Little Changes Went a Long Way in Making This Rental More Sustainable

published Jan 31, 2024

Little Changes Went a Long Way in Making This Rental More Sustainable

published Jan 31, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Square feet
Sq ft
House tour cover

Can't-Miss House Tours Straight to Your Inbox

Keep up with our latest house tours each weekday with our House Tour of the Day newsletter

Emily Busam, who works in the green building industry with a “current focus on building products that are safe and healthy for humans and the environment,” shares this house in San Diego’s Golden Hill neighborhood with her partner, Evan, an engineer in the renewable energy industry. And although they rent this two-bedroom house, they’ve still managed to use their combined expertise to make lots of little changes for a healthier home.

Credit: Emily Busam

“For example, we bought an induction cooktop panel for everyday use as an alternative to our gas stove,” Busam begins. “When we needed a new door for our kitchen, I sourced a gorgeous secondhand Dutch door instead of buying new. I love opening the top half of the door to circulate fresh air into our kitchen — especially when we do use our gas stove.”

Credit: Emily Busam
Pots are an assortment of Buy Nothing, Facebook Marketplace, and local plant nurseries. String lights are from Amazon.

“We’re slowly making our backyard — which was previously a patch of dirt — into a drought-tolerant and native plant garden, and my partner built a vegetable box, so we cook with vegetables and herbs from our garden year-round. We’ve peppered other sustainable and health-minded practices into our space, like buying air purifiers, opting for secondhand and nontoxic home decor and furniture, and installing a clothes line instead of using a dryer. Luckily, we have a really wonderful landlord who lets us make this space reflective of who we are!”

Credit: Emily Busam

Apartment Therapy Survey

Describe your home’s style in five words or fewer: Sustainable, biophilic, health-inspired, comfortable.

Tell us a little about your home and the people who live there: Our home is a charming, sunny, well-loved casita located in San Diego’s Golden Hill neighborhood. In addition to our professional identities, we both value community, and we’ve designed our home to nurture the community we’ve built here. Although our space is compact, we frequently pack our neighbors and friends — along with our sweet 70-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback dog — into our space, aided in part by our kitchen table that expands with a leaf, and our spacious sectional couch. We also try to support the local community by decorating our walls with art from local artists.

Credit: Emily Busam

We both have a strong environmental ethic, which is reflected in our sustainable purchasing decisions. We also value community and connection, and we’ve tried to create a comfortable, unpretentious space where you won’t feel badly if you drop a crumb! I’m also a big DIYer, and you can see my many DIY projects throughout our home.

What is your favorite room and why? I love our entire home, but lately it’s been our living room. It’s an east-facing room, so the morning sun pours into the space. I love starting my day with my dog on the couch and sipping my tea while the sun rises.

Credit: Emily Busam

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing we bought was a piece of art for our gallery wall, commissioned by Instagram artist @stitchingrainart. We wanted a piece that commemorated our six-month road trip cross-country, and Raina did an amazing job. We love it not only for the artistic interpretation of our trip, but also because it supports a local, female artist.

What’s your best decorating, shopping, cleaning, or organizing advice? Consider the environmental and health impacts of the things you fill your home with. If you’re tight on space, get a table with a leaf. Before you begin designing, think about how you want to feel in the space.


Credit: Emily Busam


  • Dutch door — Facebook Marketplace
  • Duxtop portable induction cooktop — Amazon
  • Console table — Facebook Marketplace
  • “Life is Shor” art — Gifted
  • Paw print — DIY with my dog
  • Elton John art — Framed record album from my dad’s collection
  • Chairs — Chairish
  • Table with leaf — Facebook Marketplace
  • Rectangular rugs — Mom’s basement
  • Vintage lamp — Mom’s basement
  • Framed botanical print — Facebook Marketplace
  • Dutch door — Facebook Marketplace
Credit: Emily Busam


  • Couch and ottoman — Macy’s
  • Throw pillows — Assortment of Facebook Marketplace and Chairish
  • Blue and green throw blanket — CB2
  • Woven wall art — Tejido Intuitivo
  • Roman shades — DIY
  • Rug — Etsy, Loom Lore Gallery
  • Pedestal — West Elm
  • Lamp — Facebook Marketplace
  • Red/yellow/pink art — “Fun Day,” Facebook Marketplace, artist artbyprslla
  • Tower art — Print of “The Red Tower”
  • Abstract face painting — Etsy artist Monniewilsonsstudio
  • Vintage horse brasses — Antique store
  • Top right gallery wall piece — Instagram artist @stitchingrainart
  • Far left gallery wall piece — Print from Facebook Marketplace
  • Mirror — My grandmother’s
  • Gallery wall frames — Assortment of Michael’s, Facebook Marketplace, and
Credit: Emily Busam


  • Mattress — Naturepedic (given what I know working in the material health industry, it was important to us to buy a GOTs-certified mattress)
  • Tapestry — Facebook Marketplace
  • Curtains — Facebook Marketplace
  • Trunk — Vintage store
  • Rug — Facebook Marketplace
  • Chair — Antique Warehouse
  • Lamp — Facebook Marketplace
  • Air purifier — Levoit
  • Planter — Local Nursery
  • Bedding — Matouk Burnett flat sheet
Credit: Emily Busam


  • Standing desk — Craigslist (we intentionally bought the standing desk for better ergonomics when working)
  • Rug — Etsy shop, Loom Lore Gallery
  • Pink cart — Amazon
  • Owl art — Artist unknown
  • Floral woman art — “Maudie,” artist Mia Cross
  • Mountain and sea art — Artist unknown
  • Basket — Home Goods
  • Air purifier — AlenCorp

Thanks, Emily and Evan!!

This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.