You might not have your own plot of land to work with but that doesn’t mean going green is off the table. Here are just some of the ways to build some sustainability into your apartment life.
Wherever you look, positive steps are being taken to help create a more sustainable future. But living in an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t make your own mark.
Nicole Hodgson, lecturer in sustainability at Murdoch University, says there is plenty that can be done at home, but the three big areas of impact are energy, water and waste.
Heating and cooling use an average 40% of a household’s energy consumption, so improving the efficiency of heating and cooling systems is critical, Hodgson explains.
“Try not to have the thermostat set too high or low – [aim for] 24-26°C in summer and 18-20°C in winter. Reduce gaps in windows and doors and only heat and cool the rooms in regular use.”
The next largest energy guzzler is ‘appliances and equipment’ at 33% of a household’s consumption. Hodgson recommends you ensure big items like fridges are well ventilated and clean to boost efficiency, and save your laundry and dishwasher cycles until you have a full load (this also saves water).
Also, turn electrical/entertainment equipment off when not in use, preferably at the power outlet (or use a stand-by power controller), Hodgson adds.
“The great news about reducing energy consumption is that you save money as well. But most importantly, it is directly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the impact on climate change.”
The largest consumer of water in the home is the shower. Hodgson recommends you:
- Fit a water-efficient showerhead
- Reduce your shower time
- Reduce water consumption in washing machines and dishwashers by using them efficiently, with a full load, and on the eco mode where it exists.
“Water is a precious resource in Australia, and in places like NSW at the moment there is obviously a drastic lack of water available,” she explains. “It also takes a lot of energy to treat water to a drinkable standard and to pump it around. So, if you reduce water consumption you are conserving a precious resource and reducing energy consumption as well.”
Two areas of waste that have been receiving a lot of attention is plastic and food waste. Plastic pollution is a major problem, says Hodgson, so look for ways to reduce your plastic use, such as buying in bulk with your own containers and lining your bin with newspaper instead of plastic bags.
“Food waste is a major component of municipal waste streams, but it is a valuable resource.
For apartments with the space, a worm farm could be the answer. Turning your food scraps into a valuable fertiliser for plants.”
Another green step for residential living communities could be installing a rainwater tank for shared garden space (many water utilities will provide significant rebates for installing water tanks).
City of Sydney Council initiative
An annual program by the City of Sydney Council is helping high-rise apartment buildings reduce costs by becoming more environmentally friendly.
Last year 20 apartment buildings recorded savings totalling $1 million in 2017 through energy and water efficiency upgrades that also cut emissions by 7317 tonnes, equal to the electricity used by 1,097 households in a year.
Each building in this year’s program is set to save an average of $57,000 on their annual power bills.