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Painless cost-cutting

Conservation group saves money, cuts waste

Created date

April 26th, 2011

Just about every household in America is looking for ways to cut costs these days, and Fox Run, although it is home to nearly 1,000 people not just two or four is no different. The Erickson Living community in Novi, Mich., put together a team of residents and staff to identify ways to reduce waste and trim expenses. The result is a more environmentally-friendly community that has also reduced its annual operating costs by thousands of dollars.

Wealth of experience under one roof

The one advantage Fox Run has over the typical American family trying to cut costs is that the community is home to hundreds of people with a wide variety of professional expertise. This lends itself to the detailed kind of analysis it requires to find and calculate energy- and money-saving opportunities. Leonard Gringlas, Fox Run s director of general services, says that is precisely why the staff asked residents for their help on the conservation committee. The residents are our best and most valuable resource because they have a wide range of expertise and knowledge, and they take a lot of pride in Fox Run, Gringlas says. Members of the committee come from various backgrounds, such as engineering, management, and operations. We have gleaned a great deal from our interesting and sometimes lively discussions on how to save money with little to no impact on quality of life.

Retired, but still contributing

One such member is Dick Weinart, a retired mechanical engineer from Ford, who is still using the skills he honed during his professional career. In the year and a half since the committee was formed, Weinart says the group has identified dozens of easy ways to save money. One of the first things the committee did was evaluate the lighting in the community s common areas. They found several spots that were being lit when they weren t in use, thereby wasting electricity. Another change committee members suggested was to install automated paper towel dispensers in the community s public bathrooms a simple change with a big payoff, Weinart says. The group also discovered some less obvious drains on energy and resources. For example, Fox Run provides shuttle services between different areas of the campus and to local shops and other destinations. Previously, the shuttles sometimes idled in front of the community while waiting for residents. The conservation committee found that by limiting the warm-up time to just ten minutes, residents could step into a comfortable vehicle without excess gasoline being burned.

Small sacrifices, big rewards

The conservation committee looks to fellow community members for suggestions and feedback on their conservation efforts. The goal, Weinart says, is to make subtle changes that don t take away from comfort or quality of life. The upshot for residents is that Fox Run can keep its operating costs down, which helps the entire community. The conservation committee reduced the decorative lighting used during the holiday season. The interior and exterior of the community were still festively decorated, but the slight reduction has reduced energy costs significantly, Weinart says. The committee also made the decision to turn off the gas fireplaces in the clubhouses during the summer months. That way, residents can enjoy them when it s cold outside, and the community can save energy during warmer months.

Shared work experience

In addition to putting his professional skills to good use, Weinart says one of the things he enjoys about serving on the conservation committee is connecting with other people who have worked as engineers. Many of the people here have been very successful and have interesting backgrounds, Weinart says. It s nice to get to know people who had similar careers.