Pioneering the green revolution

Erickson communities lead through example

Created date

July 13th, 2009
Long before Hollywood celebrities espoused on the benefits of leading a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, members of local Erickson communities were already taking steps to live green while protecting natural resources. Redefining trash Recycling is a huge priority at all Erickson communities. Recycling prevents the waste of useful materials, reduces consumption of raw materials, conserves energy, decreases air and water pollutants, and lowers greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone who lives at an Erickson community receives a recycling container. Residents are encouraged to recycle paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, and aluminum. Once a week, recyclables are hauled away separately, then sorted, and eventually processed into new products. In addition, a paper recycling program is available for all office operations. At Greenspring, the Erickson community in Springfield, Va., residents formed the Environmentalist Group. Its Trash Talk education program encourages community members to ramp up their recycling efforts. At Greenspring s sister community, Riderwood, in Silver Spring, Md., the Resident Recycling Committee received a TRRAC (Think Reduce and Recycle at Apartments and Condominiums) Multi-Family Property Recycling award last year for outstanding leadership and efforts in recycling and the promotion of various conservation efforts. Many people said, I didn t know I could recycle that! says community member Louise Macauley. It was wonderful. As a result, more people became aware, and our recycling efforts increased exponentially. Protecting natural resources Another way Erickson communities strive to go green is through the variety of programs aimed at protecting the campus natural resources. For the last year, Greenspring s Environmentalist Group spearheaded a storm drain marking project aimed at protecting Lake Accotink, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay. The group mapped each storm drain located on Greenspring s 108-acre campus, then the Environmentalist Group adhered more than 100 no dumping decals by each one. It s important that people realize that everything that enters a storm drain in the Accotink Creek Watershed eventually ends up in the creek, and ultimately the debris ends up in the Chesapeake Bay, says Cathy Bonner, who leads the group. Many people believe that debris that enters our storm drains goes through the normal sanitation process. It doesn t. I thought that educating people at Greenspring was a very basic thing I could do to help spread the word. It s great what the Greenspring Environmentalist Group and others like it are doing, says Randy Bartlett, director of Fairfax County s Stormwater Management Division. Every little bit helps. If everyone was this passionate and driven to action, we wouldn t be facing as many challenges as we do. Community of firsts In addition to Greenspring s efforts, Riderwood became the only retirement community in the country designated as an official Corporate Lands for Learning site by the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC). With this certification, Riderwood uses its habitat to provide site-based conservation education experiences to students, scouting groups, and community members. Each year, more and more of the fields and woodlands near Riderwood are turning into shopping centers, commercial buildings, and homes, says community member Anne Blackburn. Our campus is providing a small, green oasis for uprooted wildlife. The WHC has offered valuable assistance in our efforts to maintain and improve the quality of our habitat. Going greener As each Erickson community knows, the key to protecting the environment and living a greener lifestyle begins with education. Communities help get the word out through resident-run councils, fliers, newsletters, and internal television programs. Recently, Erickson Retirement Communities founder and chairman, John Erickson, produced a national educational energy-conservation video for community members and staff. Always trying to stay ahead of the curve, Erickson continues to explore new ways of positively impacting the world. Some of the options under consideration include purchasing hybrid cars, solar energy, and LED lights. In addition, Erickson is exploring the possibility of converting some of its fleet into bio-diesel, running off of spent cooking oil.