maybe I have a flawed quiz, adjkp25! How about if I award you an extra eight points for effort?

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • adjkp25 profile image

    David 4 years ago from Northern California

    Loved the article. All of your ideas are very easy and people don't need some kind of special skills to implement them; I'm kind of bummed I only got a 92%.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks for your generous comments, Robie! I'm a big advocate of reusable bags, too - although I admit it took a few rounds to get me to remember they were in my trunk, waiting to be used! I'd get to the register and whack my forehead in frustration and guilt.

    Yes, supposedly showers use less water - but I don't know if there's data on how deep the tub is filled, or how long someone stands under that nice, hot spray!

    Thanks for reading and commenting,

  • robie2 profile image

    Roberta Kyle 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

    Really great advice for everybody-- I'm a total thermostat watcher myself and absolutely agree with you about the puzzling fact of people who want their houses greenhouse hot in winter and freezer cold in summer. I haven't used either paper or plastic at the grocery store in years-- I always bring my own and how did I not know that baths took more water than showers? Well, now that I do know it's showers for me( except for the occasional splurge) You write soooooo well-- this hub was a real treat to read... voting up up up.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Sure, feel free to call me Mrs. Greenjeans, Marcy! I look forward to your comments. Have a gread day!!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, brave warrior! Or can I call you Mrs. Green jeans? I will check out your articles; I think I learn something new every time I read a piece on this topic! Many thanks for your comment here!

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Touche, Marcy! I, too, try to live as green as possible. In fact, a co-worker of mine teases me about my many tips on using white vinegar - he says it courses through my veins! ha ha. I've posted a few "green tip" articles myself and will post more in the future, as I'm a huge proponent of saving money and the environment. (Some even call me Mrs. Greenjeans!) Feel free to check them out.....

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Many thanks for your comment, alocsin - I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    I agree, Teaches - many of us practically wash the dishes before we load it anyway. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • alocsin profile image

    alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

    These tips would work in any home, not just an apartment. I need to learn to shut my water by shaving. Voting this Up and Useful.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

    All good suggestions for conserving a precious natural resource. I found that pre-rinsing dishes helps. The shorter cycle is all that is needed to get the load clean.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Thanks, Jackie - I've started filling a pan or bowl from cooking and using it similarly - it saves so much water, and also saves time, in the long run! Thanks for reminding us about that tip! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

    This is great, lots of great tips. Something I do with just two people around mostly is make just a little dishwater and as I rinse the dishes I do it over the dishpan with hot water which doubles for having most rinsed and making fuller dishwater and I pop any other stray glasses or dishes in the soapy left over as we dirty them and finish up right before bedtime. Ugh on dirty dishwater! So I rinse that pan and drain too!.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    I love the idea of a world full of rooftop gardens! That would also serve as a form of insulation, I think. And of course the benefit of having homegrown vegetables would be amazing for health and nutrition. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, cclitgirl!

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Calhoun 4 years ago from Western NC

    Fabulous! I'm head of Green Team where I work and I'm a self-described conservation freak. Of course I had to read this. :) Thanks for the tips and you're right - just because you don't own a home doesn't mean we all shouldn't be conserving. I dream of the day that when you look at a city from a helicopter, all the rooftops are green because we have gardens on them! :)

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image
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    Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

    Yay! Great score! Thanks for reading and commenting, Outbound Dan - can I use you as a mentor for folks?

  • Outbound Dan profile image

    Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

    96%- Yay for me! Nice hub, and one that needs to make the rounds. If we all chip in on a conservation-minded effort, we can protect our fragile environment.

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