Housing & Sustainability Tips for Tenants

We all know resources are important. Our lifestyles use those resources. These cost money to use but can also have negative impacts on the earth and its environment. Because we can control how we live and what we use, each of us can make significant positive impacts on our budgets and environment through our decisions and actions.  The home and how we live in it is where most of our costs and impacts happen. Whether you are a student living off campus for the first time or an older professional who has been in the same place for a long time - There are things you can do to improve your quality of life, budget, and environment creating a sustainable lifestyle!


Living in upstate NY means you will get cold winter weather. Usually by October and November the furnaces and boilers are firing up. This can use a lot of gas and stress your budgets with high bills. Keep houses well insulated, windows and doors draft free, and thermostats below 70 degrees. Remember an extra sweatshirt or blanket instead of turning up the heat can save a lot of money.

-Turn the thermostat to 68 degrees. Every degree the heat is lowered, in the 60-70 degree range, will save up to 5 percent in costs. Set the thermostat back at night or when leaving the house. Although the heat may run during recovery period, when it is bringing the house back up to temperature, less energy is used than when keeping the house at a constant temperature around the clock. 

-Stay warm and save money: Wear an extra layer, let sun shine in the windows, and make sure the house is tight to prevent drafts.


Water is an important resource and here in the north east where it is abundant it easy to forget how essential it is. Water costs money to use and to heat. Every drop counts, when water is saved, money is also saved on utility bills. To see how fast water is used fill up a gallon jug in the bathtub. You can also set it to drip and see when it is full. The results are dramatic.

-Pay attention to faucet leaks and running toilets. It is the water bill that can be a real shocker so fix drips and leaks promptly. Fixing a leak can save hundreds of gallons of water a month which also saves hundreds of dollars on a water bill.

-Shorten showers. Showers account for 2/3 of water heating costs. Cutting a shower in half will reduce use by hundreds of gallons and heating costs by 33%.

-Use appliances efficiently. Do only full loads in a dishwasher and clothes washer. This can save up to 1,000 gallons per month. Using the cold water setting on a washer reduces the energy use by 75%. 

-When washing dishes by hand do not let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.


Electricity is generated by burning coal, oil, or nuclear reactors and also now with windmills or solar panels. Other than vehicle use it is energy production that has contributed greenhouse gasses to our atmosphere. Reducing your electricity use will greatly help reducing emissions and your utility bill.

-Set computers and monitors to sleep if they will not be used after 5-15 minutes. Shutdown and turn off computers when they are not used for extended time because they draw power even when asleep.

-Use fluorescent light bulbs. They use 75% less energy than incandescent and last longer.

-Defrost food before baked or put in a microwave. This uses about 1/3 less energy than when frozen.

-Turn off air conditioners when the house is empty. Clean and replace the air filters every month to keep it running efficiently.


Vehicles cost a lot to have, to use, and maintain. These costs are compounded when the environmental impacts are considered. Personal vehicles are the single greatest source of greenhouse gasses with Hydrocarbons, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxide emissions going into the atmosphere. These emissions upset the natural balance of the carbon cycle and create an artificial increase in global temperatures. Changing and reducing our dependency on vehicles and fossil fuels will help our earth sustain itself more than any other action. Use these tips to improve performance and efficiency.

-Reduce highway speed. 5 mph slower can reduce consumption by 7%

-Replace air filters. A clean filter can improve mileage by 10%

-Keep tires inflated and aligned. Poor alignment and deflated tires wear out quickly and cause loss of fuel efficiency.

-Riding the brake can increase fuel consumption by 35%.

-Avoid sudden starts and stops. Jerky driving can add as much as 1/3 to the gas bill.


Walk, bike, bus, and car share! You will save money and be happy. Walking is the most used form of transportation in the world. It is affordable, convenient, and healthy. 30% to 40% of the cars in traffic are looking for parking. It's liberating to walk or ride past them when you are not looking for parking. When the average American uses 500 gallons of gas a year you will also have a couple thousand dollars saved when you do not drive a car.

Check out these alternatives for your commute:






Waste Streams  

In Ithaca, trash is expensive. Your garbage is also a significant environmental concern. Garbage is transported by diesel guzzling trucks, landfills grow because that garbage will not decompose for hundreds of years, and other toxic results like run off have their effects. Reducing garbage can start with how we shop and consume. Look for low packaging products and shop in bulk with reusable containers. Making changes like reusable shopping bags and rechargeable batteries will also reduce waste. Recycling empty containers will do wonders for the waste volume and costs will go down with that. Remember, these things will also help reduce manufacturing resources used up for all that packaging and products that get tossed out. Composting food scraps will also keep the garbage volume and weight down, keep it pest free, and become a great supplement to a garden bed.




How and where food is grown has as much to do with the health of our environment as it will your body. About 70% of our food is grown in Southern California. Unless you live there it is getting shipped, probably by truck, to everywhere else. During the winter months much of the North East supply comes from even further like Mexico and S. America. There are a lot of miles and emissions under our food before we ever see it.  The commercial agriculture industry has incredible impacts with the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Chemical fertilizers for crop production are a leading source of greenhouse gasses with Nitrous Oxide emissions. Look closer for food. It is likely to have been grown with less chemical agents and it has not traveled as far. NY and Ithaca has a lot of farmers where this food is available. Markets and CSAs are a great resource for healthy, organic, and local foods.