Modern Hippies, Community Leaders

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Modern Hippies, Community Leaders

As a Community Association Manager, I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with several boards who are becoming, now more than ever, concerned about being educated and responsible leaders setting an example for their communities of how to be good stewards of the planet, as well as the particular corner of it in which they choose to live.

The first things that come to mind are the obvious: greener landscaping practices and outdoor conservation of water and energy, but how can the over-achieving, truly green minded Board carry the green philosophy throughout its entire operation? Considering that poor indoor air quality is one the top five most urgent public health risks listed by the EPA, bringing the green philosophy indoors is more important than ever. Below are just a few ideas to get you started.


  • Install CFL light bulbs throughout the community, including interior hallways.
  • Consider setting hall lights on a motion detector, so they don’t stay on all night, or take it to the next level and install solar skylight tubes for lighting during the day.
  • For common area restrooms, install dual flush buttons which convert toilets to offer the option of a half flush to save water.
  • Reduce paper use as much as possible by employing websites, email blasts and online community forums for the majority of communications. Ask your manager to print meeting materials double sided, or bring only one copy for reference. Offer residents the option to opt to receive official notices by email. *Note, a Declaration amendment may be necessary to allow for electronic delivery of notices and/or electronic voting in Association matters, but for the forward thinking community, this type of amendment is fairly easy to pass.

Environmental Safety:

  • Janitorial. Seek out companies that specifically advertise as using only natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies, or purchase cleaning supplies for the community and store on site, then ask your regular janitorial company to use them. If your property has a workout facility, consider using a few drops of tea tree oil in plain water for sanitizer bottles.
  • Carpet Cleaning. Carpet cleaning leaves toxic fumes in the air for weeks. When its time to have the common area carpets cleaned, seek out companies that use completely natural cleaning solution. Non-toxic has become a marketing buzz word as of late, practically all carpet cleaning companies make the claim their solutions are “non-toxic” and/or “non-irritant,” that doesn’t necessarily mean they are non-chemical. Don’t be afraid to ask for the brand name of the cleaning solution they use, and look it up online

When it comes time to replace the carpet, shop carefully. New carpets are treated with a variety of chemicals that can be extremely hazardous to sensitive individuals. Consider a natural wool or recycled fiber carpet which is not treated with formaldehyde or fire retardant. Wool carpeting is competitively priced with standard high quality synthetic carpeting, and wool is a better value in the long run. If properly cared for, wool carpets can last 50 years or more.

  • Window Washing. Same thing. Seek out companies who use clean, non-toxic soaps.
  • Pest control. Look for a company which uses natural methods of pest control and targeted application of pesticides when absolutely necessary, as opposed to spraying.
  • Painting. Paint contains a whole lot of something called VOCs (volatile organic compounds. Volatile, meaning they evaporate readily at room temperature. Hallways need touch ups over time, and every time there’s fresh paint on the walls, there’s fresh fumes in the air. The key to selecting a non-harmful paint, is to look for the label “non-VOC.”
  • Improvements/Remodeling. Consider choosing recycled, reclaimed, or more natural materials for your next remodel project. Green remodeling can actually add value to your building. 96% of home buyers say they are willing to pay more for a house with green features, according to the King County Department of Planning and Development, and a recent study of Seattle real estate listings cited in the Wall Street Journal found that certified green homes sold for an 11% premium per square foot and sat on the market for a quarter less time than their conventional counterparts.

Kudos to those communities out there who have already implemented some of these choices to enhance the health and wellbeing of their residents and protect the earth we share. In short, right on, man.

Additional Resources:

Website with a wealth of consumer information and a chemical index: Environmental Working Group.

Buyer’s Guide with lists of companies providing green and non-toxic services: Organic Consumers Association.

Natural Choice directory, a “green yellow pages”:

By Angelique Ashton, CMCA, AMS

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