We all want to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint in some way, but when you don’t own your own home, what can you do to help out? We’ve put together 3 quick things that renters can do to live more sustainably and make a difference!

Get a Home Energy Assessment

One of the best ways to start saving energy is to schedule a Home Energy Assessment (HEA) through either Mass Save, or Home Energy Loss Prevention Services (HELPS) if you live in a town with municipal utilities. If you pay a utility bill in the state of Massachusetts, you are eligible for a HEA. This process involves having an energy expert come to your home, or meet with you virtually, and evaluate where in your home (rented or owned) there are energy-saving opportunities. This will help you save energy, improve comfort, and reduce utility costs. While you can get a free HEA without your landlord’s permission, it is still a good idea to check in with your landlord before you begin this process.

During the HEA, you will receive no-cost instant savings measures. This may include items like LED light bulbs, advanced power strips, low-flow showerheads, and more. All of which can result in increased energy savings each month!

Your energy expert will often recommend energy improvements that can be made to the structure of your home. However, before you can add any insulation or upgrade major appliances or HVAC equipment, your landlord will need to be involved in the approval and coordination process.

Additionally, only customers living in a 1-4-unit home are eligible for a residential HEA. If you live in a building with more than five units, you can refer your building owner or property manager to CET’s multifamily program or call 855-472-0318. Customers living in buildings with more than 1-4 units are still eligible for instant savings measures and other program benefits. Coordinate with your condo association or property managers to get started. Contact your utility or Mass Save to learn more about how you can obtain these energy-saving measures.

To schedule a HEA, you can either call Mass Save at 866-527-7283, HELPS at 888-333-7525, or fill out CET’s Home Energy Assessment Contact Form.

Energy rater preparing to go inside

Switch to Renewable Energy

As a renter, you most likely have to pay for some type of utility. If you do pay for electricity, talk to your utility provider about switching to renewable energy, or go to your town’s website to see what they may offer. Many towns offer Community Choice Aggregation, which allows you to purchase renewable energy on your existing electric bill, often with savings up to 10%.

Another option for New England residents is the Green Energy Consumers Alliance Green Powered program. This option matches your electricity usage with certified renewable energy to ensure that your purchase is truly helping to get more renewable energy on the power grid. There is a small additional monthly cost, which is invested to develop more renewable energy infrastructure in the region. The monthly premium for this program is federally tax-deductible.

However, be careful of alternative suppliers who may not actually supply green energy as promised. This article from the National Audubon Society is a great resource to make the smart switch over to renewable energy. You can also find more information about statewide options through the American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers.

Another way that renters can switch to renewable energy is through community solar, which allows ratepayers to subscribe to locally owned solar power providers. You can find a list of community solar providers in Massachusetts here.

Contact CET at 413-341-0418 or cet@cetonline.org to learn more about renewable energy options.

Compost to Reduce Waste

Another way you can have a positive environmental impact in your apartment is reducing your waste! One of the simplest ways to do this is by composting your food scraps. To make this even easier, and to keep odors down, keep your food scraps in a brown paper bag or kitchen compost collector and store it in your freezer. Once your bag is full, find a drop-off site where you can compost. Litterless is a great resource that can help you find a location near you. There may also be compost pick up services in your area. These companies will collect your organic waste in bins they provide, and some even return the bins filled with finished compost you can use!

If there are no drop-off locations or pick-up services near you, then you can try vermicomposting! This is a great way to compost inside your home with the help of worms. Red wiggler worms can turn your food scraps into compost in an odorless indoor bin. This finished product will provide a valuable soil amendment that can help your lawn, garden, and plants grow and thrive.

You can also use a solar composting barrel, if you have personal outdoor space! This requires more effort, but you get the reward of creating your own compost for flower beds or potted plants.

Food scraps going into a small compost bin on a kitchen counter

Other Options

To continue reducing your carbon footprint as a renter, consider these other simple steps:

  • Dry your clothes using a drying rack instead of using the dryer. Clothes dryers are responsible for about 6% of the average home’s energy use. Air drying your clothes can reduce a household’s carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds per year.
  • Use a smart power strip to plug your appliances into. When devices are not in use and are in standby mode, these smart power strips can cut the power off and result in energy savings.
  • Use a programmable thermostat to save energy and money. According to Energy Star, when used properly, a programmable thermostat can save about $180 a year.
  • Replace your incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. LED lighting uses 75% less energy than incandescent lighting.
  • Take your reusable shopping bags with you when you go to the store.
  • Use rags instead of paper towels to cut down on waste. Discarded paper towels result in 254 million tons of trash every year globally. Consider other reusable replacements to help you cut down on waste.
  • If you’re looking for a new car, consider upgrading to an electric vehicle. There are various programs that can help you upgrade for a discount, such as the Drive Green program from the Green Energy Consumers Alliance.