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Archive for September, 2009

Green Guilt

UPDATE:  We moved from the apartment I describe below to our current apartment in June of 2010.

Oh, to be green.  Living in an apartment seems make the most common ideas impossible.  I try to remember that we are already practicing communal living to a certain extent; that counts!

I do have to let go of the following common eco-suggestions for the time being:

Grow my own food and compost pile While I have taken over the patch of bare earth adjoining our patio for flowers, I do not grow food for several reasons.  I have come across a lot of undesirable, unnatural material while digging, and fear for the condition of the soil.  We also have animal visitors, both wild and domestic.  For this reason also I haven’t started a compost pile, and I won’t invest in a closed compost bin just yet. Also, I have a shady garden, not great for growing food.

Purchase energy-efficient appliances We rent and so live with the refrigerator, oven, dishwasher and air conditioners that were here before us.  I’m certain the landlord isn’t worried about their energy efficiency because we pay for our electricity.  The worst offenders in my opinion are the air conditioners – they’re through-the-wall units, noisy and you manually adjust the temperatures.  Oh, and our preschooler can turn them on and off, so it will mysteriously grow hot in the summer or cold in the winter.

Line-dry clothes A friend teases me because there is always laundry hanging in our apartment.  It’s true.  Besides saving money and energy, I don’t want my clothes to shrink so I hang dry most of them.  But I would love to have an outdoor clothesline.

Storage I am a huge fan of Amy Dacyczyn and the Tightwad Gazette – it is one of the books that changed my perspective and helped get us out of debt.  But as an apartment dweller, I can’t save everything just in case I can use it later.  In fact, sometimes I can’t save things that I know I will use later; it is often less expensive to replace an item than to pay for the space it takes, whether that space is a separate storage unit, a rented garage or the most valuable of real estate: my apartment’s closets.

Eliminate disposable products It’s tough to replace disposable products with washable products when you don’t have your own washer and dryer.  It costs me $2/load to wash or dry and I already have about 2 loads of clothes, 1 load of underwear/towels, and diapers every other day.  Yes, we use cloth diapers (more about that in a later post).  But replacing tissues, paper towels, disinfecting wipes, etc. with cloth means making yet more laundry.  Also, where do I keep the “dirty” things until there’s enough to make a complete load of like items?  In an apartment, the default laundry room is our bedroom and I’m running out of room for laundry bins!

Next time I’ll write about the things I can do.  But for now, what green goals have you  put on hold while you’re in an apartment?

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UPDATE:  We moved from the apartment I describe below to our current apartment in June 2010.

Two years ago (summer 2007) we were looking to buy a house for the first time.  Houses in our area are very expensive, as are taxes.  So I grudgingly began looking at apartments as well.  We had one child and two careers at that time, and very little cash, at least for our area.  Gas prices had already soared, and we knew that moving further away to save on our mortgage and taxes would probably cause us to spend more on gas and require more hours of daycare for our son.

Staying in our apartment was out of the question.  It was approximately 450 square feet, but very poorly designed.  There was ONE closet, few cupboards and even fewer windows.  It was fine when I was single, it was cramped when we got married and my husband moved in.  It was overcrowded when we had the baby.  We stayed for the cheap rent, knowing that a baby would bring many new expenses but still not certain what they would be.   We lasted as long as we did only because we were rarely in the place at the same time – our kid went to daycare, and my husband worked nights.  I expected to live there for 2 years, and we were there for five.

As you might imagine, every broken-down house seemed an improvement over our tiny apartment.  But my husband was very brave and forced me to  face some facts about our situation:  We did not have the money to gut a place and pay rent while it was being fixed.  We did not have the money to gut a place, period.   Even though I could see the potential in several properties, (thanks to  watching too much HGTV) the truth was whatever the condition of a place, we’d be living with it as is for quite a while.

And so we started considering apartments.  And when I saw this one, I HAD to have it.  It seemed nicer than many of houses in our price range.  It’s in a quieter neighborhood but in our same town.  It had real rooms, and they’re pretty large, and 1 and 1/2 bathrooms, neither of which had to be reached through the kitchen.  Most importantly, it is over the laundry room rather than another apartment, and with a kid, that’s a huge relief.

My husband was not nearly as impressed: the rent was twice what it was for our tiny apartment.  But it was reasonable for an apartment this size.  He would have liked to have shopped around more, but I insisted: No one under us.  No charge for parking 2 cars.  Laundry in the building.  Heat included.  Nice neighborhood.   If we weren’t getting a house, I just wanted to get settled.  He decided to make me happy, and we took the apartment.

Can you see the hint of a rainbow in the upper right corner?  The full photo actually has a complete rainbow overhead – beautiful!

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