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There is no small action when it comes to creating a great impact for the environment. Here are the top ways you can make a difference in your community and fully live green:
Best Practices Cited from our
Common Ground's article
Profiles in Green, there are a few examples of community associations empowering their owners to commit to sustainable practices below.
Best Practice Example from Brambleton Community Association, Virginia
Brambleton, located in Northern Virginia, was designed to incorporate traditional neighborhood features alongside pedestrian-oriented spaces and streetscapes. Currently, the community includes two pools, miles of public trails, tot lots, parks, sports courts and ball fields.
The association irrigates common areas through a recently updated, master-controlled smart system. "It will save the association about 30 percent in annual water costs," says Brambleton General Manager Rick Stone, AMS, LSM, PCAM. "The system takes into account moisture in the soil so it doesn't overwater. It will pay for itself in one-and-a-half years."
The association uses nonphosphorous fertilizers on common areas—and encourages residents to do the same in their yards—to lessen the impact on the Chesapeake Bay, according to Stone.
Native trees are planted in common areas, and meadows are seeded with native wildflowers to provide a needed habitat for local wildlife.
The community has about 4,000 homes now, but almost 400 are added each year. When the community reaches build-out with 9,000 homes, there will be a lot more trash. Brambleton is trying to get ahead of that problem by supplying residents with 32- or 64-gallon recycling totes. Since the association distributed the totes, each household has nearly doubled its recycling.
Brambleton partners with Recyclebank.com to encourage resident participation. "Recyclebank.com tracks homes, weighs trash and rewards people for green actions with points they can redeem for food, magazines, sporting goods or restaurant meals," Stone says.
Currently, more than half of Brambleton's residents are participating in the Recyclebank.com program and earning rewards.
Other steps taken by the association include:
Best Practice Example from Crabapple Lake & Parc, Georgia
Crabapple Lake & Parc Community Association in Roswell, Ga., recently dredged 9,500 cubic yards of silt—more than 650 truckloads—from a stormwater retention pond to keep the ecosystem healthy and recycled 80 percent of the silt by offering it free to local farms.
"All we asked was for the farms to cover the round-trip cost of trucking the silt to their properties," says Crabapple board member Maryann Malena. And instead of using chemicals to combat algae in the pond, the community released 120 grass carp.
Since Crabapple was built in 1995, more than 30 trees have been planted. That, among other initiatives, contributed to the community's certification as a Wildlife Habitat from the National Wildlife Federation. The association was awarded the certification by providing the four basic habitat elements needed for wildlife to thrive: food, water, cover and places to raise young.
Meanwhile, residents are asking the association to rebuild some of the community's tennis courts, which have been deteriorating for years. Plans to construct new courts include deconstructing the old courts and pulverizing the court surface to create the new subsurface.
"By recycling the old surface into the new subsurface, we expect to reduce the cost of reconstructing our courts because we won't have to pay to cart the old courts away to a dump, and we won't have to pay for new material to be trucked in to build a new subsurface," Malena says.
Home to many young families, Crabapple also has encouraged children to walk to school. The 260-home association worked with the city to install a traffic light at its entrance and a sidewalk that connects the entrance with the school crosswalk. The city also placed radar speed limit readers at both ends of the school zone. Since pedestrian safety has increased, more people are leaving their cars at home and walking to school and other area activities.
The association's architectural review committee has been supportive of owners' efforts to go green too. The committee developed a new standard for roof replacements that allows for shingles with an increased lifespan, improved weather resistance and better insulation. Homeowners are replacing wood columns and attic vents with prefabricated plastic, and siding replacements now trend toward fiber-cement products, which are more durable and last longer. Tankless water heaters, rain barrels, and skylights also have been approved by the committee. "Crabapple Lake & Parc residents not only support green projects and initiatives, but they are the driving force behind them," Malena says.
Homeowners are replacing wood columns and attic vents with prefabricated plastic, and siding replacements now trend toward fiber-cement products, which are more durable and last longer. Tankless water heaters, rain barrels, and skylights also have been approved by the committee.
"Crabapple Lake & Parc residents not only support green projects and initiatives, but they are the driving force behind them," Malena says.
The community switched its pool from chlorine to saline a few years ago. "Not only is this better for the environment, but our maintenance supply costs have been reduced as well," Malena says.
And instead of buying new pool furniture this season, the association repainted and re-strapped its existing set. "It was both the economical and the environmentally responsible choice," Malena says.
Malena believes Crabapple's green efforts have succeeded because association leaders have focused on prevention, planned ahead and vowed to leave the community better than it was.
Best Practice Example from Mueller Community Associations, Texas
A public-private partnership between the City of Austin and Catellus Development Corporation transformed a 700-acre, former municipal airport in the heart of Texas into a thriving green oasis.
In 2007, Catellus began redeveloping Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, just two miles away from the University of Texas at Austin, into a mixed-use community that currently has about 1,000 single-family homes, 800 apartments and 2,500 residents. By 2018, there will be 1,500 single-family homes, 2,500 apartments and condominiums, 900 row houses and 13,000 residents.
Stores and restaurants are within walking distance of energy-efficient homes, and dedicated bike paths and walkways along every street encourage residents to reduce dependence on cars.
Catellus partnered with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to restore about 30 acres of Texas Blackland Prairie. Once buried under the airport tarmac, the rich clay soil was tilled and graded to slope away from new houses. Runoff drains to a catchment pond centered in the greenway. Dozens of native grass and wildflower species were seeded across the community to help conserve water.
Roughly 140 acres, about 20 percent of the community, are being preserved for parks, open space and rare landscaping.
Mueller is recycling old runway materials into street construction, reclaiming building materials from old hangars and converting historic buildings to public spaces. Additionally, Catellus is planting more than 15,000 trees, many rescued from a nearby pecan farm that is being demolished to make way for another development.
The association uses gray water in a community-wide irrigation system. Gray water has a lower pH than tap water and is absorbed better by plants, says Jennifer Haas Harvey, CMCA, AMS, Mueller community manager.
Meanwhile, residents often initiate their own green efforts. They created the Mueller Megawatt Club, for instance, to explore solar panels on their homes.
Businesses and organizations in the community are encouraged to go green too. Commercial buildings in Mueller must achieve at least an Austin Energy Green Building two-star rating or a U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. The Ronald McDonald House became the first building in the city to earn USGBC's platinum certification, the highest rating. It is the first Ronald McDonald House in the nation powered by solar energy, according to Harvey.
Cited from Common Ground, September/October 2013