Knowledge is power the headline says - and I believe it in more ways than one. In matters of public policy and encouragement to voters, everything seems more geared to homeowners. Certainly, little is available for renters - whether they are in the private rental market or renting some form of public housing. Certainly, there is little or no coercion to get landlords pro-active and providing sustainable measures on their properties.
So what to do? I believe it is up to us the renters who want to be green, who want sustainability in their lives. So here is a check list:
- Do your utmost to be a good tenant in every way. This is credit in the bank, in a manner of speaking. There are a lot of bad tenants out there: not paying their rent, doing disappearing acts, leaving premises in poor condition full of horrible old furniture. Being the very opposite of these sort of people gives good street cred - and property manager cred at the real estate agency. There is no guarantee that being the best-est tenant will get you what you want but one thing is certain - you won't get to first base in any negotiations without this vital component.
- Put your thinking cap on and be reflective. Sustainability is a way of life - in all parts of your life. You don't establish sustainable life patterns without having a good think and reflecting on what you are doing now and what you might be able to do differently, better, and more sustainably. So please remember: sustainability starts with you.
- Look around. Start with what you have. For instance, when I moved into my current place the toilet would not switch off and would continue to fill - thus wasting vast amounts of water. So I called to ask for it to be repaired. The toilet cistern was a bit of an antique insofaras it was single flush. So when I asked for the repair, I suggested that perhaps a new cistern with dual flush could be considered. It was considered and now I have not only a properly operating toilet but a modern dual flush one. Quite a reasonable transaction and one small step towards a sustainable renting experience.
- Garden. Also in the "look around" category is to look at how you might garden at your premises. You may have a strip of lawn/land/garden. You might have nothing more than a porch or the back steps. Get some pots from the hard rubbish or a coolite box from the greengrocers and plant some herbs. 'Growing your own' is a vital part of sustainable living. You may wonder what difference growing a few herbs in a box is going to make - especially when you can buy as you need it at the local supermarket. The biggest and most vital difference is to acquire gardening skills. This is a lifelong pursuit. Even the best gardeners admit they are still learning after decades of garden involvement. You need to look at the sunshine and light that plants need - and that herb box may need to be shifted around to different spots at different times of the year. You learn that not only do you need wholistic food and maintenance, so does soil....and so on. So start your lifelong learning about the natural world right now.
- Utilities. Electricity, gas, and water are things we can take for granted. We flick a switch and turn on a tap. It's there. We need it. We use it. There is where Point No. 2 is vital. The way we use these utilities can be crucial in our care for the planet. Not to mention that there are major corporations out there making a heap of money out of our utility usage. So, it's time to have a big think ... and often it will need to be of the thinking outside the square variety. Very few renters are living with solar power on their rooves but I reckon that should be the aim of the green and sustainable renter: to negotiate with the landlord for sustainable power.
- Conversations. Humans are social creatures and it is amazing what can be learned when we interact and converse with one another. Conversation, dialogue is the most basic way of exchanging information. It is also why I plan to go along to ZCM's Carbon Tax Evasion pub night, August 11, 6-8pm, Edinburgh Castle Hotel, corner Sydney Road and Albion Street, Brunswick.
The six point list above is not exhaustive, I'm sure. If you can add to this list, please comment below. More importantly, if you have been able to negotiate with your landlord for sustainable improvements please give us the goss on all of that so we can follow in your illustrious footsteps.