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Guide for Renters: How to save money and cut carbon

Small changes, big impact.

Canopy Team
June 4, 2024

Weatherproofing windows is one way renters can save money and use less energy

When people think about the factors that contribute most to climate change, they often think of drilling for oil or power plants. Our fossil fuel policies are deeply harmful and need to change, but there’s one major carbon emitter we have much more control over than a gas or power company: our homes.

Buildings in the United States gobble up energy, accounting for 40 percent of the country’s total energy consumption. But there are a lot of small changes renters can implement to reduce their carbon emissions. Consider these tips to reduce emissions in your home through small, scalable actions that make a big difference.

Improvements You Can Make On Your Own

Many renters understandably believe that making carbon reductions in their home is out of their reach because it’s cost prohibitive, their landlord isn’t on board, or they simply don’t know how. Let’s start with that last one first. According to Rewiring America’s handy guide, the most important things are to prioritize your goals, increase your efficiency, and electrify whatever you can.  

The top three contributors to home-related emissions are your car (half your total emissions!), your home heating (25%), and your water heating (10%). Replacing, reducing, or electrifying those will have a huge impact on your energy use. Replacing these things outright can be expensive, or require landlord approval. But there are actions you can take on your own that are both easy and cost-effective. 

We’ve outlined four actionable steps you can take without landlord approval, and we added some additional level-ups you can achieve with landlord help. Canopy exists to help you turn what would normally be climate expenses into climate benefits, allowing you to do more with less.

Sign up for renewable energy

You might not be able to put solar panels on your roof, but you can put your utility bill toward renewable energy. Call your local utility company to see if they provide a renewable energy program, or, more locally, consider buying into a community solar program. If neither are an option, you can purchase Renewable Energy Credits from a third party, often by estimating your power usage. Each month, your money will support renewable energy entering the grid.

Work together

Talk to your neighbors about banding together to ask your landlord to put solar panels directly on your roof. While you’re at it, show the landlord the cost-savings of weatherproofing the house and improving energy-efficiency. There are a lot of city and government subsidies for landlords who invest in green energy alone. And if they’re the ones paying the electric bill, they’ll also save money.

Reduce your transit footprint

We can all take steps to move away from our dependence on personal gas-powered vehicles. If you live in a densely populated area, consider walking or biking to work. If you want to ride public transit, see if your work offers reimbursements or transit passes. Another great option is investing in an electric vehicle. And remember, EV options are not limited to electric cars. E-bikes, e-scooters, and e-skateboards are all cost-effective, energy-efficient alternatives to gas powered vehicles. There are even affordable charging stations you can install on your own. Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll be making an impact on carbon emissions.

Work together

Ask your landlord to install more powerful EV-charging stations in your driveway, and to install bike racks or a bike room to encourage transit. If your neighborhood isn’t walkable or bikeable, call your City Council and ask them to develop more sidewalks and bike lanes. You can also talk to your employer about installing charging stations at work. If you are able to charge at work, you’ll be leveling up yet again, as daytime charging is less taxing on the electrical grid. 

Bonus: Talk to your community leaders about the Pedestrian Dignity Movement!

Make your heating and cooling more efficient

About a third of heat in a home is lost through the walls–with another third escaping out the windows. With a minimal investment, you can make noticeable changes to your emissions and your utility bills. Purchase inexpensive thermal curtains that keep heat in and cold out, or use weatherproofing strips around windows and doors.

Another purchase with big returns is a portable heat pump. These devices are a good alternative to cumbersome window AC units in the summer, and they provide an affordable heat source for smaller spaces in the winter months.

Work together

Ask your landlord to replace old windows, air conditioner units, or older HVAC appliances. There are often incentives for replacing these items, and the landlord will likely see monthly cost savings.

Electrify what you can and focus on efficiency

Just like heating and cooling, other familiar home appliances emit less if powered by renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

Consider buying a portable induction stove. They use electromagnetic fields to heat pots and pans, which is both efficient and really cool. Literally, cool – they heat your pots and pans directly, which means the burners don't get super hot. We recommend against touching them after use, because some heat does transfer from the pan to the stovetop. But Rewiring America tried it and everything turned out fine.

For laundry, reusable dryer balls can help your dryer operate a bit more efficiently. Or, a drying rack can often replace the clothes dryer altogether.

Work together

See if your landlord would consider purchasing an electric clothes dryer, or an even more efficient heat pump model. They could also replace your current oven range with an induction model – which means no more need for a portable one on your counter.

One Step at a Time

This list should help you get a jumpstart on reducing your carbon emissions – but there's always more you can do. If you get overwhelmed, start with what you can do as an individual and work your way up. Organize your household or building to ask for landlord support, or bring Canopy to your employer to start incentivizing and offsetting your carbon reduction efforts. Small actions scale to big solutions, especially if they’re happening among large groups of people. With Canopy, you can be sure your individuals actions are part of a collective effort – and impact.

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