Many multifamily properties and high-rises want to implement “green” living practices and create eco-friendly communities, but not everyone knows where nor how to get started. Here are some effective and easy tips to help you be proactive and successful in achieving your sustainability goals.

Before embarking on any of the programs below, consider forming a committee of interested residents to take ownership of the initiative. Conduct a poll to ask residents about the programs they are most interested in so that your efforts get the maximum return.

Read on for a list of programs and services that can be put in place in your community at little to no cost!

1. Explore Energy Efficiency

Energy and water conservation are the biggest ways to make your association greener and more sustainable. “Lighting in common areas, boiler systems, and cooling systems all use substantial energy, and updating them to newer, more efficient systems or by adding control systems your association can save enough on energy to pay for the upgrades over time, while saving non-renewable resources,” according to Chris Normandeau, director of FS Energy. FS Energy helps clients significantly enhance their building’s efficiency by recommending strategies to reduce energy consumption, costs and emissions. They are experts in finding incentives and creating plans that will help your building conserve, save and thrive.

At the Skypoint building in Tampa, Florida, FS Energy assisted the board in conducting an LED lighting upgrade in two stages. The first phase included the garage, valet, loading dock and elevator lobby. It has saved the association $12,000 in electrical costs so far. The second phase will which will include installing side-defusing high efficiency LED lighting in all of the hallways. The association will recoup the costs of that second phase in only 13 months, thanks to the related energy savings. The updated lighting effort is projected to save the association about $48,600 per year in energy costs alone and earned the community the Florida Public Service Commission’s Triple E Award for Energy Efficiency Efforts in August, 2016.

Electric vehicle charging stations are becoming more common in high-rises. Tax breaks and other incentives are drawing drivers to purchase electric vehicles and ultimately, those drivers need places to plug in. By providing charging stations, your building can boost its eco-friendly reputation and become more attractive to new homeowners too. Survey your community to find out if electric vehicle charging stations are something to consider.

2. Shred Documents Securely

Community shredding provides an easy, efficient way for residents to eliminate clutter while ensuring the safe, secure disposal of their confidential documents. There are options available ranging from locked receptacles for anytime disposal of documents to scheduled visits from a mobile shredding truck.

With the help of a professional property management company, boards and building owners can determine the most cost-effective and eco-friendly option for residents to securely destroy sensitive documents, helping prevent consumer fraud and identity theft while recycling paper.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

a. Building-Wide Recycling
Many North American cities don’t require recycling, but local sanitation, solid waste and public works departments now offer it as an option for residents. Overall, Americans recycle about 24% of total waste generated each year, and Canadians recycle 27% of their garbage annually. Find out if you can get dumpsters or bins for recyclables such as cans, plastic, paper and glass on your property and ensure you have an appropriate pick-up schedule to encourage usage and avoid overflowing bins.

Once the bins or dumpsters are in place, be sure to appropriately communicate the availability of the resource and how to use it. Provide answers to questions like:

  • When is the approximate pick-up schedule?
  • What materials will be recycled and how they should be prepared?
  • Is the recycling single-stream or do items have to be separated into different bins?
  • Can bottles have lids on them?
  • Should boxes be flattened?
  • What about Styrofoam or pizza boxes?
  • Do food containers need to be washed?

Rules on what is recyclable and how to separate it vary by community, and it’s important to make sure that residents know how to properly utilize the available resources. A professional property management team can assist the board or committee with ensuring that recycling bins are labeled properly and the designated area is maintained.

b. Recycling Electronics
Recycling electronic equipment keeps lead, mercury, and other hazardous materials out of landfills and the environment. Depending on its size, your building may be eligible for a variety of on-site service options to conveniently and safely recycle unwanted electronics including TVs, VCRs, DVRs, satellite boxes, mobile phones, MP3 players, laptops, scanners and much more. Check with your local solid waste authority, department of sanitation or public works or waste management company for more information about these services.

If pick-up at the building isn’t an option, consider organizing a collection and drop-off at your local disposal site. For smaller electronics, keep in mind that area retailers may have recycling programs. For example, Home Depot collects batteries for recycling, as well as compact or linear fluorescent lamps, and Best Buy recycles small electronics such as cell phones.
c. Recycle Clothing and Textiles
According to second-hand retail chain Value Village, North Americans send more than 10.5 million tons of clothing and textiles to landfills each year. Consignment, online sales and donations to thrift stores and other charities are great ways to dispose of clothing that is in good shape but no longer works for you. What about clothing that’s stained, torn or just worn beyond usefulness? Recycle it! To find a textile recycler in your area, visit the Council for Textile Recycling website. They list locations in both the U.S. and Canada. 

How are recycled textiles and shoes used? Pillow filling, baseball filling, paper money, home insulation, carpet padding and wiping cloths are a few of the products that can be made from recycled textiles. The Nike Grind program grinds up and recycles old athletic shoes into the surface material for running tracks, basketball courts and playground mats, as well as other Nike products. Shoes can be donated at Nike and Converse stores across the United States. In Canada, the Running Free Re-Use Shoe Program allows runners to donate shoes that are still good for casual wear to be repurposed for those in need.

4. Swap and Save

Multifamily properties may also wish to consider waste reduction and material reuse programs similar to “swaps” run by GrowNYC. That program provides an opportunity for New York City residents to find new homes for things they no longer need, and can be replicated anywhere. Residents are able to bring clean, reusable, portable items such as clothing, housewares, games, books and toys to designated locations, and take home something new-to-them, for free! Basic guidelines for your successful swap event can be found at GrowNYC’s website. Get nearby communities in on the fun and freebies! Involving more people will equal more opportunities for finding something cool for yourself while getting rid of your unwanted goods. 

5. Community-Wide Clean-Up Day

The association board or sustainability committee, in collaboration with your professional property management staff, can coordinate a building-wide clean-up day. This could be seasonal, twice a year or annual. Consider combining several of the initiatives mentioned above and invite residents to recycle various products, donate clothing, electronics, and other materials and dispose of unnecessary items from their homes or storage units during the designated event hours.

With any of the programs above, clear, effective communication to residents is a critical part of the process. Policies and expectations need to be outlined before a program begins and reinforced on occasion. You should consider using all channels available to your residents including social media sites, community website, newsletter, board meetings and much more. Once the committee or board decides what programs to implement, your professional property management company can help spread the word efficiently and effectively.

Implementing sustainable living strategies is highly beneficial for your residents, as well as for the environment. Developing an eco-friendly community promotes longevity for your property while increasing awareness of nature-friendly habits. For information on how to implement sustainable programs in your high-rise building, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company.

Friday October 21, 2016