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This Green Unit Turn initiative was developed in partnership with the Affordable Housing Management Association (AHMA) of Washington and the City of Seattle's Office of Housing.

Green Unit Turns


Make it durable


Reduce operating costs


Make it healthy


Protect the environment

This information was gathered from experiences and recommendations of several affordable housing owners and managers who are engaging in cost effective green operations and maintenance practices.  It by no means includes all the green choices or products that are available to you.

Start with these suggestions and build on them as you do your own Green Unit Turns (get the poster). The icons depict the primary benefit for each green choice, but not necessarily the only benefit.

Entire Unit



Use low-VOC paint


Install self-coving commercial grade sheet vinyl


Install double glazed, low-e
U value 0.30


Use WaterSense labeled fixtures
Install 1.28 gpf or dual flush toilets;
2.0 gpm or better showerheads;
.5 gpm bath faucets


Window Coverings.
Consider washable cloth curtains instead of vinyl mini-blinds

If using mini-blinds, use metal instead of vinyl


Install continuously running, quiet bath fans



Use Energy Star fixtures with high-efficiency luminaires or lamps


Install natural linoleum, recycled content VCT tiles, or laminate plank flooring


Use fluorescent T-8's


Should be Energy Star

Universal Design tip: Choose appliances with controls that are easy to read, easy to reach and can be operated with low effort as well as low sight.


Install high performing thermostats


Formaldehyde-free or sealed plywood boxes


No Smoking in units and building


Cleaning Products


Tile countertops
Renew-Max countertops

  • Baking soda and vinegar to clear drains
  • Baking soda or Bon Ami for scouring powder
  • Baking soda or Bon Ami plus a couple drops of Murphy's liquid soap to clean toilets; pumice stone for rust stains
  • White vinegar in warm water to clean windows
  • Commercial eco-friendly, non-toxic products
  • Avoid ammonia
  • Avoid chlorine bleach or use minimally and only when absolutely necessary

Plumbing Fixtures.
Install 1.5 gpm or better kitchen faucets


Make recycling easy — provide under-counter bins

Living Rooms


Install hard surface flooring



If carpet, use green label certified

More Resources
  • Review best practices survey information from affordable housing developers and managers: "Biggest Bang for the Buck" at
  • SeaGreen's website has a Resident Guide to adapt for your projects and distribute to tenants who want to “Live Green — Live Well.” 

Painting choices to keep units healthy and protect the environment

environment healthy

  • Green SealUse low- or no-VOC paint. Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) is a class of chemical compounds that can cause short- and long-term health problems. VOCs can be emitted (off-gassed) by many building materials and finishes.  High quality, low- and no-VOC paints and caulking are easily available through local paint suppliers. Low-VOC paints have no or minimal cost premium depending on the amount you buy. No-VOC paints do have a cost premium, but are the least toxic for your staff and residents. 

Window choices to save energy and save operating dollars


  • Install double glazed, low-e, U value 0.30. Energy efficient windows keep utility costs down for both owners and residents.

Window Covering choices that are durable and healthy

durable healthy

  • Consider washable cloth curtains. Are tenants harsh on those mini-blinds — bending and breaking them? Economical cloth curtains can be used instead to block light, retain heat, and give privacy.
  • If you do use mini-blinds, use metal instead of vinyl. Vinyl products are toxic to produce and dispose of. 

Lighting choices that can reduce your operating expenses dramatically


  • Use Energy Star fixtures with high-efficiency luminaires or lamps. See
    Compact fluorescent bulbs do cost more than incandescent bulbs, but will save in energy bills over the long-term. If you can, buy in bulk and distribute to tenants.
  • Use T-8 linear flourescent lamps

Heating choices that can reduce your operating expenses if you pay for heat, or reduce utility expenses for the tenant if they pay for heat.


  • Save energy and install Energy Star programmable thermostats that automatically adjust temperature settings, allowing you to save energy while you're away or sleeping. 
  • Consider installing thermostats with limiting controls so tenants can not raise the temperature in their unit higher than 70 degrees F. Thermostats with this feature often cost more.

A no-smoking policy for your building, including rental units.

healthy economical

  • No-smoking policies are seen as an amenity by most renters and also have many benefits for the owners and managers of rental housing:

    — Savings replacing counters, carpets and other surfaces
    — Savings on repainting during unit turnover
    — Reduced risk of fire
    — Improved air quality

  • Many housing buildings in Seattle and Washington already have no-smoking policies. There are no legal limitations on making such a policy, and it is fully the decision of the management team. Most housing managers who introduce a no-smoking policy say it is easy to enforce. Introducing a new policy takes a few steps:

    — Develop the policy, including where smoking is not allowed and where (if at all) it is
    — Alert tenants of policy change with at least 30 days notice
    — Include policy in all new leases
    — Offer a lease addendum to tenants that they can sign before lease expiration
    — Include no-smoking policy in renewal leases

  • A good guide to getting started with a policy is A Landlord's Guide to No-Smoking Policies. The guide includes how-to steps and model lease language. The Tobacco Prevention Program at Public Health - Seattle & King County can also provide personal assistance with your policy at (206) 296-7613. Other resources are available through Smoke-Free Washington.

Bathroom choices that are durable, healthy and/or reduce operating expenses

durable healthy economical

  • Install self-coving commercial grade sheet vinyl. While vinyl flooring is not the best from an environmental standpoint (because it is toxic to produce and dispose of) high grade self-coving sheet vinyl is very durable (so you’ll replace it less often) and will keep water from penetrating the sub-floor. 
  • Installing ceramic tile is a much “greener” choice than sheet vinyl but cost is higher.
  • Bathroom Plumbing
    — Install 1.28 gpf or dual flush toilets. WaterSense toilet recommendations can be found at
    — 1.75 gpm or better showerheads.
    — Install .5 gpm faucets
  • Bathroom Ventilation — install continuously running low-sone bath fans or install fans with a motion sensor or timer so that moisture in bathrooms is removed to inhibit mold/mildew growth. A “sone” is a measurement of sound. Several AHMA members have found the Panasonic line of Whisper Green fans work well and are very quiet.

Kitchen choices that are healthy and good for the environment

environment durable healthy economical

  • Flooring — install environmentally friendly natural linoleum for durability and long-term cost savings, recycled content VCT tiles (Vinyl Composition Tile), or laminate plank flooring for durability.

  • Appliances should be Energy Star to reduce utility costs.

  • Cabinets should be healthy and durable
    — Use plywood boxes with no added urea formaldehyde. Particle board is the base material used in most manufactured kitchen cabinets. The board is usually made of cellulose reconstituted with the use of urea formaldehyde resin. Formaldehyde is a recognized carcinogen. Do not use particle board cabinets.
    Uncounter Recycling
    If you use formaldehyde-free plywood boxes, you get durable boxes and healthier air quality.

  • Use cabinets accepted by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) Environmental Stewardship Program: the finished product encapsulates any harmful emissions by sealing all exposed areas with a water-based sealer, or a backer applied at the factory.

  • Tip: always do a clear coat finish so you don't have to match stains from building to building — easier for maintenance to manage. Also always have handles — cabinets get dirty quickly with no handles.

  • Re-use your existing cabinet boxes and replace doors and drawers. If you re-face with new laminate, ask your re-facer to use low- or no-VOC glues.

  • Consider using open metal shelving attached to walls instead of cabinets.

  • Countertops — consider installing ceramic tile

    — Installing tile countertops can cost $5-80/sq.ft. Tile manufacturing requires large amounts of energy, but its durability gives it an environmental edge. The cost of this countertop option varies widely, based on the cost of tile and the complexity of the installation.

    — Grout sealers and grout lines less than 1/8 inch wide create easy-to-clean surfaces.

    — Choose sealers free of formaldehyde and low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Install tile with solvent-free mastic on a durable, rot-proof surface, such as cement backer board.

    — Consider installing a solid surface affordable counter like Renew-Max:
        • cost is about $15/sq. ft.
        • extremely durable, non-porous, hard to burn and damage. If
           scratched, counter surface can be easily repaired by sanding.
        • product is made of recyclable plastic that can be reclaimed.

  • Plumbing fixtures — install 1.5 gpm or better faucets

  • Recycling made easy — provide undercounter bins that are clearly marked to avoid contamination with garbage.

Living Room choices for health, durability and operational savings

healthy durable economical

  • Flooring — install hard surfaces, not carpet. Carpets are “dirt sinks” that collect dust, insects, and contaminants that are hard to remove. They are breeding grounds for molds and dust mites.  When subject to moisture, carpets grow molds that can be harmful to humans.
    — natural linoleum 
    — laminated wood floor products
          Laminate Floorings
    — recycled content VCT tiles

Bedroom choices for health and operational savings

healthy environment economical

  • Flooring — install hard surfaces if possible, but if you do use carpet, use green label certified

Cleaning Product choices to keep your staff and tenants healthy

economical environment healthy

  • Baking soda and vinegar to clear drains:
    Pour 1 cup baking soda into drain, add 1 cup white vinegar. Let fizz.
    Flush with a pan of boiling water.
  • Baking soda or Bon Ami for scouring powder
  • Baking soda or Bon Ami plus a couple of drops of Murphy’s liquid soap to clean toilets; pumice stone for rust stains
  • White vinegar in warm water to clean windows
  • Oven/microwave cleaner: Fill a casserole dish or baking pan with water, cut and put 2 or 3 lemons and/or oranges in water. Set the dish in oven or microwave and heat to boil. The citrus oil from the fruit moves onto the oven/microwave surfaces in the steam. Wipe off dirt and grease.
  • Use washing soda (sodium carbonate) instead of TSP to wash heavily stained walls. Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is in the same family as baking soda but it is much more caustic/alkaline. It is available in the laundry section of supermarkets. For general heavy duty cleaning, mix 2 tablespoons of washing soda with 2 cups of hot water. Wash dirty areas with a sponge, let dry and rinse. USE GLOVES as this is a very strong cleaner.
  • Commercial eco-friendly, non-toxic supplies
    Coastwide Labs
    The non-profit affordable housing developer/owner Bellwether uses Coastwide cleaning products in all their buildings. They have generously shared their cleaning protocol showing product names and recommended dilutions.
    Seventh Generation
    Mrs. Meyers
    Look for Pacific Supply's environmentally friendly products
    Look for Home Depot's EcoOptions products
    Green Seal
  • Avoid chlorine bleach or use minimally only when absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid ammonia.
  • Carpet cleaning
    There are practical, nontoxic alternatives to standard carpet cleaning products. Some "green" carpet cleaning products do not contain butyl cellusolve. By using environmentally safe chemicals to clean carpets, staff and residents are not exposed to toxic chemicals. Also, carpets can be thoroughly cleaned using high temperatures (up to 260° Fahrenheit) and mild chemical agents.
    Alpine Cleaning uses Safe Clean Green and Biokleen products.  Carpet cleaning cost is competitive with other typical carpet cleaning companies.
    Whitman Global Carpet Care uses environmentally friendly and non toxic cleaning products.


  • Review best practices survey information from affordable housing developers and managers: "Biggest Bang for the Buck" at
  • SeaGreen has a Resident Guide to adapt for your projects and distribute to tenants who want to “Live Green — Live Well.”
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