Being green has a bad reputation for being expensive. From food to cars to clothes, the greener option often costs more. Buying solar panels or an electric vehicle can be great things to help the planet, but these things aren't feasible for many city residents.
If you live in an apartment, there are still many ways to live sustainably that will actually save you money. Below are some tips to get you going.
1) Turn off and unplug
We've been told since we were kids that leaving the lights on wastes money and energy, but with the proliferation of electronics, we may not treat our laptops and other devices the same way. Even when turned off, electronics like computers, printers, window AC units and coffee makers all use up "phantom power" that adds to your energy usage (and bill). Researchers at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory found that this "leaking electricity" accounts for 5 percent of residential use. It's easiest to just unplug.
2) Dial down the temperature control
In many apartment buildings, individuals may not have a ton of control over the central heating or cooling systems. But if your apartment does have a thermostat, keep in mind that it's more cost effective to insulate your body than heat an entire room. In other words, put on a sweater.
The flip side is also true in warm weather: try dressing for the heat, sipping an icy drink and sitting by a small fan before blasting the air conditioner.
3) Switch to LED light bulbs
LED bulbs last 25 times longer than incandescent and three times longer than CFLs, and they're cheaper than ever.
4) Look for seasonal, local food
Thanks to economies of scale, conventional grocery stores have figured out how to deliver fruits and vegetables from around the world for relatively cheap. What's not being rung up at the register are the environmental costs of shipping all that food around the globe, keeping it cool and packaging it up.
The better solution is to shop for locally grown produce. A number of recent studies have shown that the farmer's market will in fact save you money, if you're willing to forgo some exotic ingredients.
5) Eat less meat
The environmental impact of raising meat can be heavy, and buying meat can also hit your wallet hard. Now, I'm not saying that fake meat is cheaper than animal products (vegetarian veteran Linda Whitmore argues it isn't), but replacing a serving or two of meat with beans or lentils will lower your weekly grocery bill.
6) Stop buying water bottles
There are a world of reasons to stop buying plastic water bottles and switch to something refillable. Cost is as good a reason as any.
7) Plan your meals
According to the most recent report on food loss from the United States Agriculture Department, 31 percent of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. Consumers aren't the only ones responsible, but they are a part of the problem. Spoilage and leftovers were cited as contributors to food waste at the consumer level.
One of the best ways to avoid wasted money on food is to create a simple meal plan before you go shopping. That way, you won't over buy.
8) Line dry your laundry
No matter if you have a machine in your apartment or go to the laundromat, you're paying for the energy sucked up by the dryer. Line drying takes a little more effort, but it's totally free! Consider hiding a nail next to the door or window molding, making it more convenient to throw up a line indoors. Lamp shades (when the light is off--some elastics can melt), the top of doors and the shower curtain rod are also good spots to hang wet laundry.
9) Bike or walk trips under 2 miles
Forty percent of urban travel in the U.S. is under two miles per round trip. If you walk or bike these distances, you'll save big on gas or public transportation costs.
10) Buy stuff second hand
Big box stores have plenty of cheap home goods and clothes, but are they going to last? A better option is to shop second-hand, which minimizes the impact of producing new items. Shop at your local charity shop, garage sales, estate sales or use online tools like Craigslist.
11) Or get it for free
We really love freecycling. In addition to Craigslist's free section, check out some of the cool new sites that will help you find things you need and give away what you don't, like Swapdom and Gifteng.
Do you have additional tips that have saved you money in your apartment life? We'd love to see them in the comments.