How to Create an Eco-Friendly, Adult Apartment

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on April 27, 2020

You cook your own meals, you file your own taxes, you pay your monthly bills — no doubt about it: you’re an adult. But if your apartment or home decor doesn’t look or feel as grown up as you do, we’re here to help with eco-conscious, adult-friendly apartment ideas that are good for your space and the environment.

Oftentimes, people don’t know where to start when they want to make their apartment feel more grown-up, or they think it will end up costing them a lot of money. An adult apartment is organized and thoughtfully put together. Paring down the stuff you already have in the space is a completely free way to help your apartment feel more “adult.” Just be sure to recycle and donate what you can! Lowes & Home Depot take CFLs and reusable batteries, and Target has a recycling center at the front of their stores for plastic bags (think bread bags and shopping bags — not sandwich bags) and other items. 

If you have small kids, keep an eye out for Target’s car seat recycling event each year. Earth 911 is a great resource for those one-off items you may not even know are recyclable. Simple changes often come at little or no cost to us, but can reduce our overall global footprint.

For me, an adult apartment starts in the kitchen. Mismatched plastic cups and novelty pint glasses are a dead giveaway! Instead, opt for the Neat Barware from CB2 for cocktail hour, and these sturdy tumblers from Target for everyday use. No melamine dinnerware either — you can find affordable, matte-glazed stoneware from IKEA, like their Dinera set, for well under $50. My favorite is the pretty gray-blue shade, but it also comes in other colorways

Clean, sophisticated dish towels are a super-easy way to step up your kitchen game to make the space feel more grown-up, and this affordable linen set gives a California-cool vibe. 

Purchasing affordable yet highly functional storage pieces is another must in the kitchen. You’ll have a proper place for everything, whether for corralling utensils or displaying fresh fruit. A two-bin pull-out trash drawer in your kitchen can handle trash and recycling side-by-side. You can retrofit one into your current kitchen, so no need to hold off for a remodel — just remember to check with your landlord first.

As for keeping things eco-friendly, you can easily adapt your coffee routine to be waste-free by skipping the pods! There are great options that still get you your single cup of joe to start the day without single-use plastic. I have the Ninja™ Specialty Coffee Maker with Glass Carafe so you can even get your specialty drinks if that’s more your style. Any reusable thermal mug is great for coffee to go with you out the door. I’m a sucker for a pretty color like this from Amazon. Plus, it comes with a reusable straw that’s perfect for your cold drinks.

In an adult apartment, the artwork is framed, there is proper lighting and a well-made bed with a mattress that’s off the floor. All of this comes together in the bedroom! Your bed is the focal point here, and should have clean, crisp bedding made of a natural material with a minimal print (you can bring in personality with throw pillows). Lose the party lights and tapestries, and instead opt for matching bedside lamps and a large, framed print over your bed. Framed art can get expensive, but you can look for an art frame at thrift shops and fill it with a blown-up photo you took on your last vacation. Or, check out other affordable, large art ideas here

If you’re getting rid of old textiles, consider recycling them. In addition to DIY efforts, many big box retailers offer recycling programs: H&M and Goodwill offers textile recycling for items that are not suitable to donate. 

Of course, there are other spots in your space to “grow up,” but starting with the kitchen and bedroom helps ease you into the process while keeping things affordable—and sustainable.

Start adulting so hard with our interior design quiz.

Words by Heather Goerzen