If you're concerned about chemicals from recently installed building materials and finishes, the first thing to do is properly ventilate the space.
- Go around and open all the windows.
- If you have a fan, position it in a window so that it draws the contaminated air outside.
Air out the apartment for as long as possible; there's no way to tell exactly how long the materials and finishes will offgas. According to Green Seal, less than 50 percent of the VOCs in latex paint are emitted in the first year. Long after it's dry, paint is still releasing volatile chemicals into the air.
But don't lose hope! There are plenty of things you can do to make your apartment green without making permanent changes.
One of the first things renters usually do is put up window treatments. I suggest natural-fiber curtains as opposed to blinds, since you can take them with you when you move again, and they can be thrown in the laundry every month or so to keep them clean.
- Organic hemp curtains are available from Rawganique.
- If you're feeling crafty, you can buy organic fabric from Organic Cotton Plus and sew some yourself.
Curtains are easy to make as long as you have-or can borrow-a sewing machine!
It's important to sleep in a chemical-free environment, and that starts with your bed.
- Organic mattresses and futons can be pricey, but they're an excellent investment that you'll have for a long time to come.
- If you're not ready for that kind of a purchase, you can at least outfit your bed with healthy bedding. Look for the word "organic" when shopping.
If you're considering a latex mattress, be aware that there are two types of latex: natural and synthetic. Synthetic is best avoided since it can offgas chemicals. I recommend Lifekind mattresses because the company uses only the purest organic materials in its mattresses, and they are certified by Greenguard Environmental Institute.
Save Energy and Water
To reduce energy use, install power strips that can be turned off when you're not using the attached electronics. This will eliminate phantom loads and save you money.
When purchasing new electronic equipment or appliances, make sure that they are Energy Star-rated.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescents.
- Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees.
- Save water by installing low-flow showerheads.
Install water filters on your kitchen sink faucet and in the shower. Always test the water in a new apartment or home to know exactly what's in it. If you smell chlorine, that's a pretty good clue that you need a filter.
Visit the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) website to find certified products for filtering drinking water, and more.
For more information:
Read Lydia Corser's "Taking a Green Approach to Furniture" for advice on selecting eco-friendly furniture.
GreenHomeGuide's Know-How article "8 Steps to a Water-Wise Bathroom" offers simple tips for saving water.
Visit the Energy Star website to find energy-efficient appliances, home electronics, lighting products, and more.