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Earth Day Inspirations for Your Community

For those of you aren’t familiar, today is April 22, and today we are celebrating Earth Day.  The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 and it marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement (thank you, Wikipedia).

Since then the movement has picked up quite a bit of speed, evolving from a small political outcry to a full blown trend. Now it’s cool to be “green.” There is so much pressure to be green that one might have an anxiety attack in the grocery checkout line when asked the simple question “Paper or plastic?” (For the low down on which is really best, check out this handy article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18538484)

How does this pertain to you, dedicated apartment management teams?  Well, if your community doesn’t already have at least a recycling program, you’re slipping behind the times.  Here are a few ideas to help you get caught up:

·         Recycle:  Read this wonderful step-by-step guide to recycling and waste management specifically geared towards multi-family communities, created by the BFI Waste Service of Salinas, CA: http://www.bfi-salinas.com/multi-family-sbs-guide.cfm.  Keep costs down by investing in just one community recycling bin to start, and provide your residents with an optional fee to have their own bin.  Also, seek an eager resident to manage the program instead of using paid employee time.  A small incentive such as a rent discount or a waived fee might help you find the right person for the job.


·         Grow: Provide a community garden space. Growing and eating your own food not only helps the environment, but it also helps your residents save on their grocery bills.  You don’t need a ton of space to grown common veggies, fruits and herbs.  Just a little patch of soil in a well-lit area will do.  If you have an urban community with zero green space, no problem, most veggies and herbs can be grown in containers on the rooftop, too.  If you already use a company for your landscaping and lawn services, ask them if they’d be willing to help you plot a garden, or maybe even help you maintain it. If not, you might want to find a resident (or even a team of residents) to manage the project. Make it fun by labeling areas of the garden with what they could be used for, like “Salsa garden” for tomatoes, cilantro and onions, or “Pizza Garden” for basil and peppers. Once you have a thriving garden, plan a community garden cookout!


·         Reuse: Organize a community drive to collect gently used clothes, shoes, cell phones, laptops and small kitchen appliances to ensure they are properly disposed of or donated to those in need.  You’d be surprised by how many organizations are out there to collect specific items. Most likely all you need to do is contact them with your idea and they will help you make it happen.


·         Educate: Invite local organizations to use the community clubhouse to give free seminars on topics such as composting, gardening, recycling, organic nutrition, etc to your residents and other members of the community. Not only will your current residents appreciate it, but you might grab the attention of some prospects, too (word of mouth is still alive and well people!)


·         Give: Reusable bags with your apartment name printed on them make great “welcome to the community” gifts. Fill them with goodies such as a pack of energy-efficient light bulbs, seed packets (for the community garden!) or a baggie of natural dog treats.


·         Volunteer: Round up a group of residents to participate in green community activities, such as planting, picking up trash, maintaining trails, etc.  Contact your local parks & recreation office for ideas.


·         Switcheroo: Minimize waste and contaminants as much as possible in your daily operations.  Replace all light bulbs with more efficient kinds (your residents will thank you for the reduced utility costs), print applications and guest cards on recycled paper (or, better yet, use online forms instead), send residents an e-newsletter instead of a paper newsletter, use low-no VOC paint on your accent walls, etc. These are small, simple changes that make a big difference (you might even save money in the long run!)

Yes, most of these ideas take time, effort and other valuable resources. However, green living is so hot right now that you could probably find a resident to head up each of these projects, if not develop a  whole committee of residents to take the reins.

The benefits of these projects will extend beyond your apartment community to the entire neighborhood. Not only will you be helping the environment, but you’ll also be helping your residents to bond with their neighbors by working on these projects together.  It sounds cheesy, but feeling a sense of community does wonders for the soul (and the sales!)

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