What Can Living Sustainably Look Like?

By Patricia Peng, Living Sustainably Off-Campus

A big part of “living” takes place in our physical homes; in fact studies show the average American spends 90% of their time indoors and a significant portion of that time in our respective homes.[1]  The place you choose to live factors into how you “live sustainably”.   This can take into consideration the appliances provided in your apartment, methods of transportation to school or work and any recycling services provided.

Energy efficiency is one of the main considerations that pop up when searching for a home.  This contributes to living sustainably because the energy consumed by your home appliances determines your daily energy usage.  Most of the appliances in your home will be used every day and run consistently.  “The average home causes the emission of more than twice as much carbon dioxide—the principal greenhouse gas—as the average car”.[2]  Many don’t realize how much energy and money they are wasting when they use old or broken appliances.  As you move into a new place, consider the type of appliances that have been provided. 


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy have collaborated to create an ENERGY STAR program that rates appliances on their energy efficiency.   Appliances that receive the ENERGY STAR label mean they have met the efficiency guidelines set by both groups.  Having energy efficient appliances at home means better use of energy and lower utility bills.  Many of these appliances have a longer lifespan and provide the same level of service.  The program was designed to save Americans money and decrease negative environmental impacts from energy use.   “Energy efficient choices can save families about a third on their energy bill with similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions”.[3]  Sometimes, the upfront costs of these appliances are more than the normal appliances. But property managers will be making a better investment by paying these higher upfront costs, which will save them in the long run because these appliances last longer.  If you’re living in an apartment you aren’t paying these costs but the costs to use it over that year.  As a tenant, you are looking at the maintenance and operation costs every month.  And that should be something you talk to property managers about as you search for a new place.

Below is a graph from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 showing the typical American home’s energy bills.


 This is important for students, as we invest in our education, our funds can get tied up.  Living sustainably through the use of energy efficient appliances can be one way we help the environment and our wallets.


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