6 Ways To Be More Sustainable This Fall

Fall offers an opportunity to recommit to sustainability in your home. Whether you embark upon major improvements or small changes, every step you take helps Philly get closer to its zero-waste goal. See how many of the below energy-saving solutions you can check off your list.

Switch To LED Lighting

Today’s LED bulbs are a far cry from those limited, squiggly options of the past. Now they come in all shapes and sizes to coordinate with lighting fixtures in every room, including accent lighting, track lighting, and even candelabra chandeliers.

Candelabra with LED bulbs

This energy-saving alternative to incandescent bulbs will lower your electric bill by using only 10-watts to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent 60-watt bulb. While LED bulbs are initially more expensive, they have an exceptionally long life span, lasting more than ten years. Another benefit is that LEDs emit almost no heat or UV rays. They are usually not hot to the touch, making them safer to handle than incandescent bulbs. Plus, they can help reduce air conditioning costs and won’t cause nearby fabrics and furniture to fade. 

Choose a warm or soft white LED bulb for living rooms, bedrooms, and dining rooms. Bright white works best in kitchens and bathrooms. And, yes, fluorescent fixtures can be retrofitted with LED. HomeDepot provides a DIY guide on transitioning from incandescent fluorescent bulbs to LED.

Leave The Leaves, Or Compost Them

As trees begin to shed their foliage in the fall, consider leaving them on the ground or composting them instead of sending them to the landfill. Leaves left in the garden can be used as a mulch in vegetable gardens, flower beds, and around shrubs and trees. Leaving them to decompose will return valuable nutrients to the soil and using them as mulch can help insulate more delicate plants during the winter months.

If you are not able to simply leave them, fall leaves make for great composting material. They provide a rich source of carbon, and add significant quantities of trace minerals and plant nutrients to your backyard compost pile. Once we’re in peak leaf-peeping season, many local compost services like Bennett Compost and Circle Compost will also begin picking them up with a regular compost subscription service.

Recycle Your Closet

It’s not just your trash that needs to be recycled. It’s also your clothes! Instead of buying new clothing that depletes the environment, consider shopping at one of Philly’s many consignment shops, such as Greene Street, Addiction Studios, and ReMix.

Photo: Career Wardrobe

Consider donating any clothing that doesn’t fit or you no longer wish to keep to local consignment shops such as The Wardrobe at 413 North 4th Street aims to provide affordable attire for people who are seeking employment, are moving to independence after incarceration, or moving into recovery. They accept donations of clothing and accessories for men and women, including casual, professional, and dressy attire. 

Switch To Sustainable Candles 

Vellum Soap Company makes beeswax candles packaged in reused glass

As the days get shorter and nights longer, there’s nothing like candlelight to add warmth to a room. However, most candles on the market are made from paraffin wax, a product of petroleum refining. A more environmentally friendly choice is candles made from beeswax. Buy them locally to avoid the carbon costs of shipping. Try Bee Natural, LLC in the Reading Terminal Market or pick up one of Vellum Street Soap Company’s candles at any of the local handmade markets they vend at or any of their brick and mortar retailers. To encourage reuse, Vellum offers a $2 purchase credit to return any empty jars so they can be refilled and used again.

Wash Your Clothes In Cold Water

Up to 90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes toward heating water.  Skip the heating and use the cold water setting. This way, you reduce carbon dioxide emission and also keep your clothes in top condition longer, as hot water can make your colorful clothes less vibrant.

Unless you’re dealing with stubborn stains, there isn’t a point in running your washing machine on the hot water setting. If you feel the cold water setting doesn’t do a proper job, you can try the warm setting. 

Draft-proof Your Doors And Windows

Cold air enters your home through uninsulated spaces that can raise your heating bill and allow not just cold air in, but also moisture. Use weather stripping and/or caulking to seal windows and door frames. Hang thermal curtains which not only block drafts but also noise.  Use a cloth or plastic draft stopper on doors. Cloth draft stoppers, also called door snakes, can be simple cloth tubes filled with batting or decorative doggy-shaped draft blockers.

If you are a homeowner, consider upgrading to triple-insulated windows in which glass panes are spaced apart and hermetically sealed, leaving an insulating air space. Yes, they are pricey, but, in the long run, they reduce your heat bill and improve your energy efficiency.  They reduce energy loss by as much as 30% to 50%.

Another consideration is how the windows operate because some operating types have lower air leakage rates than others, which will improve your home’s energy efficiency. Windows that are hinged a the top and open outward or hinged at the bottom and open inward both have lower air leakage than sliding windows. 

Our Commitment To Sustainability

Deborah Solo with a recycling bin.
Solo Real Estate provides free recycling bins to tenants, owners, and clients

Solo Real Estate is committed to sustainability. Our love for our homes, neighborhoods, and city inspires us to take an active role in preserving the environment. Solo proudly provides sponsorship to numerous local organizations committed to environmental stewardship, including PHS, Emerald Wildflower Garden, Hancock Park, and other community spaces. We also encourage tenants to compost through a partnership with Bennett Compost, install green roofs on our properties when possible, and distribute Solo Recycling Bins to tenants and clients. Thank you for joining us in our effort to help meet Philly’s Zero-Waste goals.

Interested in learning other ways you can help reduce your environmental footprint? Check out our article on Four Ways to Minimize your Waste Footprint in Philadelphia or our list on 5 Things Philly Renters can do for the Environment. If you’re a Solo tenant or owner and want to sign up for a special 2 month trial offer from Bennett Compost, please e-mail us!

Buying your first investment property in Philadelphia

Thinking of buying your first investment property? Philadelphia offers first time real estate investors excellent opportunities to create passive income streams while contributing to the improvement of its neighborhoods. We spoke with Alex Franqui, an agent at Solo Real Estate, to get the inside scoop on how to buy an investment/rental property, deal with contractors and circumvent management issues.

“Investors are coming from outside Philadelphia because you can still buy properties here in the $250,000 to $350,000 range in neighborhoods that have already seen a lot of reinvestment,” said Franqui who recommends setting aside another twenty-five thousand for improvements. “Those improvements can increase the value of your property by as much as $50,000, as well as command higher rents. You want to avoid a full gut rehab and find a property that needs updating, but is in livable condition.”

Another reason to take the plunge? Interest rates are still at an all time low! 

Best Neighborhoods to Invest In Right Now

If you think that all the popular neighborhoods are out of your price range don’t worry, Philly still has plenty of exciting opportunities all across the city for discerning new investors. 

“For the last decade, out-of-state investors were focused on Fishtown. Now the New Kensington Development Corporation is investing in the area north of Lehigh Avenue.”  This includes the $17.8 million conversion of the former Orinoka Mills textile factory into a 51-unit residential property and the $7.5 million renovation of another textile mill into Coral Street Arts House, providing 27 living/work spaces for artists.

Coral Street Arts House - Kensington
Coral Street Arts House

Another up and coming area is Strawberry Mansion, north of Brewerytown and east of Fairmount Park in North Philadelphia. The architecture reflects its former middle-class Jewish community, 1890-1950. Franqui views Strawberry Mansion as a good, long term return on investment. He also sees new investors looking into neighborhoods like Germantown in Northwest Philly and Mantua adjacent to Poweltown Village in University City. What do these neighborhoods have in common? Easy access to Center City and major highway arteries.

Meanwhile, there are still bargains to be had in West Philly and Point Breeze. “Point Breeze is still viable in the $175,000 to $250,000 range,” said Franqui who recently showed several properties there to first time investors. He attributes the rise in prices of Cedar Park properties in West Philly to the University of Pennsylvania’s ongoing contribution of $1,330 per child in Penn Alexander Elementary School at 4209 Spruce. But there are still attractive investment opportunities adjacent to Cedar Park in the Kingsessing neighborhood where Bartram’s Garden is located.

Management expertise

Franqui has a unique understanding of Philly’s diverse neighborhoods. His parents, Deborah Solo and Angel Franqui, the owners of Solo Real Estate, moved to Northern Liberties in 1987. “It was one of the first neighborhoods to experience rapid reinvestment, growth, and development, along with the Graduate Hospital area,” said Franqui. 

“My background is in City Planning, and my mother’s background is in architecture; we encompass all the expertise an investor needs. With 70 years of experience, managing 500 units for different owners, Solo Real Estate is a full-service management company. “We get multiple bids from contractors. If you have a small job, it’s difficult to find a plumber or roofer. But we do enough business with them that they will handle the job,” said Franqui. “Our team at Solo will help you manage your property so it doesn’t become your full-time job and help maximize your return on investment.”

“We can also tailor our services to each investor’s preferences and budget. In the long run, a patient investor can do well here,” said Franqui. “Our goal is to improve neighborhoods, to maintain the character of their built environment, to renovate and restore.”

Interested in purchasing your first investment property? We can help! Learn more about our property investment and property management services here, and contact us for more information.