Want To Live In A Eco-Friendly Apartment? Here Are 5 Things To Look For

Want To Live In A Eco-Friendly Apartment? Here Are 5 Things To Look For

Finding the right eco-friendly apartment

If you’re living in a city, it’s hard to feel like the eco-friendly changes you make will impact the greater environment around you. The streets are jam-pact with cars, busses, and trains. The light pollution blocks the star-filled sky with street lamps, buildings, and bright signs. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the operation, maintenance, and construction of urban buildings and skyscrapers in US cities account for around half of the country’s energy consumption. On a global scale, that number jumps up to nearly 75%. 

It’s safe to say that our lifestyles in a city environment are built around consuming carbon. It’s an addiction that seems impossible to shake. We need innovation in all energy-consuming sectors in the next couple of decades to reverse the trajectory of the climate crisis. Although some of the innovations in transportation and building practices aren’t financially viable at the moment, there are several things you can do and be aware of when looking for a new place to live that will genuinely impact and influence companies and developers to move more efficiently towards greener solutions. 

The most effective place in your life where you can have the greatest impact on the environment is where you relax, sleep and eat – your home. Everything from the food you eat, how to cool or heat your unit, or how you dispose of your waste can really affect the environment around the city. The more you create greener habits in your life, there is hope that you can influence and educate others in your network and community to do the same. Building a community of environmentally aware people can create influence throughout an entire neighborhood. 

Grow Awareness

The first step to creating this is to grow your awareness and educate yourself on where you are living. Maintaining and constructing residential buildings is a huge energy consumer. It may be challenging to have the building owner change their building to be more sustainable and energy-efficient, but when your lease is up and you’re on the hunt for a new apartment; there are several things you can look for to live in a greener environment. 


1. Smarter Design

Many architecture firms and developers are finding innovative ways to make their apartment buildings more energy efficient. There are several things you can look for when touring apartments. 

  • Do the walls have good insulation? The more you can keep your ideal temperature in your unit, the less you’ll have to use more heating or air conditioning.
  • Does the apartment have large windows or skylights? And are they newer windows? Windows are a fantastic solution when using less electricity. They can be the primary light source during the day, cutting down the need to light your space with electricity. However, if these windows are old and outdated, it can cause leaking of your heat or air conditioning and cause you to need these systems more often. If you need to use lights, look to see if they are using more energy-efficient light installations.
  • Is the building using new HVAC systems? Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems or HVAC systems that are old and inefficient can be a huge problem when living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Simply put, they can be energy leakers. If you live in a very cold or sweltering environment, please ask about these systems and how recently they’ve been updated. It could save you hundreds of dollars a year on your energy bill and massively help cut the amount of energy that a building requires. 

2. Refurbished and Renovated Buildings

Building new foundations and structures require vast amounts of energy, especially in larger apartment buildings. Generally, smaller apartment buildings don’t need as much energy to construct or maintain. However, the best route is to find apartment buildings that are renovated, refurbished, and repurposed. This cuts down the required emissions nearly in half, primarily if the building is constructed of heavy steel or concrete. When we show interest in building green practices, development companies begin to take note of this and adapt their interest towards the market’s interest. Rather than look for those cool, newly built modern buildings, look for those smaller refurbished buildings with updated interiors. 


Recently, we refurbished our newest co-living apartment building on Capitol Hill rather than knocking down the old building and replacing it. This cut down our environmental footprint immensely during construction and gave us the opportunity to give life to a historic building near our nation’s capital. 

3. Appliances

You’d be surprised at how much of your electric bill is because of your refrigerator, stove, and microwave. When searching for an apartment, you want these appliances to be energy efficient. Most of the newer appliances will likely be optimized for energy efficiency, but you should always check. Make sure the refrigerator has a tight seal and that the compressor coils are cleaned. This alone will ensure your biggest appliance is using as little energy as possible. 

solar panels on rooftop

4. Renewable Energy Sources

Although it’s still uncommon in most cities, if the apartment is powered partially or totally on renewable energy like solar, that would be a considerable advantage to combat your carbon footprint. This should be something that changes in the next few years, with the price of solar energy dropping substantially.

plastic bottles in recycling plant

5. Explore Better Waste Options

Waste is often overlooked when finding places that are more environmentally friendly. It’s not as sexy as talking about modern design and solar energy, but it is imperative. There is an immense amount of waste produced from constructing a new apartment building to maintaining that building. Frequently apartment buildings will offer to recycle if it’s available in that city. However, currently, the US recycling infrastructure is insufficient, to say the least. According to National Geographic, only 9% of our recycling actually gets recycled. The other 91% gets disposed of like regular waste, or even worse, incinerated. That’s why if you want to get more thoughtful about recycling and waste, you should look into your own options. 


Composting: Rather than just throwing your banana peel in the garbage can, you can send your compost out to be used as fertilizer for crops, forests, etc. For Washington, DC. You can use Compost Cab to find great composting solutions for your food waste. They make it simple, offering both drop-off locations and pickup options for a small monthly fee. In most cities, there has been a rise in independent composting options. Don’t forget, you can also do your own composting at home if you have the space. 


Recycling: Several local and national recycling companies will actually utilize your recycling waste and repurpose your recycling. One, in particular, is the Independent Recycling Service. It’s essential to be aware of your trash and create a waste management system that works for you and the environment.


Finally, here at OSLO, we are always looking to strive for better at what we do. Becoming greener for our environment in the Washington, DC area is one way we can do that. We don’t want to strive to just be sustainable. Sustainability isn’t enough to solve this climate problem. We are striving to be regenerative. 

sustainability definition and Regenerative development definition

Sustainability is not enough; we need to be regenerative

Often, you’ll hear companies market their products as becoming more sustainable. Yes, that is a significant first step in helping our planet heal from the damage we’ve been inflicting on it. However, a new concept and building standard has started to pick up steam in the development community – Regenerative Development. Regenerative development essentially boils down to creating and designing buildings and communities that take sustainability to the next level. Regenerative Development’s core concept is to create environments and lifestyles that help maintain and grow a fractured relationship between people and our natural environment. 

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Top 10 Outdoor Spaces in Washington, DC

Top 10 Outdoor Spaces in Washington, DC

Good news! Research confirms what we’ve long known to be true: exposure to the natural world is a key ingredient to living a happy, healthy life.


In a study of more than 20,000 participants, the European Centre for Environment & Human Health discovered that participants who spent at least two hours in green spaces per week were “substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who didn’t.”


In a place like DC, if you know where to look, you will find that every quadrant of the city is filled with vibrant green spaces and hidden outdoor gems. Here are a few of our favorites.

Top Ten Spaces In Washington DC

National Arboretum – A place where first-time visitors often become enthusiasts. The 400+ acre park tucked away in the Northeast is the home to over 10 gardens including a Bonsai & Penjing museum you’ll find tiny trees that are hundreds of years old!


Rock Creek Park – Visit the 2,000 acre Northwest haven, and you’ll feel like you’ve left the city. If you know where to find them, you’ll discover ruins from the Capitol building and a horse barn. It’s an ideal place to be on a Saturday; grab a picnic, a soccer ball, and the dog!


Tidal Basin & Haines Point – An iconic spot in Spring when the Cherry Blossoms trees are in full bloom. Locals know if you plan to visit during the festival, go on a weekday!


C&O Canal – Walk, bike, or run along the sand & gravel towpath of the canal, which starts in Georgetown and goes all the way to Cumberland, MD. 


National Mall – It’s been dubbed “America’s Front Yard” for a reason and it’s not just a place for our cities tourists! With all that open space, it’s ideal for throwing the frisbee or flying a kite.  Grab a book, hop on your bike and enjoy.


Fort Reno Park – Located in Tenleytown, the park includes the highest elevation point in the city and is the location of the only Civil War battle that took place in D.C. Locals know it for free summer concerts, great tennis courts, and a festive place to be on July 4th. 


Lincoln Park – A Capitol Hill park that is bustling year-round. Picnics, playgrounds, first dates, Birthday parties; a visit to the park will almost guarantee to put a smile on your face. 


Meridian Hill – A beloved park with a storied history located between U Street & Adams Morgan. Visit and you’ll likely see outdoor yoga, a drum circle, or a couple taking engagement photos by the multiple-tiered fountain. 


Roosevelt Island – This Potomac River island sits between Georgetown and Rosslyn. The trails take about an hour to walk and include multiple views of the river, a wetlands area, and a memorial to President Roosevelt himself. On good-weather-days, parking spaces can be hard to come by. If you’re able, try biking over–the Mount Vernon trail will lead you right there.


Kingman and Heritage Island Park – Nestled right along the Anacostia River, these two islands overlook RFK stadium in southeast DC. You can bike, boat, picnic, and walk over a mile and a half of trails. We visited the trails just a few weeks ago–take a look at the video below.

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A Community Garden in the Heart Of Washington, DC

A Community Garden in the Heart Of Washington, DC

Talking with Richard Lukas, he shares how this little park and garden make Capitol Hill feels like a small town.
In a city that can sometimes feel a bit cramped, our Sunday morning visit to the 13th Street Park and Community Garden showed us a space that lets Capitol Hill stretch its legs a bit. Neighborhood volunteers – many with families in tow – showed us the ins and outs of maintaining the garden, revealing that the space is far more than a source of fresh veggies.


It’s a Friday night movie spot – most recently Moana was selected by popular demand. It’s where garden managers Ashley and Richard catch up to discuss the monthly volunteer roster. It’s where residents talk excitedly about being added to DC’s Monarch Trail with its newly planted butterfly weed, promising an influx of colorful monarchs next summer. It’s where the next potluck gets planned. It’s where neighbors mention their upcoming travels and get offers for mail pick-up duty while they’re gone.


Talking with Richard Lukas, he shares how this little park and garden make Capitol Hill feel like a small town.

How long have you lived and worked in Capitol Hill?
Since 2000 and moved to 13th Street neighborhood in 2004.


What do you love most about Capitol Hill and this neighborhood?
One of the things I love the most about Capitol Hill is that the residents really care about their community here. We see so many volunteers come out and give their time in many different ways to the neighborhood. Here at the 13th Street Community Park and Garden once a month we have anywhere from 10 to 20 neighbors come out and give an hour or two of their time. Weeding, cleaning up the park, and just getting to know their neighbors one-on-one.


What’s one place in the neighborhood most people don’t know about?
So even though I know and love the 13th Street Community Park and Garden, I would say a lot of neighbors don’t know that it’s actually a gathering space for everyone in the neighborhood. It’s technically owned by the DC Housing Authority, but the park is open to everyone. You can have a community garden plot if you get on a waitlist, we do movie nights once or twice a month in the spring, summer, and fall.


And really, we want more people to come out and help activate the park. Get to know your neighbors, the people that have been here a long time in the neighborhood and also the newcomers as well.

What makes your house a home?
So like many of us, I moved to Capitol Hill 20 years ago coming from a small suburban community, moving to the big city. And I was surprised that so many of my neighbors do the same things that I was used to growing up with. They take in the mail for me, sometimes they mow my lawn. I’m always surprised I can leave my door open and have neighbors stop by, knock on it, and feel welcome to just walk right in.


That’s what I grew up with and that’s what I love about Capitol Hill.

The 13th Street Community Park & Garden is a community effort. The space was founded by neighbors and is run and maintained by volunteers like you! If you have questions about the park, have an idea for an event, or would like to help us keep the space beautiful, please contact the garden team at information@13thstreetgarden.org.


The 13th Street Community Park & Garden exists because of the hard work and dedication of neighborhood residents. There are numerous ways you can get involved and help keep this beautiful and welcoming space flourishing. Check the Facebook page and calendar for announcements about special events and gatherings in the park.


Please join your neighbors on the second Sunday of each month to help with park cleanup and maintenance. Check the events listing for upcoming dates and meeting times.


If you have an idea for an event that would benefit the park and the community, please contact the garden at information@13thstreetgarden.org


The 13th Street Community Park & Garden is a registered D.C. non-profit corporation with IRS Section 501(c)(3) status, which makes your contributions tax deductible. We also welcome in-kind donations of gardening supplies or other materials.

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