The big enemy of green movements right now is often convenience. Yes, we all know that reusable bags are much better for the environment than the plastic ones, but those two seconds of inconvenience of having to remember to bring that bag and those two seconds of inconvenience of telling the cashier to use the canvas bag is enough to make the difference for a huge number of people. In our incredibly busy modern life, especially city dweller life where time seems to be at a premium, that’s all it takes. Should we then be fatalistic about these environmental movements and declare them useless? Of course not. These movements pave the way for and add the mounting pressure needed effective environmental legislation.
But are there any environmental solutions that are nearly pain free? Solutions that are decently cheap, cost very little time or effort, and yet can make your life much more sustainable? Something simple enough and space saving enough that even apartment dwellers can do it? We at Rust and Fray are here to give you some ideas.
The first cheap pain free thing you can do make your home run on green energy. Now, that might not sound cheap or pain free at all, let alone apartment friendly, but this isn’t referring to installing off-grid solar panels. So when most people think electricity, they are thinking in terms of their (usually monopolized) utility company. The utility company runs the local electric grid, and usually they take a portion of your electric bill to pay different power plants to generate electricity, based on what you used. But in certain regions such as Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania, you the customer are actually able to choose the source of that electricity instead of simply leaving it up to the utility. Companies like Green Mountain Energy and Reliant energy’s Green Living program give you the ability choose renewables like wind and solar. Now, this doesn’t mean that every bit of electricity in your home will be generated from a wind turbine. Energy grids need constant input, so the electricity running your apartment will come from wherever. But part of your electric bill pays for power plants to generate that electricity to offset your use anyway, so why not have that go to wind turbines and solar plants?
All you have to do? Do a quick google search and call your utility company once.
In Return? Green power for your home!
Grow your Own Herb Garden
We all know that shopping local and supporting farmer market produce is fantastic for reducing your carbon footprint, and many apartment dwellers wish we had the backyard space to grow a little vegetable garden. But that doesn’t mean we’re cut off from growing anything on our own. Plenty of herbs are extremely easy to grow indoors, including favorites like basil, parsley, and oregano. Hell, mint is a weed, so believe me when I say you won't have any trouble with it, so long as you keep it far enough away from the other herbs that it won't kill them. Now, if you have a little more money to spend you can opt for an indoor garden that’ll autogrow vegetables for you, and eventually this will pay itself off in terms of grocery shopping it grows. But if you’re looking for something dirt cheap, a couple herbs aren't that much more expensive than dirt they're in.
All you have to do? Next time you shop for houseplants, pick up one that tastes good. Don’t kill it.
In Return? Delicious dinners that’ll impress any friend, date or partner. All while getting you some very locally grown herbs.
Baking Soda Cleaner
Plenty of zero-waste sites give large lists of DIY product recipes so that you can drastically reduce your waste output. But let's say that's not you. Instead, you’re the type who wants to be more eco conscious but you’re too busy for all those DIY recipes. Between work, cleaning, cooking, and maybe a kid or two you can barely find time to hit the gym to take care of yourself, let alone the time to take care of earth. But let’s say you’re still curious and want to check out a recipe for a home cleaning product, because you heard it’s possible to make one that’s non-toxic, effective, and cheap. Curious?
Okay so here’s the recipe: take some baking soda, then add water.
Baking soda is a main cleaner and odor neutralizer for quite a few DIY zero-waste products, but unlike something like toothpaste or deodorant, you don't really care about adding anything to it to make it tasty or add fragrance to make it smell good. If you wanna scrub your kitchen or bathroom, all you need to do is mix baking soda with water and start scrubbing.
All you have to do? Go to the kitchen and grab the baking soda
In Return? Save a ton of money on cleaning supplies, reduce your plastic waste, and eliminate potentially toxic chemicals found in some household cleaners.
Shaving is portrayed as the ultimate cool guy thing to do for men, and presented as the ultimate necessity for women. Now, we at Rust and Fray are well aware of the long and problematic history of shaving, especially women’s shaving products, and we fully respect the choice to not shave. But for both women and men, if you do choose to shave you do have to admit that it’s a bit of a waste of plastic. And by bit of a waste we mean 2 billion disposable razors are thrown out every year in the US alone. So like that's a lot, but how else could we shave, short of learning how to use those terrifying Sweeney Todd type razors?
Enter the safety razor. Or rather, remember the safety razor, as it came out long before the current multi-blade plastic razors. They’re pretty similar to the current razors of today, except you get a metal or bamboo handle instead of the plastic handle and they come with the replaceable old school single razors instead of the replaceable +5 blade cartridges surrounded by plastic. The big benefit for the environment? No plastic of course, and that the blades are usually recyclable. Now, there are some cautions to that, as you can't just throw old razors into the recycling bin and not expect that to be a danger to the sanitation workers. You need to collect the blades into a sturdy (not glass, but medicine bottles and altoid tins can work) and clearly marked container for you to seal, and then look up how to dispose of it in your area.
So that sounds like a bit of a pain, but what else is good about the safety razor? Well for starters they’re nearly as simple as using the disposable ones. They also are actually less irritating than +5 blade razors. Basically any time a blade goes over the skin it’ll cause irritation, so less blades are better, not to mention that safety razor blades are almost always better quality steel. There’s also not really much science to back that a bunch of blades are actually better for getting a closer shave anyway. The safety is also easier to clean and doesn’t get clogged. It’ll also last longer cause their higher quality blades. Last but not least, it’s also way less expensive, because although no one is giving away the razor handles for free like with cartridge razors, even very high quality replacement blades are way less expensive than cartridges, so it's pay for itself very very quickly.
Wait a second, it almost sounds like razor companies took the idea of a safety razor and somehow made it a worse product that’s worse for the environment and somehow is also more expensive. Large corporations wouldn’t do that, would they?
All you have to do? Buy a better and cheaper shaving set, and figure out how to recycle it.
In Return? Get a better and cheaper shaving set, that’s also good for the environment.
Buy Vintage and Upcycled
The final easy way for an apartment dweller to go a little more green is to simply buy vintage and upcycled products. Just simply being in an apartment might make for a natural limit on how much you buy, but when it is time to buy it shouldn’t be too hard for someone living in a city to buy used. Anyone who has ever moved in a city knows how much of a pain it is to move furniture, and so often people switching apartments will get frustrated and sell it to buy knew. Often they won’t even sell, they’ll just give things away if you move it for them. So buying large pre-used items tends to not be a problem, especially if at least one of your friends has a car or you’re willing to taxi/uber the furniture piece away for them.
There are plenty of other ways to get your hands on quality second-hand goods in the city too. Boutiques, fairs, and pop ups are increasingly offering more upcycled and vintage options for just about anything, not to mention that there’s always online shopping. Second hand clothing stores also tend to be more concentrated and better stocked in the city (and here’s a little NYC dweller secret, if you want to buy second hand but stay fashionable, look in the thrift stores in the fancy parts of town). Not to mention that you can always just swap clothes with a friend.
All you have to do? Go to the thrift stores, pop-ups, upcycling websites, or scour craigslist instead of going to the outlet stores.
In Return? Help save the environment as you rock some sweet old school looks, while potentially saving money too.
Hope these tips helped you make your apartment life a little more sustainable! Have any comments, or more hot tips to share? Feel free to leave a quick comment! And if you like this article, keep up with our Instagram, Facebook, and Journal page for more.