Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.
These days, earth friendly living tips are everywhere. Most people know the basics: change the light bulbs to LEDs, use non-toxic cleaning products, take reusable bags to the grocery store, and of course the 3 “R”s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. We have a few more suggestions for taking care of Mother Nature and yourself while living in an apartment.
Size, Direction and Windows – When looking for a place, consider a smaller unit. A smaller apartment is easier to heat and cool. Think about the size of the windows. We all love a lot of light, but floor to ceiling windows may be an issue if not properly insulated, and of course the extra light generates heat, which requires more energy for cooling in the summer. The extra heat may be welcome in the winter, but if not properly insulated, you could be battling the winter winds coming through the windows.
Same theory goes for the direction of the windows. If the apartment gets the afternoon western sun, it is going to get much warmer in the afternoon. If you really like having that afternoon light on the weekend, you can at least keep the blinds closed during the day when you are at work to help keep it cool.
Recycling – We mentioned recycling above, but sometimes the building recycling doesn’t accept all items. Think about items such as water filters, compact fluorescent light bulbs, ink cartridges and electronics. Most likely, you have to go the extra mile for these items. Water filters like a Brita filter can be recycled through the Gimme 5 program (which has drop bins at most Whole Foods). Gimme 5 also has an app where you can earn Recylebank Rewards for dropping off your items.
Arlington County accepts electronics, most for free, and small fees for things like TVs and computer monitors. Take your CFL’s to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot, as most have bins to recycle those. While you are there you can check to see if they have battery recycling. You didn’t think you were supposed to throw those in the trash did you? How about earning cash rewards for recycling ink cartridges? Both Staples and Office Depot will take your ink cartridges and give you points towards cash rewards to use in their stores.
Air Quality – Most of us know to changing our air filters helps with not only air quality but efficiency too. But what else helps with air quality in the home? Less carpet for one. Carpet and furniture are treated with several chemicals including flame retardants. Not to mention they trap dust, dirt and allergens. So finding a place with wood, concrete or tile in most areas definitely improves the air quality in the home.
Find out what kind of paint they are using in the building. Many buildings are switching to low VOC, which stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, paints. Low VOC paint helps lower harmful chemicals in the air. Another tip with paint — the lighter the color, the lower the VOCs because the more pigment in the paint increases the level of VOCs, however there are some brands that use no VOC pigments. The simplest way to improve air quality is to get some plants. Plants purify our air for us and improve mood. If you don’t have a green thumb try plants like a Zeezee Plant, Dracaena or Philodendron, which are pretty low maintenance.
Buy Local – The local food movement continues to gain popularity, and luckily in Arlington and the Metro D.C. area there is no shortage of local markets to pick up healthy treats. In Arlington, you can find a farmers market in Clarendon, Courthouse and Crystal City. Nearby in Alexandria, the Old Town Farmers market takes place every Saturday. And of course the trek to Eastern Market via the Orange or Blue Line is always worth it.
Lastly, look for LEED Certified apartments. These newer apartment buildings are built to certain efficiency standards set by the EPA. They will have better insulation, building materials and Energy Star appliances. They will also use low VOC paints, and most likely have excellent recycling programs. Need help on where to find a LEED apartment in Arlington? Find a local agent for help. Below are just a few LEED certified apartments in the area.
- Clarendon/Courthouse: http://www.urbanigloo.com/renters/listing/2063-1.html http://www.urbanigloo.com/renters/listing/2001-2.html
- Rosslyn: http://www.urbanigloo.com/renters/listing/1768-3.html
- Crystal City: http://www.urbanigloo.com/renters/listing/1106-2.html
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