Tips for Eco-Friendly High-Rise Living


Many high-rises want to implement “green” living practices and create eco-friendly communities. However, many of them don’t know how to get started. Before embarking on any sustainability program, consider forming a committee of interested residents to take ownership of the initiative. Conduct a poll to find out what kinds of programs residents are most interested in having so that your efforts get the maximum return. And, ask experts who can draw from best practices across many buildings and cities.

Read on to learn about programs and services you can 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 high-rise building greener and more sustainable. Lighting in common areas and heating and cooling systems all use substantial energy. By updating them to newer, more efficient systems or adding control systems your association can save enough on energy to pay for the upgrades over time, while saving nonrenewable 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. The company’s energy experts locate incentives and create plans that will help your building conserve, save and thrive.

For example, in one high-rise building, FS Energy assisted the board in conducting an LED lighting upgrade in two stages. The first phase has involved the garage, valet, loading dock and elevator lobby. So far, Phase One has saved the association $12,000 in electrical costs.

During the second phase, side-defusing, high-efficiency LED lighting will be installed in all of the hallways. The association expects to recoup the costs of the Phase Two project in only 13 months, thanks to the resulting energy savings. All in all, the updated lighting effort is projected to save the association about $48,600 per year in energy costs alone.

Electric vehicle charging stations are another energy saver that 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 recharge them. By providing charging stations, your building can boost its eco-friendly reputation and become more attractive to potential buyers, too. Survey your residents to find out if electric vehicle charging stations are something worth considering.

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 disposal of documents anytime to scheduled visits from a mobile shredding truck.  With the help of a professional community management company, your board can determine the most cost-effective and eco-friendly option for your residents. Not only will you be helping to prevent consumer fraud and identity theft, you’ll be cutting down on trash by recycling paper.

3. Reduce, reuse and recycle.
By 2020, California wants to see a 75 percent recycling, composting or source reduction of solid waste. The state is trying to reach this goal through a combination of approaches, including incentives, statutory and regulatory changes and recommendations.

Mandatory recycling. Among the regulations that affect high-rise buildings in California are mandatory commercial recycling requirements, which apply to any multi-unit building with five or more units. As of January 2016, the state also added mandatory organic waste recycling to these regulations.

It’s important that residents know what they need to do to comply with the state regulations. Be sure that someone can provide the answers to questions like:

  • Where are recycling bins located?
  • What materials can residents recycle, 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?
  • Are there special instructions for organic waste?

A professional community management team can assist your board or recycling committee with proper communications and compliance.

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 your 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.

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.

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 to make other Nike products. Shoes can be donated at Nike and Converse stores.

4. Have a community-wide clean-up day.
Your high-rise board or sustainability committee, in collaboration with your professional community 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, especially with regard to statutory compliance, and everyone should be reminded of these policies on a regular basis. 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 community 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.

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