A Guide to Sustainable
Look inside for tips on
howSave money on utility bills by reducing your
Clean yourself and your apartment in an eco-
Green your roommates!
Created April 2008
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Bills, Bills, Bills - Resources
The Obvious, and the Not-So-Obvious Books
Turn off the lights when you leave the room, unless you Wake up and smell the planet. Edited by Brangien Davis.
will be back in less than two minutes. Otherwise, it is more Produced by Grist.org
efficient to turn the lights off and then back on again, whether It’s easy being green. By Crissy Trask
you use incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs. While we’re on Diet for a small planet. By Frances Moore Lappé
the subject, replace any light bulbs you can with CFLs (available For great vegetarian recipes, check out any cookbook by the
on Amazon, at hardware and convenience stores, and sold for Moosewood Collective
about $2/bulb at Costco!). Energy Star CFLs use ~75% less
energy and last 10 times longer than standard incandescents. If
your light fixture can hold 4 bulbs, consider whether you can light
the room effectively with fewer bulbs.
Many appliances left plugged in when not in use are
considered energy “vampires,” because they draw electricity even www.sustainusa.org/familyfarmed/csa_list.html
when turned off, which adds up on the monthly ComEd bill. www.freshpicks.com
TVs, DVD players, speakers, cell phone and other chargers, and
microwaves rank as some of the worst offenders. Desktop
computers also draw large amounts of power when in sleep mode en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermicompost
compared to when turned off. To reduce your electricity use, try
unplugging your TV and other appliances when not in use.
Alternatively, plug many appliances into one power strip and
Email Maritza Mallek at firstname.lastname@example.org.
simply switch it off when not in use.
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Greening Your Roommates Bills, Bills, Bills - Electricity
The Biggest Challenge of Them All… Mini-Fridges = Energy Suck
The number one rule is probably don’t lecture. Try to remember Avoid the trap of having multiple mini-fridges; they will suck a
that your wasteful roomies may not understand the importance lot of energy. You do not actually need to keep all of your beer
of sustainable living, and moreover may not understand how cold all the time (unless it is unpasteurized), and will save a lot of
important having a green apartment is to you. energy by cooling drinks outside in the wintertime, or simply
Choose one or two things, like shutting off lights, buying a block of ice for party occasions. If you really need that
recycling more, or switching to greener cleaning products, and ask much refrigerator space, consider having two Energy-Star or other
your roommates if they can be shared goals for the apartment. If very efficient full-size fridges instead of several half-size ones.
your roommates don’t think they can conserve more, set small And while we’re on the subject of parties, consider buying a keg
goals, like reducing the electricity bill by 5% each month. (~140 standard drinks) instead of individual cans and make sure
Be sure to let them know, kindly, why the environmental to recycle the Solo cups!
measures you’re suggesting are important to you. Be
understanding if they are not used to conservation practices. Keeping Cool in the Summertime
Capitalize on laziness. Place the recycling next to the Try a fan first, especially if you have large ceiling fans in
trash can so it’s in their path anyway. Offer to be responsible for your apartment. Open your windows at night to try and
taking out the recycling if they place their items in your blue bag. catch a breeze.
Point out that this reduces the frequency with which the regular During the day, head to the Point and jump in the lake!
trash must be emptied. If that’s too much to ask, designate a Technically illegal, but always refreshing!
place on the counter where they can leave potential recyclables Use good window shades to block out excessive sunlight if
for you to clean and sort. you have a greenhouse effect going in your apartment.
Drink iced beverages, really cold beer, etc. and reduce heat in
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Bills, Bills, Bills - Choosing an Apartment
When You Can’t Live Without an Air During the walk-through
Conditioner Examine how thick the walls are. If it’s cold out, feel them to
When air conditioners are really necessary, pick a unit determine whether they are well insulated. Insulation has a
with the lowest BTU that can get the job done. Consider putting dramatic effect on heating and cooling costs. Check out the seal
just one air conditioner in a common space in your apartment or by windows and doors. Newer windows will have metal frames
in one person’s room, then get together and watch movies or with no gaps between them and the walls.
drink something cold together to beat the heat. In the bathroom: does the shower have a low-flow
If you are going to use an air-conditioner, read the showerhead? Would your landlord be willing to install one? Look
instructions and install it properly. Close your door if the AC is for water leaks and check that the toilet is functioning properly
on, and make sure to seal air leaks (especially around your and that the tank does not drain continuously.
windows) to be more efficient. In the kitchen: is there a dishwasher? Is it efficient? Check
Most modern air-conditioners have an energy-saving out the refrigerator – if it will accommodate your and your
cycling feature. Use it. Alternatively, pay close attention to the roommates’ purchasing habits, and if it is efficient. Find out if
room temperature: once it feels cold enough, you can usually turn your landlord will update a particularly old unit.
the AC down to low.
Be sensible about the temperature setting on the unit. Can you easily walk, bike, or take public transportation from the
When you are not home, turn the temperature up to around 82,
apartment to school, work, shopping, and entertainment? Is there
then lower it a bit when you return to your apartment. If a bike room? Consider where you travel most frequently and how
possible, turn the temperature back up a bit when you go to bed. long a commute you are willing to have. Choose an apartment
where you won’t feel compelled/tempted to drive everywhere.
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Oh, Laundry! Bills, Bills, Bills - Gas
Washing Ranges and Ovens
Wear your clothes until they’re actually dirty, and don’t do Generally speaking, the cost of gas for cooking is pretty low, but
laundry unless the load is close to full. If you really just want to there are still ways to reduce your usage. Most apartments in
wash one item, ask your roommates to throw in clothes. Hyde Park have gas ranges/ovens, but the following tips can also
Alternatively, consider hand washing in a small tub. be applied to electric ones. First, microwaves are technically
Use the cold cycle whenever possible. Check whether more efficient. This is especially true for heating water for tea.
you can wash clothes on a “delicate cycle” or in a mesh bag As great as kettles are, heating more water than is needed (say,
instead of dry-cleaning. Avoid toxic-chemical-loaded fabric the whole pot when you just want one cup) is quite wasteful. It
softeners, and consider switching to an eco-friendly detergent, also takes longer – most microwaves heat a cup of water
such as that made by Seventh Generation. sufficient for tea in 2 minutes. When you need to heat large
quantities of water on the stove, be sure to place a lid over it.
Even a lid that doesn’t fit perfectly will be more efficient than no
Hang a clothesline and hang-dry your clothes outside when it’s
lid at all.
warm and inside when it’s not. Many products are available to
facilitate indoor drying, including ones for items which must be Heating
laid flat to dry. If your clothes are too stiff after line drying, put If you pay for heat in the winter, the gas bill can get quite high.
them in the dryer on the “air” setting for a few minutes. However, even if heat is included in your rent, you can help the
planet out by being conscientious in your heat requirements.
Learn how to turn your radiator down manually. If you cannot or
Dry cleaning uses a lot of nasty chemicals that double as air
don’t know how, ask your landlord for assistance instead of
pollutants and have been linked to cancer and other health
opening windows to create a comfortable temperature. If your
problems. Dry clean sparingly, and try not to buy clothes that
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Bills, Bills, Bills - Water Cleaning Your Self
Pay for Water?! In the Bathroom
While it’s true that the City of Chicago does not charge Purchase environmentally friendly shampoo, soap, and other
residential buildings for water usage, it’s also true that water personal products. Look for biodegradable products in recyclable
levels in Lake Michigan are on the decline. Reducing your water containers. Try to buy organics. Some good brands are:
consumption helps the environment and prepares you to live Burt’s Bees
somewhere else – and most other cities do charge residents for Kiss My Face
their water consumption. Tom’s of Maine
Water Conservation Tips Dr. Bronner's
Let your landlord or management company know about Face wash and toothpaste also come in eco-friendly versions.
dripping or leaking faucets, which can waste several gallons of Invest in a quality razor instead of buying disposables.
water every day. The waste of throwing away those crappy Bic razors every few
If you have a dishwasher, wait until it is full to run it. weeks adds up!
Turn the water off while brushing your teeth, washing your Set a timer while you take a shower so you realize how
hands, and doing the dishes. Just wet your sponge and scrub much water you’re using (and take a moment to ponder how
at the dishes, piling them in the sink. When you are done, much energy is being used to heat the water you’re using). See if
rinse them all at once. you can reduce your shower time by 5 minutes.
Take shorter showers. Shave over the sink (men and women!)
with the water off.
As a side note, remember that it takes a lot of energy to heat
water, so use cold whenever possible – while washing your
hands, doing laundry, etc.
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Cleaning Your Sustainable Furnishings
Toxicity Buy Used
Cleaning products contain significant amounts of toxic, harmful Scour marketplace.uchicago.edu and Craig’s List for free and/or
chemicals – that’s in part why they smell so strongly. They cheap items instead of buying brand-new furniture. Ask the
negatively affect air quality, are a common source of poison people moving out of your apartment if they want to sell off
exposures, and are hard to properly dispose of. their stuff, or ask any graduating fourth-years you know. As a
Your Four New Friends bonus, old furniture gives off fewer volatile organic compounds.
You can make your own cleaning products simply by using
different combinations of plain white vinegar, castile soap, baking Avoid buying things online that have to be shipped long
soda, and water. distances. If you do buy items that must be shipped, ask for
To clean glass and tile, mix white vinegar and water. Baking ground as opposed to air shipping.
soda scrubbing will also do the trick. Soapy water works best
for kitchen surfaces (note: soap kills germs!) Buy Certified
To disinfect sponges, boil them for 5 minutes and then When buying wood products, look for items that have been
microwave them in water for 2-3 minutes (somewhat overkill, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as being constructed
but definitely gets the job done). from sustainably harvested wood.
If you don’t want to make your own products, look for items Appliances
that are biodegradable. Some good companies include Simple In general, look for appliances with Energy Star ratings. Again,
Green and Seventh Generation, whose products are available look for used microwaves, blenders, toaster ovens, etc. You’ll be
in Hyde Park stores. saving them for becoming toxic parts of a landfill, and saving
yourself some cash.
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Bring Your Own! Recycling
Buy a coffeemaker and a good thermos, and take your own coffee Recycling for food! Look into acquiring a worm bin and practice
to campus. If you’re balking at the initial investment of a coffee vermiculture, which is perfect if a lot of your garbage is uncooked
maker, consider the following hypothetical situation: food scraps. See the resources page for helpful links.
If you drink one $2 16 oz. cup of coffee a day for the next
Frequently Asked Questions
three academic years, you will spend $1386 on coffee. One
pound of coffee beans can yield about 3 gallons of liquid coffee, Where can I buy blue bags?
so if you bought (really expensive) coffee beans for $15/pound, Blue bags are sold at Ace Hardware, Costco, and
you would spend only $433.12 making the same amount of hopefully soon at Treasure Island.
coffee. If I don’t sort my recycling, will it all be thrown away?
(The math: 11 weeks/quarter* 3 quarters/year * 3 years * 7 No. Recycling-sorting systems at waste facilities have
days/week * 16 oz/day * 1 gallon/128 fl.oz. * 1 pound coffee/3 benefited from advancing technology and are now capable
gallons *$15/pound = $433.12.) of sorting all your recyclables at their resource centers.
Also, all of the student-run coffee shops on campus offer However, you can help keep the cost of recycling low by
a discount if you bring your own thermos or mug. separating your materials and making sure they are all
Containers, plates, and silverware
How can I tell if my apartment or house has recycling?
Save the microwave-safe containers from food at campus
Chicago city ordinances require that all buildings be
coffee shops and reuse them as tupperware.
served by recycling. If you’re unsure what to do with
Bring those containers, or other plateware, to campus to use
your recyclables, ask your landlord or management
at study breaks instead of wasting a styrofoam or paper
company – they are required by law to have a recycling
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Recycling Shopping for Groceries
Paper What to Buy
While recycling programs have gotten much better at dealing with In general, buy fresh foods instead of frozen or canned options.
contaminated paper products, care should be taken to ensure that Foods with less processing and packaging, or in recyclable
paper set out for recycling is dry and not contaminated by food packaging, are better for your health and for the environment.
waste. Paper that is heavily saturated with ink should not be When considering whether to buy local or organic, know
recycled. Many types of paper products can be recycled through that both are great choices. Environmentally and holistically, local
the city (blue bags) or through private waste management is technically the better option. Foods that come in packaging,
companies, including newspaper, magazines, junk mail, phone such as carrots, often state where they come from. If you have
books, catalogs, brown paper bags, and gift wrap. the option to buy carrots from California or Wisconsin, choose
the ones from Wisconsin.
Certified-organic foods are still a new phenomenon,
Recyclable plastics account for a significant portion of landfill
although you can generally trust organically labeled produce.
space, and recycling them actually saves tremendous quantities of
Look for the USDA certified-organic label. Organic Valley is an
energy. To determine whether a particular plastic is recyclable,
excellent farmers’ co-operative that sells a variety of dairy
look on the bottom or side of the container for the recycling logo
and number. Plastics 1 and 2 are universally accepted. Plastic
Reduce your meat consumption. Between the pesticides,
grocery bags are accepted at Jewel-Osco, but unfortunately not at
fertilizer, and water used to grow feed for animals, the land
occupied, water consumed, and waste generated by feedlots, and
Printer Cartridges the cost of packaging and transporting meat products, purchasing
Empty printer ink cartridges can be recycled through a mail-in and consuming meat contributes to many environmental
program. Pre-paid mailers are available in the Shoreland and problems. If you don’t want to go completely vegetarian,
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More on Food Recycling
Reduce Food-Related Consumption Aluminum
Carpool to the grocery store with friends and buy in bulk. Aluminum can be recycled over and over again, and is so valuable
Bring your own bags! Ask cashiers not to double-bag that many recycling programs will pay for it. CLEAN aluminum
anything. cans, foil, and bakery tins can be recycled through the blue bag
program or your apartment’s waste management system.
Where to Get Local Food
For sustainably grown, local food, try a Community Supported
Batteries contain many toxic chemicals and should never be
Agriculture (CSA) program. There are a number in the Chicago
thrown away in the regular trash. They can be dropped off at
Area, including Angelic Organics, a several-hundred member
Chicago Public Libraries and Walgreens. Campus locations
family farm in Caledonia, IL. See the references section for
include the Shoreland, the UCEC in the Reynolds Club (002A),
and the Reg.
Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks provide organic and local
foods delivered to your door. Offering more flexibility than a Cardboard and Paperboard
traditional CSA, sign up for a standard or half-size box and only Cardboard refers to boxes one receives in the mail, while cereal
receive vegetables the weeks that you need them. If one box is and tissue boxes are considered paperboard. The blue bag
too much for you, consider splitting with your roommates or program and most apartment recycling programs accept both
neighbors. materials. However, greasy pizza boxes and other highly
The Hyde Park Farmer’s Market is located in Harper contaminated paper products should not be recycled.
Court (52nd and Harper) and is open Thursdays, 7AM-2PM, Glass
July through October. Clear, green, and brown glass bottles and jars can all be recycled.
Grow Your Own To help streamline the recycling process and reduce the