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Renting to Help the Environment: A Guide to Green Rentals

By: Lisa Walker

Homeownership rates are 65.4%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, leaving a little over a third of people living in rentals. If you're one of those renters, evaluating the eco-friendliness of the available units is an important part of finding a place.

Although you can’t make major changes to your apartment (like adding solar panels, for example), there are smaller adjustments you can do that can have an impact on the environment. And if you’re unhappy with your apartment’s footprint, you can begin looking for a place that has all the eco-friendly features you want.

Are you ready to get started but don’t know where to begin? Look for these features when searching for a green rental.

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Alternative Energy Sources

Alternative energy sources cut down on electric and gas use to improve the eco-friendliness of the rental home. Solar panels are easy to spot on rentals when you arrive. Geothermal heating and cooling systems can also help lower your energy use. Ask about the average utility bills in the home to gauge how much power it uses from the grid.

Water-Saving Options

Look for water-saving strategies around the rental. These may include:

  • Low-flow showerheads

  • Water-saving toilets

  • Energy-efficient washing machine and dishwasher

  • Water-efficient landscaping

  • Rain barrels

  • Newer plumbing that doesn't leak

WaterSense labels indicate water-saving devices. A WaterSense showerhead can save families 2,700 gallons every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

ENERGY STAR Appliances

Inspect the appliances to look for ENERGY STAR labels. According to ENERGY STAR, they reduced electricity usage by 500 billion kilowatt-hours, cut energy costs by $39 billion, and eliminated almost 390 metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2019. If the appliances look old, they likely aren't energy efficient. Don't forget to check the heating and cooling systems for energy efficiency.


Ask about insulation in the house or apartment. A well-insulated rental stays warmer in cold Massachusetts winters and cooler in the summer, so you don't have to run your HVAC system as much. Note if the air feels warmer or colder near the walls and windows in the rental, which might indicate that outdoor air is leaking in.

Look for other features that keep the home energy-efficient, including newer energy-efficient windows. Check for gaps around windows and doors or cracks in the foundation, which let outdoor air into the home.

Access to Recycling

Convenient access to recycling makes it easier to be eco-friendly. When renting a house, check for curbside recycling pickup. In an apartment or condo complex, look for on-site recycling bins or a nearby recycling center.


Being close to work, school, or volunteering opportunities allows you to walk, ride a bike, or drive fewer miles to reduce your environmental impact. Nearby stores and restaurants, especially green businesses, that you can walk to also help. Easy access to public transportation is another factor. Somerville offers bus and train options through MBTA, so check the locations of stops to find nearby rentals.

Green Movers

Getting to your new eco-friendly rental is another opportunity to help the environment. Look for local eco-friendly movers who use recyclable or reusable materials, reduce waste, use biofuel, and streamline routes. Gentle Giant Moving Company is one Somerville mover that uses eco-friendly practices.

Read online reviews on before hiring a mover. Request an in-home evaluation to get an accurate written estimate before hiring a company.

Go Green

Green rental options help you do your part, but there are other ways to make a difference. If you want to do more, explore responsible leadership programs from Emzingou to find out how to make a social and environmental impact.

About the Author: Lisa Walker

Lisa Walker is a proud SAHM (Stay at Home Mom). She enjoys trail hiking and beach-coming with her husband Jake when not busy with her boys and home improvement projects. She created Neighborhood Sprout as a passion project to share her love of homeownership with others.


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