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Advocates for the environment

Resident-run committee is dedicated to making Linden Ponds eco-friendly

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April 13th, 2017
A display of recylable items for Earth Day and a photo of Lee Engdahl who leads the Linden Ponds environmental committee.

Linden Ponds’ environmental committee, led by Lee Engdahl (inset), sets up a display on Earth Day to educate residents about which items can and cannot be recycled.

The retirees who live at Linden Ponds may not have grown up in a time when protecting the environment and preserving natural resources was a top priority. But they understand the issues and are being proactive about leaving the planet in good shape for future generations. 

In fact, a resident-run environmental committee is dedicated to making Linden Ponds, the Erickson Living community in Hingham, Mass., as eco-friendly as possible. 

Top priorities

Lee Engdahl currently leads the committee. His professional career in supply chain logistics didn’t intersect with environmentalism, but he became interested in it after moving to Linden Ponds in 2006 from Northborough. 

The environmental committee, founded by a former park ranger, was up and running when Lee came to Linden Ponds. Lee was curious about the different guidelines for recycling plastic in Hingham as compared to the regulations in Northborough, so he decided to get involved. 

“There needs to be somebody who wants the item that is being recycled,” Lee explains. “As a citizen, you would definitely think it would be universal, but it’s not.”

Incidentally, Linden Ponds switched to a different contractor that recycles a greater number of types of plastic. 

Taking action

Under Lee’s leadership, the committee aims to take action. After all, simply talking about environmental concerns doesn’t do much to clean up the planet. 

Recycling is certainly a top priority for the group, which organizes its work into three different areas: structural change, physical change, and behavioral change. 

The physical and structural changes the committee advocates for include things like fixing leaky toilets, installing digital thermostats, and establishing a composting program. One of their biggest victories was ensuring that all windows at Linden Ponds are airtight to prevent hot or cold air from leaking in or out.

“One fellow called the window supplier and found out that they will replace them for free, and the staff didn’t know that,” Lee says.

Indeed, members’ interests and areas of expertise drive much of the committee’s work. For example, one member who used to run his own electrical business noticed that the lighting in the garage was too bright and that the fixtures were not energy efficient.

“So we made a proposal to the staff, and now lighting in two of the garages has been changed, and they replaced the old fixtures with more efficient ones,” Lee says. “You need someone who has expertise in each area who can do investigation and analysis.”

Linden Ponds is home to about 2,600 people, and another 783 work there on a daily basis, giving the community’s efforts toward conservation and sustainability a big impact.

To effect change, the ten-person environmental committee often partners with staff departments. Lee says they worked with the dining services staff to end the use of Styrofoam cups and containers, which do not decompose. 

The environmental committee presented dining services with the facts about Styrofoam’s impact on the environment and recommended the switch to decomposable paper cups.

“We made this presentation, and within eight days those Styrofoam cups were gone,” Lee says.

Affecting change together

As for behavioral change, the environmental committee continually works to educate community members and staff about the importance of things like recycling and reducing consumption. 

They partner with the resident-run movie committee to host showings of documentaries about conservation and environmentalism, and provide monthly updates on Linden Ponds’ in-house television station. 

The environmental committee also provides community members with practical tips about how they can make changes in their daily lives. For instance, on Earth Day in the past, the committee has set up a big display of more than a hundred items that can or cannot be recycled, as well as the proper way to dispose of them.

“We put the display on tables outside of the dining room, so residents can come and pick things up and talk with the committee. That is probably the most popular thing we do,” Lee says. “Residents will say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’”

The efforts spearheaded by the environmental committee have been well received by residents and staff, Lee says. By and large, community members see that protecting the environment is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes financial sense. 

“If you reduce or recycle, it saves money and that is a benefit to residents,” says Lee.

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