Kelly T. Sanders lives the green and sustainable lifestyle. She takes short showers. Whenever possible, she avoids turning on the air conditioner. And she hasn’t owned a car in years.

It helps, of course, that Sanders and her husband live in on-campus housing at USC, where she is an assistant professor of environmental engineering: She doesn’t have to drive to work. The downside to the situation: She has no direct control over the environmental impact of the place in which she lives — the structure’s effects on the air, water and land.

This has become a topic of some interest lately, especially in the wake of California’s recent mandate requiring most new homes built after Jan. 1, 2020, be equipped with solar panels.

While that likely will cement the state’s position at the vanguard of progressive energy policies, it will also add as much as $10,000 to the cost of a new home, contributing to the already high cost of California’s residential housing market.

So what are poor renters to do if they want to cut their carbon footprint and live sustainably and affordably, but they can’t install solar panels?

The first step toward living green in an apartment, Sanders said, is to go after what she calls the “low-hanging” fruit of carbon reduction: energy efficiency. In addition to washing more quickly and reducing air conditioning, you can start adjusting your lifestyle to help pave the way for a solarized future.

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