The word “sustainability” gets tossed around a lot these days, sometimes with ambitions of preserving community character or saving the Earth. As a result, sustainability goals can seem overwhelming to small- and medium-sized associations, and these initiatives often get set aside in favor of more urgent tasks.
But at the top of every task list should be the question “Is this process/product/practice justifiable and sustainable?” Association executives should look beyond profits to ask this of everything the association does, because waste can drain the lifeblood from an operation.
An association’s value and success are measured by more than the dollars it brings in.
At the heart of sustainable practices is the triple bottom line: planet, people, and profit. The National Association of REALTORS®’ Sustainability Program lists these three P’s as equally important strategic priorities in satisfying our associations’ economic, social, and environmental responsibilities.
Adopting sustainable practices doesn’t require a lot of economic resources, though; in fact, implementing best practices should save you money.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Simply making an effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle resources can do a lot to lower costs, protect the environment, and have a social impact. Ditching bottled water at meetings and events, recycling waste, updating computers rather than throwing them out, and refreshing the office environment and equipment with quality used furniture and fixtures are simple, low-cost steps that can save dollars and keep trash out of landfills.
Utility companies often provide energy saving programs that offer incentives such as free LED light bulbs, testing to identify energy leaks, and discounts on water heaters and HVAC systems. Some energy companies offer free energy audits and recommendations on how to lower costs.
When our association began its “Greening the MLS” program 12 years ago, we paid for a blower door test and an energy audit. The results revealed we were venting heated and cooled air out of the building at a rate equivalent to leaving three exterior doors open! Remediation of our office’s windows, doors, and insulation lowered our natural gas bill 41% and our electric bill 26%—and that amounts to a significant amount of money in northern Michigan.
Energy conservation and waste reduction can improve an association’s bottom line in a meaningful way that makes operations more sustainable. All resources are ultimately finite, and the savings you realize mean that your association can make more resources available to REALTORS® and elsewhere in the community.
Once a small association begins its journey toward sustainability and resilience, the AE can apply that knowledge to member programs and community interaction. Armed with information learned through NAR’s sustainability program and GREEN designation, AEs and their members can wield a great deal of influence in the community.
When REALTORS® share knowledge about sustainable practices with clients, community leaders, faith-based organizations, and local elected officials, it not only brings sustainability to the forefront of your local real estate market but also elevates the perception of what REALTORS® can contribute to the discourse.
Small associations with limited resources can be major influencers when they include social responsibility and environmental strategies in their formula to support the planet, people, and profit. An association’s value and success are measured by more than the dollars it brings in; that calculation should include all contributions it makes to the health of the community.