So, if you’re like me and live in an apartment, what can you do to live more sustainably? Well for one thing, as an apartment dweller, you are already living sustainably. By living in an apartment, you are making the best use of our limited supply of land in the Puget Sound.
My apartment is 900 square feet, and I’m at the bottom of a three-story building. So right there those 900 square feet are supporting three times the population that they normally would. So yes, you can feel good about being an apartment dweller because of that.
However, if you live like the average American, well, that’s not so good. The average American produces 4.54 pounds of solid waste everyday. Of this, only 32% – 35% of this waste is recycled. 44% of what goes into our garbage is paper, cardboard and plastics. (Municipal Solid Waste In The United States: 2007 Facts And Figures) Therefore that’s the first thing you can do to reduce your footprint on this world:
Recycle and Reuse as Much as You Can:
If you’re apartment complex doesn’t recycle plastic and cardboard, then get on their case and see about getting recycling bins in your complex. Until that happens, locate your locale recycler and bring your recyclables to them directly. Unfortunately getting recycling bins in your complex may not solve all your problems.
Case in point. The apartments I live in have these large dumpster sized recycling bins, into which you dump all, and I mean, all your recyclables: Paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum cans. However, my complex is built on the side of a hill, so it’s multilevel, with the recycling dumpsters at the bottom of the hill and the industrial sized trash compactor at the top of the hill.
Some of my fellow renters can give a hoot about recycling, so they take the path of least resistance and dump their trash in the recycling bins. The recycling company shows up, sees the garbage in the bin and refuses to empty them. This results in the apartment manager having to pay to have the recycling hauled away as garbage.
That’s one problem. The other is that they only take codes 1 (PET) and 2 (HDPE) plastics. Yet when I look through the plastics that I have, most are uncoded or are type 3 or higher. Those reusable plastic containers that are all the rage? They are made from polypropylene (code 5) and since they touched food, they are 100% non-recyclable.
This is why I advocate the use of glass containers. Metal containers are okay for things like dry pasta, rice, flour, tea or spices, but not for cooked food storage. Anything made with tomatoes will just corrode them. Glass and ceramic are the perfect non-reactive surfaces. They don’t pick up odd flavors and they can be easily sterilized at temperatures that would melt plastics.
Another common bit of plastic are shopping bags. I’m not considering grocery bags, since there’s been a move to replace them with reusable bags, either made of cloth or recycled plastic. Those aren’t the worry. It’s all the other plastic bags out there from other stores. Luckily, most are made from HDPE plastics, so they are recyclable. Still, I’m sorely tempted to bring my own bags when I visit Target or Office Depot.
So to help reduce your garbage footprint, do the following:
- Recycle as much paper and cardboard as you can. Disassemble every cardboard box and fold flat.
- Use cloth bags when you go shopping in all stores. It may feel awkward at first, but in the long run it will reduce your carbon footprint.
- Use glass or ceramic containers for cooked food storage. Preferably containers with hinged lids and replaceable sealing ring.
- Try to reuse as many glass jars as you can. Not all jars can be easily recycled, since the biggest limiting factor are their lids. Some lids will never lose that off flavor or aroma, no matter how many times you was them.
- If available in your area, milk in glass bottles is a great way to reduce your footprint. I personally buy my milk from Golden Glen Creamery through Spud.com. When I finish the bottle, I rinse it out and put it in my CSA basket to return it back to the dairy.
- Convince your apartment complex to have different recycling bins for each type of material: Paper, Plastic, Aluminum, and Glass.
Just following these simple steps will help reduce your garbage footprint.