Shared energy consumption in apartments

Apartment living was an important topic of conversation at our Earth Day Beyond Green workshop, thus we thought we'd provide some observations from our data on subject.

Living in an apartment-building often constrains everyday green behaviour, but many of our research participants try to overcome such constraints on their sustainability journey, and make an extra step to implement at least some green actions in their households.

Most people in buildings, for example, do not receive utility bills, either water or electricity, or both. Having no control over their bills, some emphasize that “it doesn’t mean that I can just go crazy,” as the 49-year old Sherry, an elementary school teacher in the GTA, puts it. Therefore, many turn off the lights after leaving the room, shut off the water while rinsing dishes or washing their teeth, and purchase CFL and/or LED lights. That said, the 46-year old Don, an unemployed editor in Toronto, concludes that “it is almost inevitable that if you are not paying for it, you will be less careful.” Indeed, when we ask apartment-dwellers about their laundry practices, it is clear that they are more likely to wash their clothes in warm water than house-dwellers. Don even points out that the machines are set on warm in his building. Neither do they follow off-peak hours in their laundry use. Instead, they take other considerations into account, such as availability. While Sherry tries to do early morning laundry, Don does laundry during the weekday, when laundry rooms are not that busy.