Emphasizing the “E” in ESG

Emphasizing the “E” in ESG

As climate change and other environmental challenges continue to take center stage, more and more apartment operators are talking about Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors and how to create more comprehensive ESG practices within their organizations.

The “E,” specifically, has been a huge point of focus for many apartment operators across the country who are looking to minimize their environmental impact and create more sustainable communities. From utilizing eco-friendly building materials to mitigating waste from apartment communities, there are multiple facets of the environmental aspect of ESG that operators are taking action on.

Local water sources
Apartment communities are at risk of negatively impacting the environment in a number of ways, such as using harmful pesticides and fertilizers or neglecting to properly remove excess trash and pet waste. Chemicals used to repel pests and treat gardens at a community can trickle into nearby bodies of land and water, and over time, wreak havoc on the environment. Pet waste may seem like a minuscule problem, but it’s one of the greatest environmental impacts. As more communities become pet inclusive, operators are looking to better mitigate pet waste. After all, pet waste does not simply decompose and disappear – it causes long-term impact. Eventually, it washes into water sources and causes great damage to surrounding areas and can contaminate local water sources.

Ecological Solutions and Evidence published a study that found almost every 2.5 acres of land contains roughly 11 pounds of phosphorus and 24 pounds of nitrogen derived from unscooped pet waste. High levels of these nutrients not only decrease the oxygen necessary for aquatic life to survive, they simultaneously bolster the growth of harmful algae and disease-causing bacterias, like fecal coliform, in our water supply.

Additionally, a surplus of nitrogen in the atmosphere encourages an increased production of ammonia and ozone, pollutants that impair the ability to breathe, restrict visibility and negatively adjust plant growth. Excessive amounts of nitrogen also causes faster-growing nuisance plants to out-pace and eliminate slower-growing plants that provide vital benefits to the environment.

Carbon emissions and energy consumption
Reducing carbon emissions is one of the main areas operators are focusing on. Nearly 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions come from real estate, and of that, approximately 70% are produced by building operations.

Many companies have committed to reaching net-zero emissions in the future. For example, Hines has been targeting net-zero operational carbon in its building portfolio by 2040. Hines has been developing systems and roadmaps for reducing embodied carbon across building lifecycles and designing processes to retrofit existing buildings to be carbon neutral.

A large part of reducing carbon comes from managing energy consumption (electricity, water, gas) in communities. Companies are implementing smart home technology and thermostats, energy-efficient appliances, electric vehicle charging stations and more to help residents reduce and better manage their energy consumption – even when they’re not home. Mill Creek completed several LED lighting retrofits within a few communities and reduced common area electricity use as much as 57%.

While the ultimate goal of being an ESG community and implementing sustainable practices is to protect the well-being of residents and enhance the longevity of the environment, there are ample operational benefits. Being an environmentally conscious community isn’t just attractive to potential residents and investors – it’s a revenue booster as well. ESG reporting can not only impact investment opportunities (investors are looking at ESG reporting efforts), but it can make an impact on attracting and retaining residents. Per multifamily data research cited on apartmentdata.com, 80% of apartment residents believe that residing in green apartment communities is beneficial to their health. Sixty-one percent of renters also say they would pay more each month for an eco-friendly apartment.

A more sustainable community is what modern residents desire. Operators can make an enormous difference for the environment and their residents by creating cleaner, greener and healthier communities. Implementing the practices and services that reinforce those efforts leads to higher resident satisfaction and occupancy rates and increased investment opportunities. 

Making a Community-Wide Difference: Appealing to Renters’ Desire for More Sustainability

Making a Community-Wide Difference: Appealing to Renters' Desire for More Sustainability

Apartment companies across the country have incorporated more sustainable practices into their businesses, from utilizing eco-friendly materials and leveraging smart home technology for energy reduction to (Environmental, Social and Governance) ESG reporting and implementing procedures that minimize environmental impact. There is a growing pressure in rental housing, from residents, associates and investors alike, to take more action on sustainability measures. 

As apartment operators calibrate their focus on further accommodating modern renters, sustainability is playing a key role in their plans. More renters are becoming aware of their environmental footprint and are making more environment and health oriented decisions in their personal lives. They’d also like to live in apartment communities that support their lifestyle and make it even easier to recycle, manage energy consumption and mitigate waste and trash around communities and neighborhoods. 

Based on survey findings from the 2022 AMLI Sustainable Living Index, 88% of respondents noted that they are concerned about climate change and 80% said living in an apartment with green features is beneficial to their health. 

Here are some of the sustainability practices that apartment operators are implementing to make a community-wide difference and appeal to renters’ desire for more eco-friendly living environments: 

Smart home for energy efficiency
Smart home technology has become a very popular amenity among modern renters and it also comes with a sustainable perk: energy efficiency. Smart home features like thermostats and appliances can automatically adjust to fluctuating energy needs and help residents better manage and reduce their energy consumption.

From water and electricity to waste and blinds, there are multiple ways residents can utilize their smart home tech to conserve energy. Many features are automated, like turning off the lights if a resident forgets before they run out. Residents can also control their devices remotely, so should they be away from home, they can still adjust on the fly. 

In turn, smart home tech helps residents conserve energy while saving money. With energy prices up across the country, residents appreciate the ability to keep their costs low while monitoring their own energy consumption. Energy efficient amenities allow operators and residents to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other pollutants while supporting more sustainable communities. 

Pet waste reduction 
One of the most potent pollutants found within apartment communities is pet waste. As more and more apartment communities become pet friendly and create pet-inclusive environments, there is a larger need to crack down on waste mitigation efforts.

Pet waste can be detrimental to the health and well-being of pets and residents alike while damaging the environment. Aside from transmitting harmful diseases, if pet waste isn’t picked up, it can be carried into local waterways by storm runoff. In turn, all the harmful pathogens and bacteria found in pet waste can degrade water quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites pet waste as a significant source of nonpoint environmental contamination, meaning it comes from more than one source.

Electric vehicle charging stations
Sales of electric cars (fully electric and plug-in hybrids) doubled in 2021 to a new record of 6.6 million, according to the latest edition of the annual Global Electric Vehicle Outlook. The AMLI Sustainable Living Index survey also found that 56% of respondents said they think they will be driving an electric vehicle (EV) or a plug-in hybrid in five years. 

People are turning to electric vehicles for various reasons, from sustainability concerns to fuel savings. More demand for EV means a higher demand for charging stations. As this trend continues, EV charging stations will be make-or-break decisions for many renters and is a significant sustainable option that also future-proofs communities.

As more people become increasingly aware of their own environmental footprint and energy consumption, they’re also looking to live in places that share the same values and goals. There are many different ways the rental housing industry is acting on sustainable measures, and these efforts will continue to play a much larger role.

Upping the Curb Appeal Game Ups Your Resident Game

Upping the Curb Appeal Game Ups Your Resident Game

It’s no secret that maintaining a pristine curb appeal greatly influences a community’s reputation and digital curb appeal. After all, residents will express both their pleasure and displeasure in online reviews, and those reviews carry enough weight to either attract or repel prospects. Having a clean and beautiful apartment community not only expands the potential resident pool, but it also retains residents for longer periods of time. 

Satisfied residents are more likely to sign renewals, leave positive reviews and refer prospects to a community. These components strengthen a community’s online reputation and enhance the overall brand. But if a community is unkempt, residents will look elsewhere and detail their frustrations in a negative review. Some of the most common curb appeal complaints include trash and unscooped pet waste. 

According to data gathered from the latest Multifamily Pet Policies and Amenities Survey conducted by PetScreening and J. Turner Research, a staggering 84% of respondents cited that their No. 1 pet-related concern is pet waste. Those types of findings reiterate just how much of an impact something like unscooped pet waste can have on overall resident satisfaction. 

From associates and residents to visitors and prospects, it means a lot to each and every person who steps foot on a property to find it appealing and in a well-kept condition. But with an ever-growing number of residents and pets, keeping up curb appeal can often be a challenge for operators. 

Typically onsite associates and maintenance teams are the ones who are tasked with community clean up if a third-party vendor isn’t already helping. If onsite teams are responsible, this creates a domino effect. They become inundated with cleaning up the community and have less time left to take care of leasing, maintenance requests and tend to resident needs. Over time, residents will take notice and their level of satisfaction dwindles.

Operators have been utilizing technology and third-party vendors to enhance curb appeal efforts and create cleaner, more appealing communities. But the key to long-term success is taking a proactive approach. For example, some companies are leveraging DNA testing of pets to mitigate unscooped pet waste, hold pet owners accountable and foster a culture of responsible pet ownership. Of the more than 7,000 communities currently using DNA testing services, many have reported a 95% decrease in the amount of pet waste found onsite. 

The renters of today are just as environmentally conscious as they are digitally savvy. They care about their homes and appreciate living in clean communities, and they will let the world know if they are happy or disappointed with a community and all the reasons why. By improving and maintaining curb appeal, operators are not only accommodating and satisfying residents, but they’re also improving their digital curb appeal and reputation, which can make or break a prospect’s decision. 

Although there are multiple factors to enhancing resident satisfaction, increasing renewal rates and attracting new residents, keeping a clean community should not be overlooked. Curb appeal is just one cog in the machine, but it’s a significant driving force of a positive living experience and building a better online presence.