By some estimates, a quarter of U.S. residents identify with LOHAS. If you don’t know what those letters stand for, you could be hurting resale values at your community.
Homeowner association boards concerned with attracting new residents would be wise to study up on LOHAS, an acronym for “lifestyles of health and sustainability.”
For the uninitiated, “sustainability” has become somewhat interchangeable with the word “green” in the marketing world. It describes a large and growing block of consumers who say they are interested in reducing their environmental footprint by changing their lifestyle.
These folks tend to be committed recyclers. They may also favor banning plastic grocery bags and non-reusable plastic straws, mulch their organic household waste, and drive hybrid or electric cars. They tend to be well-educated and many are affluent. By some estimates, a quarter of U.S. residents now identify themselves with the LOHAS lifestyle.
Whether you share their convictions or not, this means that drought-resistant landscaping, solar water heaters, and battery-powered leaf blowers are increasingly vying with open floor plans, granite countertops, and claw foot tubs as must-have amenities at today’s managed communities.
While much of the focus on green building these days is on new construction, there are plenty of ways HOAs can reduce an existing community’s environmental footprint and enhance their LOHAS cred and green appeal.
First and foremost, they can hire an eco-friendly property management company. Short of that, here are some relatively low-cost options for HOA boards to consider.
Transition to xeriscaping
By using drought-resistant plants you can conserve significant amounts of water. Xeriscaping, or selecting native and other plants that don’t require supplemental irrigation, can eliminate the need for irrigation, resulting in savings in electricity, water, and maintenance. The University of Florida has published a list of low maintenance plants ideal for the state and similar lists are available from many county agriculture extension offices.
Invest in LED lighting
Take an inventory of all the outdoor and indoor lighting within your community to determine the amount of savings that can be had by switching to LED lighting. Check with your local electric utility to see if they offer discounts or even free LED lights. If you’re serviced by Florida Power and Light, see if you are eligible for their Business Lighting Program, which awards rebates of up to 50 cents per lamp for each qualifying system that’s installed.
Use programmable thermostats whenever possible
If you have common areas that are climate controlled, investing in programmable thermostats can reduce your energy consumption significantly. Many of these common areas are only used at certain times of the day, which can allow you to set up a schedule for when the HVAC system is running to further reduce energy costs. Energy.gov estimates that you can save as much as 10 percent per year on heating and cooling costs by moving to a programmable thermostat.
Many of today’s HVAC systems are connected, which means HOA board members, property managers and HVAC contractors can monitor performance, reset temperature and humidity ranges, diagnose and even tune air conditioning and heating systems remotely.
Implement eco-friendly landscaping practices
Rainwater runoff from fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. is a big concern for the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency’s 2008 Urban Stormwater Management Report states that “Stormwater runoff from the built environment remains one of the great challenges of modern water pollution control, as this source of contamination is a principal contributor to water quality impairment of waterbodies nationwide.”
Instead of traditional lawn maintenance treatments, opt for organic fertilizer and pest control. More often than not, these options are more expensive and take longer to show results than their chemical counterparts, but they are better for your soil quality in the long run and can do wonders for your green appeal.
In fact, chemical fertilizers and pesticides can actually deplete your soil of nutrients and minerals over time, so sometimes the quickest fix isn’t the best solution. Simply leaving the clippings on the lawn helps to replenish the nutrients in the soil while eliminating the need to bag and remove it.
Talk with your landscaping contractor about using mowers that are powered by cleaner fuels such as propane or lithium-ion batteries. The EPA estimates that nearly 5 percent of our air pollution can be attributed to gas-powered lawn mowers. Thanks to advances in battery technology, many brands have begun offering cordless, electric mowers, blowers, hedge trimmers, and chain saws. These tools have the added benefit of reducing noise pollution, a pet peeve of many residents.
Stop wasting paper
Eliminate unnecessary printing and mailing. Email and social media are a much more effective and less expensive way to disseminate notices, newsletters, minutes and other membership information.
Encourage green building practices
If your community is planning any new construction or significant renovations, consider hiring architects and contractors with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, experience. They can talk to you about a variety of energy savings options, including:
- Multi-zone HVAC systems that can distribute air more efficiently throughout a home or building
- Energy STAR appliances
- LED lighting
- Low volatile organic compound paints (VOC)
- LEED certified light fixtures and building materials
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