CNN just released their annual list of the world’s happiest countries. Meanwhile U.S. News ranks countries each year on quality of life. CNN’s criteria defining happiness includes GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and level of corruption income. U.S. News’ rankings look at tangibles such as quality education and health care, and intangible factors like environmental quality.
Sustainability in communities has become recognized in recent years as a key factor in quality of life and happiness. It has become evident that many sustainable practices enhance quality of life. Plus, many parents want to instill eco-conscious values into their offspring. Since the key function of an HOA is to enhance the quality of life of its members, green HOAs add more value than their non-green counterparts.
Benefits to the HOA of sustainable practices
There are several likely benefits to a community association when they implement sustainable, eco-friendly practices:
- enhanced quality of life, including a tight-knit community
- tax deductions
- savings for the HOA in lower utility bills and possibly lower maintenance fees
- lower HOA fees
- a community more attractive to buyers, and that residents put more value in and respect towards (emotional investment)
Five sustainable initiatives for your HOA
There are many ways to bring sustainability into a community. Some options may come with incentives already, such as the current Illinois solar panel program. Or, if residents are truly interested in a particular initiative, and they understand how assessments are budgeted, they may be open to contributing. Creating committees is an effective way to move forward such initiatives. Some initiatives will even save the association money if planned properly.
Here are five sustainable initiatives your association may benefit from.
Community product sharing and donations
The more residents in a community, the more they can benefit from sharing products and hand-me-downs. One example of product-sharing is the tool library Mundelein, IL is creating. With a tool library, the community finds a place to store tools, and residents can rent a tool as they need it. Alternatively, association members could share or donate these tools at no charge. This could be organized like a co-op or any way the community agrees upon.
Another example is passing down children’s items. Young children outgrow clothes so fast while the items are still perfectly usable. Why not set up a mechanism for families to share hand-me-down clothes, toys, and books? And once products are no longer useful to the community, a neighborhood garage sale can be a great way to earn money while passing on items to those who can use them. All of these reduces unnecessary buying and keeps items out of landfills while bringing a community closer together.
Start a community garden
The benefits of a community garden are great. It can:
- be educational
- save families money on food
- have great social benefits
- provide physical activity
- result in rewarding achievements
- grow healthy food
There are several different types of community gardens. You can create your garden to be one big shared plot, or divided into individual plots. You’ll need to plan in advance how you will divide up the produce. Creating a garden committee will help structure your strategy.
Be sure your garden planning committee are equipped with common community garden problems and solutions.
Reduce, re-use, recycle
In addition to the product sharing practices above, there are ways to reduce consumption and improve upon your village’s basic recycling program. COVID-19 has catapulted community associations into more electronic communication and virtual board meetings. Why not continue the momentum to reduce paper waste? Look for additional ways to use less paper for board meetings, warnings and fine collections, financial reports, and governing documents. Amend HOA bylaws as needed.
One way to improve recycling in your community is to assist residents in meeting the village’s recycling requirements. For example, many people don’t know which materials are recyclable with their village and which are not. Likewise, they aren’t aware when a new material is added. Also, a village may need different materials sorted or cleaned prior to disposal. Yet, many residents don’t bother. Yet, they blindly think they are effectively recycling. Your association might regularly provide residents education on which materials they can recycle. Or, the HOA may institute a sorting program. For example, you may come up with a container system for in-home that then transfers to a community sorting system, so the village gets what they need.
Host resident education courses and events
Sustainable practices cover a broad range of initiatives, and hosting educational events allows you to tailor those practices to the interests of your association members. Your community may be interested in composting lessons, having bike- or walk-a-thons, or educational programs geared toward children. Your HOA can sponsor the events, or a volunteer committee can fundraise and look for experts who will donate their time.
Incentivize sustainable technologies
There are many household technologies that support an eco-friendly home. Consider which ones your association may benefit from. Here are some sustainable technologies to consider:
- rain water barrel for gardening
- low-flow or dual-flush toilets
- energy-efficient heating and cooling
- solar panels
- neighborhood wind turbine
- energy star appliances
- one of the many ways of composting
Engage your association members to discover which of these, or other, initiatives will bring community members together and enhance their quality of life. Happy greening!