Dearest readers,

Sometimes when I’m down in the stacks researching answers to your latest dilemmas, I enjoy taking a stroll down Ask Umbra archives lane. Here are some shiny tidbits I culled from my past advice on making the most of renting a small urban abode. Have any of your own sustainable apartment living tips or stories? Let me know in the comments section below or shoot me an email.

  • Go with the low-flow.
    Even if your landlord isn’t up for investing in low-flow toilets, you can still adapt your toilet to reduce the amount of water used when flushing by putting a device in the tank to displace some of the water (something as simple as a milk jug filled with pebbles) or investing a few bucks in a toilet fill cycle diverter or an adaptor like the Frugal Flush Flapper. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.
  • Veg out at home.
    No need for a yard — shrink your food’s carbon footprint by growing some of your own in a small window garden (you can make one yourself with items from a local hardware store). Peppers, parsley, cherry tomatoes, and basil, for example, can all flourish in the confines of an indoor garden. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.
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  • Compost with the most.
    Put some red wigglers to work on your food scraps with a worm bin, a good option for composting in a snug, yard-free living situation. You can buy ready-made bins, or if you’re feeling in the mood for some DIY, check out Seattle Tilth’s Worm Bin Plans. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.
  • Run low on energy.
    As a renter, you don’t get to make the long-term, expensive investments toward better energy efficiency, but some simple modifications can reduce your bill. Run your dishwasher only when full, and skip the “heated dry” option. And opt for an ample comforter on your bed, so the thermostat can be turned down as low as possible at night. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.
  • Get pests to bug off naturally.
    Take a pesticide-free approach to unwelcome cockroaches with catnip, a natural repellent, or a simple trap with beer or bread as bait in a wide-mouth glass jar. If you’re not opposed to offing the roaches, boric acid and silica gel are two nontoxic solutions. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.


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