Ever since homeowners’ associations (HOA) began their rapid growth in the mid-1960s, they have existed to enhance the life of community members by working together to maintain property values, improve neighborhood infrastructure, and build community. Today, HOAs can play a bigger role in society by embracing sustainable initiatives that not only improve the lives of families who currently live in the neighborhood but the world at large. Here are a few efforts already underway in some HOAs and ideas for others.
More and more HOAs are responsible for the care and upkeep of community space within a neighborhood. Many subdivisions have a shared entry area, sidewalk or walking trails, common playground or picnic areas, athletic fields, or swimming pools.
Groundkeepers or landscape professionals are usually employed to keep these areas looking tidy and inviting. Besides cutting grass and trimming bushes, HOAs must manage weed growth with herbicides. The selection of which herbicide to use will significantly impact the health, safety, and well-being of neighborhood families.
Glyphosate-based herbicides are often the most popular herbicide of choice; however, the World Health Organization reported in March 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The media continues to cover the thousands of lawsuits in process against a major glyphosate manufacturer.
Although alternative products labeled as “natural” or “organic” are available, it’s critical to consider their effectiveness and toxicity levels. A wiser selection is picking a herbicide labeled as “minimum risk exempt.” This designation, defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has strict requirements regarding the active and inert ingredients. Only about 50 natural ingredients are permitted in minimum risk exempt products.
Refined by HOAs in drought-ridden areas, water conservation is something that all neighborhoods can embrace. Besides making simple changes in common areas like installing low-flow toilets and water-conserving appliances, HOAs can continually remind homeowners to do the same in their homes.
In addition, making smart landscaping decisions, which use rainwater and irrigation systems efficiently, can save a great deal of water. Planting species that are native to the area as well as drought-resistant varieties can successfully beautify a neighborhood without an undue strain on water resources.
Since one of the primary goals of HOAs is to help preserve property values and maintain a certain level of appearance to those living and buying in a particular neighborhood, the issue of sustainable energy can be a tricky one.
More and more homeowners are considering solar energy to be environmentally friendly and potentially save energy costs in the long-run. However, in some cases, HOAs have restricted or limited the use of solar panels due to aesthetic issues.
HOAs can work to loosen some of the image-related rules and regulations to embrace more sustainable ideas and projects for the overall good of the community.
Today, the fact is that nearly everyone has access to a mobile device or a computer and going paperless for HOAs should be easier than ever. Technology, tools, and processes are affordable and easy-to-use. Simply implement paperless protocols one at a time by slowing shifting violation notices and payments online to save time, money, and natural resources.
HOAs can make a big difference in creating a sustainable community for their members. By selecting minimum risk exempt herbicides, conserving water and paper, and welcoming renewable energy, HOAs can accomplish their mission of improving the lives of their member families.