Solarpunk Living in a Rented Apartment

I would like to thank everyone who gave suggestions and helped with this article. There was so much good advice and I couldn’t include it all.

I really encourage people to check out the threads that informed this article:

The Reddit Post

A lot of solarpunk is speculative. So much of it is literature and art picturing a future with entirely new social infrastructure and societal norms. This raises the obvious question is how can one live a more solarpunk life in the here and now without the aid of a society built to accommodate it.

Many people I’ve talked to through the Scuttlebut patchwork network live a solarpunk lifestyle out in more rural areas, and it seems to favour that. Closer to vibrant ecological systems and greater access to space allow for so much more. However I am the proverbial city mouse. For all its hardships I love living in a city. So I asked other people in the community for advice on how to live by solarpunk principals when your in an apartment with no green-space like a garden.

When I asked about ways to live a more solarpunk lifestyle on the mastodon solarpunk instance and /r/solarpunk on Reddit many of the suggestions were quite cool, but ran into a problem that they assumed a degree of space. I find that difficult to do in my current living situation in London. For context, London is one of the most space restricted cities by price, and thanks to the ongoing housing crisis in the uk most flats here aren’t up to scratch.

I also specifically asked not for “buy an x” type of recommendations. Whilst cirtan purchases, like buying a bike, or low water manual clothes washer would be helpful, they introduce a barrier against people who don’t have a lot of money

Windowsill and Indoor Growing

The biggest thing is if you have no green-space of your own is to try vertical farming. You can build a vertical planter out of a lot of waist materials, like plastic bottles, or even convert freestanding shelves, and because its vertical, it has a small footprint in the space it takes up. Potatoes, carrots root vege can be grown quite proficiently as well as leafy greens. The best part is, it will also double up as a green wall, pumping out oxygen as it filters the air.

Mini Wormery

Making a mini wormery out of a bucket and lid is very easy, and can be stored right next to your normal kitchen bin. All it takes is throwing your non meat and dairy food scraps into the bucket to let the worms make highly nutrient soil for your indoor planters.

Guerrilla Gardening

This is more of the punk side. Planting in public spaces and greening brown-land can improve your community to no end. It also can really help the ecosystem and strengthen wildlife. Wild flowers is so important to various insect populations, like bees and is the simplest to do with seed-bombs. There is also the idea of growing food in public spaces. Planting various veg in parks is the most obvious, but also if you can source the branches, grafting fruit bearing branches onto existing trees in your area will also help bring about a free source of food. Remember, while the idea of planting stuff being illegal may be absurd, it is also the world we live in, so always be read up on local laws and be safe while going about this work. The other major things to remember is always use local flower species. Research what would naturally grow in your region to avoid introducing an invasive species. If you are planting things in spaces used for dog walking, remember to research if it is poisonous to dogs and cats.

Community Gardening

A little safer than guerrilla gardening is applying to be part of a community garden. The waiting list can be long for well established ones, but it is a great way to get back to the soil and bond with other local people.

Look for local repair groups

Learning to repair and mend our items is fast becoming a lost skill. This inst by accident of simple negligence, as anyone who follows the right to repair movement could tell you. Industries have been making it harder for years to repair items and set up legal and structural barriers to push people into replacing items wholesale instead. Thanks to YouTube and how to, its easier than ever to learn how to repair items. But this is also a great opportunity to get involved with your community. From my personal experience, I made a point to learn how to repair, alter and even make my own clothes earlier this year, so a I joined a local sewing group. Not only did I meet some great people who was able to share their skills with me, but they also provided sewing machines, meaning I didn’t have to buy one myself. There are also an explosion of other types of repair workshops going on right now and its always worth looking into any in your local area. You gain community bonds, in person knowledge and save money learning to make and repair your own items.

Tool library

Tool libraries are slowly gaining traction, and its really worth checking if there is one in your city you can use. Tool libraries work the same way as regular libraries. You become a member, and you can borrow all manner of tools and equipment, DIY, kitchen stuff, sewing machines, cameras for a limited time. If you don’t yet have one in your area, then take it on yourself maybe to try and get the ball rolling with one.

Freegle and Streetbank

I cannot recommend these services enough. I first learnt of them from the book the moneyless man by mark boyle. They are online sharing communities. The originators of the term sharing economy before it got taken and twisted by the wave of gig economy app that came after. They both work on the idea of building community bonds through sharing instead of monetary exchange. Everybody freely shares and gets the same consideration in turn.

Freegle is a way to give away any items you no longer need or want. Or to look for items you need for free, and you would be surprised what people give away. This often comes with the catch that you need to pick it up and transport it yourself. Over the years I have gotten a laser printer, a sewing machine, and even a full bed-frame, and in turn this encouraged me to give away items I no longer needed, such as kitchen equipment, computer desks and much more.

Streetbank is a community time-bank. The idea is you offer your skills and time or lend out your tools and possessions, and in return you can call on others in your community to do the same. It builds bonds and connections for when your in need.

Both these services are great tools for building community connections in urban neighbourhoods and also help those who have little space and are financially tight.

Further reading

if you want to go for the obvious and look at converting your flat to solar without any structural changes there are two articles I highly recommend. The first is an experiment to go all solar run by low tech magazine

the second is one that breaks the ‘no buying advice’ rule I set for the article, but I feel could be handy if you can afford to buy a non permanent solar setup:

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