Talk about a win-win. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and government-backed mortgage provider Freddie Mac recently agreed on a plan that will cut carbon emissions and at the same time make rental housing more affordable.
The plan will make it easier and cheaper for property owners to get loans for energy efficiency upgrades. This is a big deal because studies estimate that increasing the efficiency of U.S. multifamily rental properties could deliver as much as $9 billion in energy savings by 2020. It could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 million metric tons – the equivalent of taking 7.2 million cars off the road or shutting down 10 coal-fired power plants.
With studies showing that rental properties are generally less efficient per square foot than owner-occupied homes, helping renters and their landlords save energy (and money) is a key step toward reducing overall U.S. energy use.
The EPA-Freddie Mac initiative, part of the president’s Climate Action Plan, also will make available more data on energy and water use in multifamily properties. Tenants will better understand the energy costs of living in a particular home, letting them make more informed decisions. And owners will have a new incentive to make their properties more efficient, and therefore more appealing to potential renters. Additionally, property owners and tenants alike will be able to see how efficient their properties are compared to others.
EPA and Freddie Mac aren’t the only ones working to address this challenge. C2ES, through the Make an Impact program, has launched a web-based effort to reach out to renters with customized energy efficiency information. (Read about it in this blog.)
In addition, energy utilities across the country are launching efficiency programs specifically targeting the 20 million American households in multifamily residences. According to a recent study of 50 of these programs by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a solid majority (38) offer rebates and incentives for energy-saving investments. In addition, 16 programs provided direct installation, and 20 provided comprehensive “whole building” approaches for retrofits or new construction.
It makes sense to focus on the energy efficiency of rental properties. Since the end of the housing bubble several years ago, the number of housing units occupied by renters has shot up while owner-occupied homes have declined. Today, roughly one-third of Americans live in apartments in multifamily buildings. Austin, Texas, is a prime example of the potential. The area’s population has increased 40 percent over the last 10 years and about half of residents rent their homes.
Moreover, tenant demand for efficiency seems to be growing. A 2013 survey showed that 65 percent of renters consider energy-efficiency features important in deciding what apartments to rent, and 57 percent said the same about environmentally friendly features.
Providing owners with incentives to make their rental properties more energy efficient – and renters with the tools to understand energy costs and reduce them – will go a long way in reducing energy use, protecting the environment, and saving money.
Happy New Year! It’s time to think about your resolutions for 2014. Consider making one that will result in a cleaner environment, a more stable climate … and a happier you. Here are a few ideas:
- Pledge to save energy. Take these actions to save money and energy, and leave the environment healthier for everyone in the New Year.
- Keep your gatherings food-waste free. Americans throw away 34 million tons of food every year. To reduce your waste, take what you know you’ll eat and make leftovers with any remaining food. Learn more in this blog.
- Compost it. Composting can be done in a pile in the yard, an outdoor bin, or even in a vermicompost (worm) bin indoors. You can build your own or purchase one online. Composting can help reduce the 1.3 billion tons of food that goes to waste globally and help reduce methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.
Take a moment to absorb this shocking statistic: 34 million tons of food in the United States is thrown away every year. Reducing U.S. food waste by just 15 percent would help feed an estimated 25 million Americans, or roughly half of those who don't have access to enough food.
Globally, about one-third of edible food – about 1.3 billion tons – is lost (often due to inadequate transportation and storage) or wasted annually. Reducing food loss and waste would provide enough food to feed 2 billion people, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It also would conserve resources, save money, and limit pollution.
Most of us don't think about the tremendous amounts of water, energy and other resources that go into growing, harvesting, processing, and transporting food that might end up in the trash bin. Globally, the estimated carbon footprint of wasted food is equivalent to 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the FAO. That’s more greenhouse gas pollution than produced in a year by any country except China and the United States.
Millions of students, from kindergarten through college, are heading back to class, and the start of a new school year is always accompanied by the need for new stuff.
This is a costly time for families; the National Retail Federation estimates an average of $635 per student is spent on back to school apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics. In addition to looking for what’s chic or cheap, students and parents might also want to consider having a lighter impact on the environment.
Here are some “CliffsNotes “on how to be a little more eco-friendly this fall:
One in three. That’s how many U.S. households are occupied by renters. It is a population of 94.5 million people living in 38.8 million homes in cities, suburbs, and small towns across the country.
This growing population is taking advantage of benefits like easier mobility, minimal maintenance responsibilities, and the financial flexibility offered by renting. But if renters want to save energy – and save money in the process – there aren’t many places to turn for advice and ideas tailored to their needs.