GUEST POST: A Guide to Living Sustainable in an Apartment: Composting, Zero Waste and More

by Liz Beavis

You might be interested in adopting a zero-waste lifestyle and implementing sustainable practices, but this can be challenging if you’re living in an apartment. However, you can adopt minor modifications and techniques to live sustainably without drastically changing the space. Here are some ways to make your apartment more eco-friendly and sustainable.

Change Your Lightbulbs

The U.S. Department of Energy has predicted that the move from incandescent lightbulbs to LEDs will lead to a 222 million metric ton reduction of carbon emissions in the next 30 years. They are cost-effective, energy-efficient, eco-friendly and last longer than standard bulbs.


You can also preserve energy in these ways: 


  • Use more natural lighting. If you have large windows or a balcony with a glass door, rearrange your furniture or office setup so you can use natural light during the day.


  • Subscribe to a renewable energy provider if your apartment building allows this option.


  • Switch off all lights that aren’t in use.


  • When you switch bulbs, store the standard ones and return them to the light fixtures when you move. This saves you the money and energy to get new ones. It also ensures the standard bulbs reach their end of life before being replaced.

Get an Energy-Efficient Showerhead

You can still have high water pressure while preserving water and saving energy. Some options to consider include:


  • Aerated showerhead: These mix water and air to create the perfect pressure while reducing water use.


  • Flow restrictors: These types of showerheads reduce the amount of water used by pulsating it.


  • Flow regulators: Flow-regulating showerheads maintain a constant water flow while reducing the amount used.

You can also use other water-saving tools like timers, which tell you how long you’ve been in the shower.

Become a Houseplant Parent

According to the EPA, concentrations of volatile organic compounds are almost 10 times higher than outdoors. Hairspray, cleaning detergents, floors and carpets produce VOCs from chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.


It’s essential to find ways to offset this and purify the air for your health and the environment. It’s a well-known fact that plants can absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but they can also decrease levels of VOCs in your home.


These plants can improve air quality significantly and are also low maintenance:


  • Peace lily: This plant can remove VOCs like acetone, benzene, alcohols, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. It has a high transpiration rate, meaning it carries water from its roots to its leaves to release moisture into an area. The peace lily also produces delicate white flowers. It’s fairly easy to maintain, preferring indirect light and light watering. If you’re comfortable with the temperature, your peace lily will be, too.


  • Dragon tree: This is one of the best plants for beginners since it can thrive under indirect light. You can water it once a week and let the topsoil dry entirely before rewatering. The dragon tree can purify your air and filter most of the same chemicals as the peace lily except for alcohol.


  • Barberton daisies: These plants produce beautiful white, red, pink, orange and purple flowers. Although they only last six weeks, the plant itself has gorgeous dark green leaves that filter out benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. They flourish in full sun and need plenty of water.

Find Ways to Compost

Contrary to popular belief, food does not decompose in landfills. The oxygen it needs to break down is limited there, so it sits in a limbo state and releases methane. Methane is a huge pollutant, primarily because it absorbs heat and releases gas into the air. You can make a significant impact by composting your scraps instead of throwing them away.


There are several options for smaller spaces.


  • Worm composting: You can get a small compost bin and worms to feed on food waste and produce compost.


  • Tumbling composter: These composting bins are manually flipped, rolled, spun or crank-turned for aeration.


  • Electronic composting: Electric composters use heat to decompose food waste. They are odorless, efficient and fast.


  • Local garden: Find a community garden with a compost plot. Store your food waste and take it there at the end of every week.


  • Compost pickup: Find out if your municipality offers compost pickups with regular trash pickups.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

There’s more to recycling than simply tossing things in your blue bin. Reducing and reusing are equally important in living sustainably. Here are some ways to implement the three Rs in your apartment:


  • Avoid buying things you don’t need.
  • Maintain your home by using eco-friendly cleaning products.
  • Take care of your possessions and fix them when they break before replacing them.
  • Repurpose items before throwing them away, such as glass jars, cardboard boxes, old clothes or linens.
  • When you want to get rid of something, offer it to a friend or family member before taking it to a thrift store, where it may eventually be sent to a landfill.
  • Use your items as long as you possibly can, even if they are off-trend.

Wash Dishes the Eco-Friendly Way

Washing by hand and using a dishwasher can consume tons of energy and water if you aren’t mindful of how you clean your dishes. Here are some ways to reduce consumption.

Eco-Friendly Tips for Hand Washing


  • Wash dishes immediately after using them so you don’t use more water than needed to remove stubborn food particles.
  • Wet the sponge and scrub all the dishes at once.
  • Save rinsing for last.
  • Rinse in a sink full of warm or hot water instead of letting water run from the tap.
  • Buy a dish soap bar or powder that’s plastic-free.

Eco-Friendly Tips for the Dishwasher


  • Scrape your plates into the compost.
  • Use PVA-free dishwasher tablets or powder.
  • Only run the dishwasher when it’s fully loaded.
  • Choose an eco-setting or lower temperature.

Invest in Zero Waste Household Products

A great way to live sustainably is to practice zero-waste living through the products you buy. You can start by replacing single-use items or focusing on plastic-free packaging.


  • Reusable grocery bags: Reduce single-use plastic by bringing your own bags to the market.


  • Reusable tea bags: Some tea bags contain plastic. Get a strainer or reusable bag you can rinse after every use.


  • Plastic-free cosmetics: Reduce your plastic use by prioritizing brands with eco-friendly packaging. You can find anything from shampoo and conditioner to dish soap and deodorant. Some brands use glass jars that you buy once and use forever.


  • Zero-waste makeup: Look for brands offering products in plastic-free packaging.

Live Sustainably in Your Apartment

Whether you’re planning to move into a new apartment or have been living in your current one for a while, you can live sustainably without making too many changes to the property. However, even small lifestyle alterations can make a big difference to the planet.



Author bio: Cora Gold is a sustainable living blogger and editor of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. Follow Cora on LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter.

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