Green Living Off-Campus- What Can You Do?

According to the US News and World Report, of the roughly 32,000 undergraduate students that attend Indiana University, two out of every three students live off-campus, while only 33.0 percent live in college-owned, -operated, or -affiliated housing. That means that each year, over 21,000 students search for (and presumably find) housing in one of the many rental apartments, homes, or cooperatives found throughout Bloomington.

With such a consistently high need for housing units and regular annual turnover, it’s no wonder that in Bloomington the number of housing units offered up for rent jumped from 57,933 in 2009 to 59,107 just a year later- an upwards looking trend that seems to have continued into 2012, based on observations of the multitude of new apartment complexes springing up across town. As more rental units are built and new cohorts of students are moving off-campus each year, this provides us with both increased promise and challenges for addressing the sustainability of the living choices of what is undeniably the greater proportion of the IU student body.

While not every student may be able to live in an apartment complex which utilizes alternative energies like solar or geothermal to supply part or all of its energy needs, there are things that students can do that collectively will make a huge difference in increasing the sustainability of their lifestyles and thereby reducing their eco-footprints. If renting for the first time and unsure of what to consider when making your decision, consider looking at the IU Green Renter’s Checklist for a set of guidelines to help facilitate the search process.

Once you’re living in your rental, there are a host of things that you can implement in your day-to-day living habits that can collectively have a hugely positive impact in increasing the sustainability of your lifestyle- and most are easy to do!

Consider the following:

  • Recycle! Whereas recycling is free to renters that live in neighborhoods within city limits, most apartments in Bloomington don’t offer recycling services to their tenants. Don’t let this deter you! Efforts to expand recycling to apartment complexes across town are ongoing, and the opening of the new downtown recycling facility makes it easier than ever to get your recyclables where they need to go.
  • Consider opting out of furnishing your apartment or house with brand new items each and every year- not only is it hard on your wallet, but hugely costly to the environment! Head over to the Hoosier to Hoosier Community Sale on August 11th to browse any number of furnishings, clothing items, and other miscellaneous nick-knacks that will make your home uniquely yours, and won’t break the bank, either.
  • Stop driving to campus! Walk, bike, or take the buses instead. It’s healthier for you (built-in exercise every day!), cheaper, and in many ways more convenient because you know you’re not going to come back to your car and be greeted with a parking ticket glaring back at you from your windshield.
  • Consider buying a share in a CSA- a Community Supported Agriculture program- where you’ll get fresh vegetables from a local farm over the course of the growing season; check out a list of the CSA’s that serve the Bloomington community. Alternatively, instead of purchasing your produce from a chain-supermarket,  head down to the City Hall/ Showers Plaza every Saturday morning from April through October to browse the beautiful produce and prepared foods available at the Bloomington Community Farmer’s Market.
  • Talk with your landlord to see if they’d be willing to make energy-efficiency improvements throughout your apartment or home- it never hurts to ask! In fact, many times the installation of energy efficient lighting, Energy-Star appliances, and water-saving devices (like low-flow toilets and faucet aerators) will save them money- not to mention they might be able to advertise these improvements to future tenants looking for more sustainable living options.

Remember the “Act local, think global” mantra- when it comes to sustainability, individual lifestyle changes and practices really do add up to a more significant whole. So if you’re one of the 21,000 students living off-campus, get creative- see how many of the above suggestions you can incorporate into your daily lives, and challenge yourself to keep looking for ways to make your day-to-day activities collectively more sustainable.


Written by Rachel Irvine, IUOS Living Sustainably Off-Campus Coordinator


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