At Green Landlady we believe sustainability is fully attainable through green building construction, maintenance and operations. We also believe that armed with the proper information – i.e., education and training - property managers can simultaneously achieve higher performance buildings and exceed conventional profitability goals. Nobody likes to sound the bugle alone, however, so we are proposing that we all join with a green-buddy or two and start adopting our other neighbors into our green circle of friends.
Critics and Monday morning quarterbacks need not apply, as there is no place for negativity when such serious issues exist. We choose and invite others to be fellow participants in the quest to replace old habits with better and more sustainable ones. Starting our own adopt-a-green-neighbor campaign may seem gutsy, but most of us respond to the pressure of our peers. We can use this natural instinct to mimic each other in a good way. For instance, rather than be the follower who continues to toss trash on the side of the road, why not be the leader who picks up that first piece? Ironically we worship places with clean streets, blue skies, clean beaches and green woodlands, often spending thousands of dollars to visit them for just a few weeks a year. Why not create that green paradise at home by embracing the practices that make it possible? No matter how many structural improvements we try to make, we still need over 6.8 billion people to play ball.
The Model for our Adopt-A-Green-Neighbor Campaign is meant to provide a catalyst for you to begin to create your own greening infrastructure. Every effort counts - no matter how small – as it really will take a coalition of industry, government, the private sector and greater humanity to turn climate change around. Just as it took all of us to create this mess. Time is running out while we squabble, so we propose the equivalent of an old-fashioned barn-raising. Everyone is welcome to join our Green Landlady Community as we work together for a more energy-efficient, less polluting, healthier climate both locally and globally.
Here’s our beta model but we also welcome your suggestions:
- Be a green role model. There are about 20 million rental units across the country which means there are a huge number of families in rental housing who are still wasting water, cleaning with toxic chemicals, creating excessive waste, and using too much energy. Add in the rest of the U.S. households, and even a small percentage of people practicing better environmental principles has great impact.
- Be a green friend. Initiate practices within your social network and family that cut down on waste. This can be simple things like not using paper plates, turning off the lights as you leave a room, riding your bike or walking more often, inviting people to do things with you that don’t use petroleum resources.
- Buy American, buy local and buy only what you need. Economizing may not do much for the overall economy, but as consumers we have to start taking responsibility for our actions. It is estimated that 1/4 of the carbon dioxide produced in China is not for the benefit of their growing consumer class, but for exports to other countries like ours. Imported goods may be ’cheap’, but if you add in the true cost of all those greenhouse gases, our own carbon footprint gets much larger. As profitable as a consumer economy can be for some, without intelligent restraint it is an unprofitable venture for the environment.
- Start an urban agriculture group. Whether you have your own yard or not, if you have a window, a raised planting bed, a roof, a big pot or a CFL lamp, you can create an urban garden or vegetable plot. There are window farms, fire escape plantings, patio plots, raised beds, roof gardens and other options. Your landlord may even donate a piece of lawn for the effort given the right incentives and guarantees by tenants.
- Lobby your town to create community gardens on unused municipal land. Every town has vacant lots that they bought for one reason or another, or had gifted to them. They can actually be eyesores, so why not make better use of them? Kid crops are a great learning experience too, particularly if you donate some of the crops raised to a local food bank or a homeless shelter.
- Tree your city’s streets. Heat island effects can be reduced through the use of green roofs, reflective materials and pervious payment but it might be easier to reach a consensus with a shade tree proposal. Research the best tree for your area – local nurseries or horticultural departments at local colleges can be terrific resources – and present your findings to the city council. If you pick a tree that doesn’t require a lot of resources to maintain, won’t affect the sidewalks with excessive root growth and has aesthetic appeal, you may just get the support you need. Enlist other townies in the effort by reminding them that attactive landscaping increases their property values.
- Get your neighborhood members to apply along with you for city, county and neighborhood boards. There are several ways to be a community activist, so if you have leadership abilities, use them. Many cities give up trying to find the ‘right’ person for their parks, waste collection, sewer, water and planning boards because they don’t know who has the expertise or time. Volunteer, ask to be appointed or campaign for a position. You can often guide your city with fresh, green ideas like adding electric vehicle (EV) charging stations or giving EVs free parking in town.
- Take on your own project. If you are not comfortable with the time commitment a board might take, work on one project. For instance, installing bike racks throughout town can also reduce vehicle traffic, pollution and noise while they create a friendlier atmosphere for families. Attend city council and school board meetings and speak about sustainability whenever given the chance.
- Create a Sustainability Committee. Whether you live in an apartment building or neighborhood of single-family homes, a sustainability committee will help your community define what happens around your homes. Why wait until a freeway overpass or a strip mall gets a permit through the middle of your neighborhood before you try to get involved? Become part of the planning process and you will have a voice and be a force within your community.
- Create a Recycling & Waste Reduction Council. Source waste reduction should play a major role along with full recycling programs. Your city can help people identify how not to create waste in the first place and also make it easy to commingle all recycling for better participation. Our landfills will be less toxic if we can convince our neighbors to dispose of hazardous materials properly as well. Cities with hazardous waste disposal sites or well-publicized special collection days are much more successful than those who rely on residents to drive hazardous waste materials to some distant collection site.
- Ask your town to add composting to their recycling program. Enlist the help of your neighbors to promote composting to your public works director and city officials. Although they may not see the benefit beforehand, once waste is reduced by 10% to 15% with the accompanying savings - and they make money from selling the processed compost to local farmers and nurseries – you might even receive a laurel wreath.
- Start a Car-Share or Car-Pool Group. Lots of parents enjoy the benefits of school carpooling for their children so why not start a group that carpools for errands as well? It helps create more social interaction and tighter communities. If you generate enough support or can procure a parking space in your apartment building, car-sharing companies like Zipcar will create a neighborhood or apartment building car share program. New mixed use developments are organizing car share programs as a desirable amenity to offer their residential occupants. (Dockside Green’s program is considered a good model.)
Green Landlady offers consulting, workshops and seminars to provide the education needed to create a healthy, sustainable multifamily community but we cannot do it alone. We invite you to join us and become an official, enthusiastic green property management evangelical. Together we can change the world.