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How We’re Saving Energy As Renters

Being on the heels of Earth Day and the March For Science rally, checking out a few episodes from Bill Nye’s new show on Netflix, and seeing how energy use and climate change has been the focus of discussions lately, all of it has me thinking a lot about the issue. I’m guilty of not having it at the forefront of my mind and when it comes to responsibilities, sorry earth, you’re kind of at the bottom of my list…as sad as that sounds. However, I know we’ve been placed in charge to take care of this planet and it’s not too difficult to see how we haven’t quite been doing a great job at it over the years.

As humanity, we’ve gotten pretty comfortable in our lifestyles and it’s often difficult to see the long game (which is what science experts and professionals want us to understand). It’s easy for us to slip into the mindset of: These issues won’t effect us or our planet for hundreds of thousands of years. Then you have the group of people who deny we even have a climate issue (and that’s a WHOLE other discussion). Well, it’s that same mindset that is currently playing out right before our eyes – we just have to be willing to see, acknowledge, then do something about it.

Don’t worry…there’s a plan…

Energy Upgrade California is a statewide education and outreach initiative to promote efficient energy preservation in our state. It was created in efforts to get residents and business owners to become active in preserving our state’s energy and limit our usage in meaningful, and easy, ways. Although it is an initiative for Californians, climate change a global issue and regardless of which state you live in you can do your part and make simple adjustments to your overall lifestyle. The sooner we all adopt these changes the better off we, and our planet, will be for not only us, but our future generations.

…even for us renters.

Oftentimes when you hear about all the different ways you can save energy in your home it’s typically geared towards homeowners. These are the people who can make such efforts such as replacing their old windows or doorframes with insulated ones, installing smart thermostats or solar panels to their roofs, and even be offered Energy Star tax credits for doing so (which I think is unfair that renters can’t be eligible!). But as a renter those options are, well, not an option. So, how can we still do our part in saving energy even though we don’t own a home?

I’m glad you asked. Here are a few ways my little family and I choose to save energy that is easy and doesn’t make our lives harder or inconvenient:

The Obvious: Lights & Electronics

Let’s start here because it’s the easiest way to cut down on your personal energy usage in your home whether you’re a renter or homeowner. It is also one of the biggest ways we all waste energy on a day-to-day basis. If I were to take a guess at how many outlets have some kind of plug in them in our home it would probably be about 98%. We have power strips in a few of these outlets which keep our laptops charged, TV and lights powered, as well as our phones or other electronics. That being said, this is the most important area for us to do our part in saving energy.

Here are a few ideas via Energy Upgrade California’s website that helped us get started in reducing our energy usage:

  • Use ADVANCED power strips in your outlets or connect your appliances or electronics. These advanced strips are so smart that they are designed to cut down on power usage when not being used without you having to touch it. But, it’s still a good idea to turn off the power switch when not in use.
  • Turn the lights off in rooms where no one is in them (duh).
  • Change your lightbulbs to energy efficient ones and *save up to $75 a year in energy costs. LEDs are a great place to start.
  • You can save up to 50% of energy by powering down your computers instead of putting them in sleep mode.
  • Unplug your charged electronics! Did you know by keeping your fully charged laptops or phones plugged in wastes energy and can actually damage your battery?

In the Kitchen:

Aside from completely replacing our appliances, which really isn’t an option for renters, there are ways to cut down on energy usage with the appliances that come with our apartment. By making some of these changes we’ll not only save in energy, but in our utility bills too!

  • We pack our freezer! This not only saves us money by not wasting food at the grocery store, but it saves us in energy costs. I didn’t know this, but the freezer uses more energy to stay cold especially when it’s empty. So I highly recommend stocking up!
  • Adjust the temperature in our refrigerator. The colder it is in there the more energy we’ll end up using – so we need to keep it around 35-38 degrees.
  • Thaw your frozen foods by placing them in the fridge overnight. Running water over your frozen food is wasteful and it uses more energy to warm the water.

Another option that we’re considering when we move is speaking with our management about replacing the appliances – like the old refrigerator to a more energy efficient one. It’s not guaranteed that we’ll be able to purchase our own fridge in our rental, but it never hurts to have the discussion.

Water, Water, Water

This was a big area of improvement for us Californians. Over the last few years our state has put a lot of emphasis on less water usage considering the devastating drought we were in. We had to ask for water at local restaurants instead of them just being brought to the table, sprinklers ran at nighttime, and there was even a tax placed on businesses or homeowners who exceeded their water usage in a given month.

As a renter I was surprised to see that we have a lot of options to help conserve our water usage and learned in this process that warming water takes up a lot of energy! Here are a few ways in which we can cut down on how much water we use in the day-to-day:

  • Turn the water off when cleaning dishes or brushing our teeth.
  • We opt for showers vs baths and keep them short.
  • We’re learning to take colder showers and limiting how much water is wasted waiting for it to get warm.
  • We choose to hand wash our dishes, but we can start using a plug in the sink or wash bin to cut down on running water.
  • We wait until we have a full load before doing laundry and try to use the cold cycle to cut down on energy waste.

Keeping Cool or Warm

In those cooler or warmer seasons it’s important to keep your home feeling comfortable. Here by the beach our apartments don’t have air conditioning, but we do have an outdated ahem…ancient heating system that wastes so much energy when heating up and cooling down. We don’t use it often for that reason, but here are a few ways we can save energy in our home by opting out of a few things:

  • Use energy efficient fans.
  • Use blinds and window coverings to keep heat in or out. These window coverings also help with using natural light vs lamps.
  • Use floor coverings such as rugs or carpet to keep bare floors warm and comfy.
  • Layer up during the winter or cooler months instead of turning on the heat and open windows and doors to allow a breeze during the warmer months.

Keep in mind…

Another easy way to ensure you’re using energy efficient products and appliances is looking for the Energy Star logo. Energy Star is a national program that identifies products that pass their energy efficient guidelines and regulations. So, the easiest thing you can do is look for this logo the next time you need to buy, replace, or upgrade any of your appliances, electronics, or home needs like light bulbs.

And lastly one way you can help the energy cause on a broader scale is to create your own home garden. Because we live in an apartment and don’t have a backyard, we choose to grow lemons and limes in containers. When we move and have a larger patio, we look forward to starting a container garden full of herbs and easy-to-grow veggies. Anything you can grow yourself helps not only your wallet, but cuts down on the energy needed to run corporate farms. Going vegan or vegetarian is another lifestyle option for this same reason (we opt for vegan meals during the week and keep weekends as our cheat days).

#DoYourPart & #GetCharged

This month, and hopefully into the future, I challenge you to make simple changes in how you use energy in your home. It’s not only something that will save you money in the long run, but making these efforts will dramatically improve the quality of our planet for future generations. I urge all of you to check out Energy Upgrade California’s website for more detailed information about the cause and find more ways to cut back on your energy usage!

Are you already saving energy in your home? How so? Any tips or tricks for the rest of us on how we can cut back on our energy usage?

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