11 Oct How to Be More Eco-Friendly at Your Association
You may be aware of all the environmental challenges the world is currently facing. Air pollution, climate change, forest fires, and an abundance of trash are just a few of the many ongoing issues experienced today. It may not seem like a lot, but each person making minor adjustments to their daily routines or swapping out certain materials – think one-time use items to biodegradable or permanent materials – can have a considerable impact long-term.
Many companies are already making significant changes and are looking for better ways to provide for consumers. For example, some are creating more environmentally friendly means of transportation (all-electric vehicles or hybrid vehicles), others have invented better ways to deliver energy to households (wind, solar, natural gas, etc.), and many are even changing the way employees make an environmental impact while still doing their jobs (opting for employees to work from home instead of commuting into an office every day).
Making these changes to your lifestyle is not easy. It can be financially taxing to swap out any of the products you are accustomed to using daily, as well as time-consuming and effort-intensive to find new solutions. These tasks can be multiplied when you think about where you live, too. Single-family homes use a lot of energy to stay warm in the winter and cool down in the summer, skyrocketing energy bills and making more of an impact on the environmental grid system. Living in an apartment or condominium building brings its own challenges. However, the impact of living in a condominium building or apartment complex is lower than living in a single-family home. The high-density living area creates a barrier against energy escaping, allowing units to stay warmer or cooler for more extended periods and get to the desired temperature faster. Suppose you’re already living in a condominium or apartment and still wondering what else you can do to help your community, the environment and leave a smaller environmental footstep behind. In that case, the following tips can give you some guidance. These tips apply to both individuals and management staff – think about how you as an individual can make a difference in your home and think about how you as a management professional can make a difference within the entire community.
- Reduce and Reuse Before You Recycle
We’ve all heard the saying “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but do we know what it means? Many of us already recycle as much as possible, but what about reducing and reusing? Think about the products you buy. Do you really need that new pair of pants or the latest tech piece? Are you going to eat everything you have on your grocery list, or will it sit in your refrigerator while you get takeout every night instead because you don’t feel like cooking? Part of reducing our footprint comes from reducing our intake of certain items. Creating a list of what you know you will eat before heading to the grocery store can help you minimize the amount you end up purchasing. It will not only reduce potential food waste but will save you money, too. Think about borrowing an item from a friend or neighbor before buying it yourself unless you know you’ll use it several times in the future. Reusing items is a similar but just as effective concept – taking something you’ve used before and putting it to work differently can provide you with what you need while eliminating the need to throw it away and buy something brand new. You can use that cardboard box you received from an online order for a planter or that empty candle jar as a makeup brush holder in your bathroom or a or pencil holder in your office. At the end of the day, if you cannot reuse an item and really can’t hold onto it, recycling is your best option if possible.
- Avoid Fast Fashion
If you’re unaware of what “fast fashion” is, many companies will produce clothing in vast quantities as quickly as they can to sell the most products in the least amount of time. Unfortunately, the quality of the clothing or accessories they sell is often inferior and wears out very quickly, meaning the consumer either throws it away or buys a brand new one to replace it, continuing the cycle. Instead of buying low-quality clothing in large volumes, try investing in a few staple pieces of clothing that you can wear with a variety of different outfits from more reputable producers. These pieces can be pricey; however, they will be much higher quality, and they will last much longer, meaning you won’t be replacing them anytime soon and adding to the problem. Opt for more sustainable fabrics such as bamboo or organic cotton.
- Switch to Sustainable Cleaning Products
Cleaning chemicals can be very hard on the environment, especially those that contain bleach. Switch to products that focus on using safe plant-based ingredients instead – you’ll get the same results without breathing in harmful chemicals, and you’ll reduce air and water pollution that comes with the use of harsher products. Even more so, the bottles that harsher chemicals come in are often made with a mixture of materials, meaning they aren’t recyclable.
- Promote Natural Lighting and Fresh Air
Depending on your apartment or condominiums’ location within your community, your access to lots of natural lighting will vary. However, you can certainly embrace the amount of light you do get by opening curtains or blinds during the day and leaving lamps or overhead lighting off while you’re home. Turning off lights when you are not home is obvious, but leaving them off when you are home is often overlooked. You’ll be surprised by how little you’ll need artificial lighting on a nice sunny day, and opening the window to let cooler air in in the fall and spring months will help cut down costs and lower your energy usage. If you do need to turn on lights around your home, give significant thought to switching out old halogen light bulbs with LED ones. These give off a softer light, so they aren’t as harsh on your eyes, and they use a considerable amount less energy than traditional bulbs. If you are allowed to paint your unit, you can increase the natural light in your home by painting your walls white or off-white, so light bounces off instead of being absorbed by darker colors.
- Decorate with Plants
It’s no secret that plants make the world go ’round. They clean the air more than you might think and can have an amazing effect when placed in a home. Having a full garden in a condominium or apartment unit can be tricky; however, keeping potted plants well-watered and placed in appropriate space in your home can do wonders for the air quality inside. Do your research on a plant that matches your skill level, lighting needs (if you have an apartment that doesn’t get much light, it would be best to get something that can be left in low-light conditions and doesn’t need direct sunlight for several hours of the day), and be sure to get something non-toxic for pets if you have any. They’ll enhance your air quality and the aesthetic in your home, making it more welcoming and a cozy space to call home.
- For Management: Host Eco-Friendly Promotion Events!
Communities are always looking for ways to get their residents involved and increase the social aspect of living at an association. One of the biggest appeals to living in a condominium community or apartment complex is the idea of being near more people and having the opportunity to be more social! Encourage your association’s residents to reduce their waste and learn to be more green by setting an example. If your community sends out a monthly newsletter, switch to a digital format sent to email inboxes if you haven’t already done so. Host community contests to see which floor can recycle the most cans/boxes/etc. or which floor used the least amount of energy over the span of a month. Get creative! Residents are typically more than willing to participate and are often looking for ways to be more environmentally conscious but don’t know how to begin. Take the previous tips and use them around your association; encourage recycling by doing it yourself and having your employees do it, also. Practice sustainability by not purchasing a new work outfit for every single day of the month. Talk to your management company or Board members about the budget and see if it is possible to spend the extra money to obtain softer, healthier cleaning options instead of the cheap, harsher versions. Keep windows propped open in the lobby to let fresh air in when the weather is nice and switch out all bulbs in common areas to energy-efficient LED ones. Decorate the common areas with low-maintenance plants to keep the space welcoming and the air clean. If you set the stage to show that the association and team members genuinely care about the overall environmental impact the building has, residents will follow suit.
- For Management: Stay Up-to-Date on Maintenance
Older, outdated appliances, generators, and air conditioning/heating systems are energy hogs. If your association cannot afford a replacement appliance that would be more energy-efficient, performing regular maintenance can keep older models running for as long as possible. If you find your association fixing an item far too often, it might be best to speak to your Board and management company about finding room in your annual budget for a newer model (that will alleviate higher energy bills). As an individual living in a condominium or apartment, ensure you notify your association of any issues you are experiencing with any appliances so they can be rectified as quickly as possible.
Many of the daily tasks and routines we do each day are performed like clockwork, and it can be challenging to change what we have been doing for months, if not years, throughout our lives. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to change your entire way of life, but implementing a few greener products and behaviors can significantly impact over time and positively influence others to follow suit.
Start with the more minor changes first, such as replacing the cleaning products you use that could be harmful. Make it a goal to recycle a certain number of items per week or month, or be more mindful of the amount of food you purchase versus what you end up eating during the week. Next, visit your local nursery to see what kinds of plants would do best in your home, match your skill level, and the commitment level you can give each week. After you are doing well with these changes and feel you are making positive progress, move on to the more complex changes such as changing where you shop for clothing (look for more sustainable pieces or shop second-hand instead of brand new each time!) or even try your hand at composting any food remains instead of sending waste to a landfill. Talk to friends and family about your progress, and get your neighbors in on it, too!
If you are a management professional, speak to your management company or Board members about the changes you could make at your association to be more environmentally conscious. Making small steps in the right direction are just the beginning; if everyone did a small part, it would make a big difference.