Guest blog – Michael Cunningham

From reusable tableware to biodegradable decorations, residents have a number of ways to make that long holiday weekend cookout more environmentally preferable. But apartment communities can make a green effort on a much larger scale when providing the setting for summer outings year-round.

Michael Cunningham is the Managing Editor of PropertyManagementInsider.com. He is also the Director of Corporate Communications for RealPage, Inc., a provider of on-demand software solutions that integrate and streamline single-family and a wide variety of multi-family rental property management business functions. He is responsible for promoting the company through various media channels, including editorial, print and online advertising, and social media. He is also responsible for creating and managing content for revenue management systems. Michael received his education at Indiana University where he majored in English.

The air on summer weekends and holidays tantalizes the senses with the aroma of fresh grilled meat, toasted buns, sizzling vegetables, and crunchy chips. It’s a rite of passage during the summer months, and apartment pools and clubhouses become desirable locales for a cookout on a long weekend like Memorial Day.

Traditional barbecues, however, aren’t always green. Grills burn gas and sometimes toxic chemicals, and trash containers are stuffed with plastic cups, Styrofoam, and plates that end up in landfills for years. According to the Clean Air Council, every year Americans throw out enough paper and plastic ware to circle the equator 300 times.  Holy plastic spoon!

In recent years, party planners have made a concerted effort to host green events like outdoor cookouts. Electronic invitations, reusable or compostable tableware, and biodegradable decorations are some of the environmentally preferable options that are more widely used at home and public events.

Apartment communities, which have become major contributors to the green effort by installing energy-efficient appliances and creating recycling programs, have an opportunity to be green heroes during the summer outdoor grilling and party season. Even the most common resident amenity, like the patio at the pool or clubhouse that provides the perfect setting for flipping burgers and rolling dogs, can be an opportunity for apartments to contribute to the green effort well beyond the use of biodegradable spoons.

Many manufacturers make sustainable products that can be the perfect complement at the pool or in the clubhouse. By outfitting these areas with green amenities, apartment communities can not only help save the planet but also raise awareness of your green initiative among residents. Apartments can host sustainable barbecues and encourage recycling and use of biodegradable products and even the chairs that residents sit in.

Here are five ways that apartment communities can make that cookout extra green:

Grillin’ Green

The grill is the holy grail of any outdoor party, whether poolside or in a common area within the apartment community. Infrared grills are a great option to traditional gas or charcoal grills because they use less energy by cooking meat and vegetables faster.

For charcoal grilling, organic charcoal is another excellent option. Organic charcoal is a briquette that is produced from untreated wood and burns cleaner than traditional charcoal, which is made from chemically treated wood and other additives to prolong burning.

CFL Bug Lights

When that outdoor event moves into the evening hours, compact fluorescent lighting (or CFL) bug lights are great to keep pesky flying critters away from your residents’ fun. Bugs generally don’t like to hang out around yellow lights, and CFL bug bulbs are a great, low-energy option to incandescent bulbs that are typically found around the patio.

The purchase price of CFLs is more than incandescent bulbs, but in the long run they are less expensive. A typical CFL bulb costs $5 and lasts 10,000 hours, compared to an incandescent bulb that costs 75 cents and lasts about 1,000 hours while consuming 3 to 4 times more energy.

Green Outdoor Furniture

Tables and chairs that make the patio or pool feel like home don’t have to be an environmental burden. Many companies are making green outdoor furniture—chairs, benches, tables, and even umbrellas—that is constructed from environmentally safe materials, either natural or recycled.

Most natural furniture is made from wood or bamboo; recycled content furniture is made from a number of materials that could wind up in landfills (like plastic soda bottles). Recycled plastic furniture typically withstands outdoor elements and never needs repainting.

Green Ice

Green ice isn’t just a quirky St. Patty’s Day idea—for apartments that provide ice machines or refrigerators at the pool or in the clubhouse there are a number of ENERGY STAR®-qualified appliances. ENERGY STAR® products can save about 15 percent in energy consumption and use 10 percent less water.

Recycling Bins

Every outdoor gathering can generate a lot of trash, including plastic and aluminum cans and bottles, and paper ware. Rather than provide just a waste container, apartments can do the responsible thing and also set out recycling bins that can be picked up by the community recycling center. Recycling receptacles come in decorative schemes and can complement that green outdoor furniture!

Energy-saving washing machines and water-saving sprinkler systems aren’t the only environmentally fit ways that apartments can treat our planet a little nicer. Going green in common areas is an option that will make your residents’ outdoor barbecue much more environmentally preferable.

Have you made any improvements to your patio or pool area to be more green? If so, what feedback have you received from residents or guests?

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