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Look who’s leading the New Jersey green initiative

Part One in a three part series

Created date

March 20th, 2012

Studies project that in this decade Americans will throw away more than 4.5 million tons of office paper; that s approximately 2 lbs of paper and paperboard products every day. What s more, the Clean Air Council says the average American uses the equivalent of about one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products each year. Residents at Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., are trying to change all that. At least close to home.

Go Paperless

Though they grew up communicating by hand-written letters and reading newspapers, this community of more than 1,900 seniors has been embracing a Go Paperless initiative since early 2010. James Gallagher, a Prius-driving conservationist who lives at the community, started paying attention to the amount of paper he wasted each day. It occurred to me as I kept pulling loads of paper out of my mailbox that we must be using tons more paper than we need to, he says. Cedar Crest has more than 150 clubs and activities, and to promote them, club leaders would place paper notices in each resident s mailbox. James estimates he was receiving four to five internal notices a day, amounting to more than 10,000 sheets of paper every week for the entire community. Soon after his revelation, he suggested that the community attempt to cut down on its internal paper usage by opting for email. When James polled his neighbors, he found more than 40% use computers regularly and were willing to go paperless. According to Associate Executive Director Stefanie Mair, most residents at Cedar Crest are extremely computer literate, and many are willing to learn how to use computers. Cedar Crest Executive Director Cathy Guttman applauded James s initiative and employed him to help devise a strategy. After much planning and coordination with the community s computer club and labs, mail department, TV studio, and monthly newsletter to promote the initiative, the Go Paperless initiative launched.

How it works

Community members may learn or brush up on their computer skills by taking computer classes in the on-site computer lab. If they d rather have one-on-one instruction, they may opt for private tutoring. All clubhouses have free Wi-Fi, and Internet access is readily available for a fee in apartment homes for those who want it. Those who opt for email receive an adhesive green dot on their individual mailbox, indicating they are to receive their communications by email. Notices and publications now available by email or online includeMountain Matters, the monthly community newsletter produced by residents; club and event notices; and Cedar Crest s monthly events calendar. Additionally, instead of stuffing each and every resident mailbox, administrators now print a small stack ofMountain Mattersand event calendars, available in the community s three clubhouses. We had a goal of saving four reams of paper a day, James says. One ream of paper includes about 400 sheets. Saving four reams would save nearly 2,000 sheets of paper. James sees that as an even bigger savings for the community: We re not only saving paper, but we re saving money as well.

More green initiatives

While the community doesn t track statistics of how many people have signed up for the initiative, James says, The original idea has spawned several others, and people are becoming more conscious. Cedar Crest hasn t stopped at just saving paper. The community has also encouraged residents to cut back on plastic bag usage, initiated a bio-diesel program, and is currently developing a Food2Water program. Read more about these inspirational initiatives in the next issue.