The 21st century has us all reaching for lofty goals in terms of financial returns. In this process, most of us forget to pay attention to the environmental impact of our actions. As the global population continues to grow, the demand for housing has intensified.
While it is important for everyone to have their housing needs met, it is important to manage our ecological footprint. In the face of escalating environmental challenges, it is going to be difficult for us to function on the planet without sustainable housing practices.
What are sustainable housing practices?
Sustainable housing practices are certain strategies for minimizing the environmental impact of housing. During construction and maintenance of property, a huge portion of natural resources are used up, including land, water, cutting of trees, etc. Sustainable housing practices ensure that resources are used in a responsible way with minimal damage to the environment.
Cultivating an eco-conscious rental community
An eco-conscious rental community consists of people who have a sense of responsibility toward the natural environment and the planet. They are aware of the impact of their daily activities on the planet’s resources. They take action to minimize this damage by using renewable energy sources, responsible use of water, water recycling, waste segregation, etc.
Such communities are important because they set an example for how sustainable housing practices should be implemented. Often, people dismiss these practices because they think it is too much of an inconvenience, and they often don’t understand the gravity of the situation. Eco-conscious communities help demonstrate that principles of sustainability can be put into practice in daily life.
Benefits of eco-friendly housing initiatives
Reduces carbon footprint
Eco-friendly initiatives minimize energy consumption and encourage people to use renewable energy sources like solar power, wind energy, biogas, etc. It protects natural resources like coal, water and fossil fuels. At the same time, it recycles and reuses waste materials, e.g. use of animal waste in a biogas plant.
Improves air quality
Sometimes traditional building materials may emit harmful gases and cause lead or mercury poisoning. Eco-friendly building materials like bamboo, stone and reclaimed wood reduce the emission of harmful pollutants. Such materials also ensure that rooms are properly ventilated.
Types of eco-friendly initiatives in housing
Green roofing means growing plants on the roof of a building. Usually, roofs are made of wood or metal. In the process of green roofing, the roof is stacked with different layers on top of the base material. First comes a waterproofing membrane, which prevents water from leaking down the roof. Next, we put soil for the plants to grow. On top is the layer of vegetation.
In May 2011, the US General Services Administration prepared a report on the benefits and challenges of green roofing on public and commercial buildings. They highlighted the primary benefits of green roofing, like lower energy costs, lesser need for roof replacement and reduced stormwater costs.
Green roofs can retain 70% to 90% of precipitation that falls on them during summer, which helps in stormwater management. These plants also reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the air and make the surroundings cool and clean, thus improving air quality.
Moreover, green roof also act as insulation, so that you remain warm in winter and get cool air in summer. Since there is an additional layer on the roof, it protects the roof material from wear and tear with time. Finally, green roofs have a charming aesthetic appeal, which is the perfect finishing touch for your eco-friendly building.
A communal garden is a space where residents cultivate plants, vegetables and flowers together. In urban settings, heat and contaminants make it difficult for people to find cool, fresh air. Communal gardens cut through these ‘heat islands’ and improve air quality. They also help in ground water conservation.
Moreover, a communal garden creates a sense of togetherness among the residents. People from various backgrounds come together, follow sustainable gardening practices, and take home their own fresh produce for the kitchen!
On-site composting is a process wherein organic waste, like leftover food, egg shells, fruit and vegetable peels, shells of nuts, dried leaves and grass, etc. are used as compost for growing plants. These waste products are gathered and layered in a compost bin. The layers are arranged with alternating nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich materials. They are turned and mixed regularly to allow breakdown of organic matter.
A damp, sponge like consistency is ideal; you can maintain that by watering as needed. This compost will improve the fertility and nutrients in the soil, which will help you grow healthier vegetables, flowers and fruits in your backyard.
Learning from success stories
Philadelphia is known for its community of environmental enthusiasts who live in eco-friendly apartments. These residents use energy efficient appliances, have green roofs and outdoor spaces, participate in recycling and composting programs, and use alternative transport options like bicycles and electric vehicles.
How to engage residents in sustainable initiatives
Incentivizing eco-friendly choices
Property managers can encourage residents to participate in contests for energy saving, waste reduction and community clean-ups. The efforts of enthusiastic families can be recognized through newsletters and community events. Even tangible incentives can be offered, like discounts on rent and building amenities.
Community driven recycling programs
For community recycling programs, separate recycling bins can be placed on each floor of the building. A meeting can be held to educate residents on what can and cannot be recycled, so that they will know how to separate those items from the trash.
Incorporating green tech innovations
Green tech innovations are alternative forms of using energy, e.g. using solar panels to generate electricity, and using electric vehicles that run on batteries, rather than using diesel, petrol, etc. These innovations help us meet our daily needs by using resources that are abundant and renewable, like wind, sunlight, etc. They help us conserve resources that are depleting, like coal and fossil fuels.
Role of property managers
As a property manager, you can provide information to your tenants about recycling programs, renewable energy sources, water conservation, etc. By implementing these practices in your building, you can set an example for the community to follow sustainable housing practices.