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How to Find an Eco-Friendly Apartment in Boston (or any other town)

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For many people, a green lifestyle starts with the right address. The challenge is finding one, much less one you can afford to live in. Here are a few pointers on how to find an eco-friendly apartment in Boston while finding a great place to live.

Look for Eco-Friendly Apartments

Eco-friendly buildings could be anything from new dense construction that minimizes resource usage to spacious industrial buildings converted into lofts that brag about the rain collection barrels on the roof. There are more than 400 projects in Boston that are LEED certified. For reference, this is the best-in-class green building certification. It involves far more than Energy Star certified appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs. It includes high levels of insulation, windows that let in light but retain heat, and building infrastructure that minimizes the use of water and power. LEED silver is one step below LEED gold.


Choose Something that Suits Your Lifestyle

Eco-friendly buildings range from affordable retrofits to luxury apartments that treat “green” certifications as another reason to raise the rent. Choose an apartment building that fits your lifestyle. For example, prioritize living space over environmental certifications. You’re already living a more eco-friendly life by living in multi-family housing than driving in from the suburbs. And there is no point in living in a LEED gold certified building if you have to drive two hours each day through Boston traffic to get to work.

Pick an apartment building that gives you enough bedrooms to fit your family. And pick something you can afford, because it is unfair to sacrifice everything or go deeper into debt to live in the greenest building in the area. What should you prioritize instead? Being close to the arts scene or nightlife, if that’s what matters to you. Live close to your children’s school or your college campus, so you can be immersed in that community.

For some, the apartment building’s eco-friendly design dovetails into their overall lifestyle. For example, you might be able to drop off your dinner leftovers in an apartment building compost bin. In the ideal situation, they use that compost on the landscaping instead of artificial fertilizers.

If you have an electric vehicle, prioritize apartment buildings that have compatible charging stations. If you like to car-share, do they have carshare spaces? Or do they have carpooling to your place of employment?


Consider the Impact on Your Lifestyle

Too many people think that moving into a zero-emission building or an apartment complex with solar panels sending power to the grid lets them wrap themselves in a green mantle. In reality, an eco-friendly lifestyle depends on many more factors. This is why you could find yourself living in an older building without the green building ratings and can still live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. For example, living in a walkable neighborhood with good public transit may let you ditch your car. If you can find everything you need in the immediate area, you don’t have to waste time or energy traveling. Now your lifestyle is greener even if the walls aren’t as well insulated as they could be. And you’re free to put up insulating blinds and extra rugs on the floor. Or you could encourage the owner of your apartment building to upgrade to more energy efficient HVAC systems the next time they have to repair it.

Don’t cram your family into a studio apartment for the sake of “saving the planet”. Choose something with enough space that you won’t have to leave because it is so crowded or drives you to drive to the countryside every weekend. Choose a Boston apartment that has plenty of greenery or is in walking distance of a large park, especially if you have pets and/or children. Trust us, your kids will appreciate nature more if you do. If the building has a roof-top garden, that’s all the better.

Remember the Amenities

Boston is one of the most expensive housing markets in the United States, though it is cheap compared to NYC. This means most landlords won’t try to classify a large closet as a bonus room or extra bedroom. It also means that you’ll find more amenities in Boston apartment buildings. Ask questions and shop around. Do they provide on-site laundry facilities, if they don’t provide connection points or even washers and dryers to residents? Do they have a workout room? Do they have a swimming pool, and is it well maintained?

Remember that views are a nice to have, not a necessity, and you will pay a premium for them. And a view of the waterfront doesn’t make the apartment building itself ecofriendly.


Check Out the Quality of Workmanship

The fact that they used bamboo instead of wood may be a point in their favor, but recycled marble countertops don’t make up for the fact that the sink tends to clog. Ask questions of current and former residents. What types of problems do they have? Are windows hard to open? Does the smart home system glitch?


Take All the Costs into Account

Eco-friendly buildings tend to be more expensive, though you can argue it is an investment in saving the planet. When you’re comparing apartment buildings, take all the costs into account. Rent is one obvious expense, but it isn’t the only one. Do you have to pay for a parking space? Will those high ceilings double your electric bill? Do you need to pay for valet parking, a home security system or other amenities?

Find Out How Comfortable It Is

A building could theoretically be eco-friendly because it has poor ventilation. Make sure the building doesn’t feel stuffy or have a moldy smell because they don’t have good ventilation. Verify that the building is cool in the summer and warm in the winter without forcing you to plug in a supplemental heater or window air conditioner.

Another factor to consider is safety. Redevelopment often takes place in gentrifying areas. Is it safe for you to walk to the drug store at nine o’clock at night? Is it safe for your kids to walk to school or the nearby park?

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