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Photo by Broadmead resident Erroll Hay

New Plan to Help Map Broadmead’s Sustainability

By Alice Cherbonnier

Sustainability—today’s watchword for best environmental practices—isn’t just one thing. It’s an umbrella term for many aspects of responsible stewardship, addressing both undertaking low-budget, low-tech tasks like separating recyclables, and doing more complex and costly projects, such as installing alternative energy systems.

Before committing substantial time and money on the latter, there has to be a professional plan that not only identifies what can and should be done, but sets a time frame for the work.

At the end of October, the draft of a Sustainability Plan prepared for Broadmead, Inc. by Steven Winter Associates, was submitted to administrators. It is now undergoing review. The plan cost less than $50,000, according to Gina Mathias, Broadmead’s Vice President of Sustainability.

“It outlines best practices,” she explains. “These include, among other things, energy efficiency, water reduction, wise use of materials and proper waste disposal.” Bigger-ticket projects could incorporate solar energy or add significant energy-saving features. Prioritizing and budgeting for such projects will be an ongoing process.

Gina cautions that Broadmead may not choose to follow all the consultants’ recommendations. “We can’t do everything all at once,” she says. “That’s the hardest part. This isn’t only for budget reasons, but because of use of team members’ time. Sometimes it may feel we’re not doing things fast enough, and at other times change may seem to be coming too fast.”

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Gina works with leaders of all Broadmead departments to help identify and implement ways to cut waste and be more environmentally responsible. She’s been arranging field trips for employees so they can observe what peer departments are doing in these areas at other life-care communities.

As sustainability processes take root in Broadmead’s operations, residents are also doing their part. They are not only recycling plastic and paper, but are beginning to undertake food composting and glass recycling. A composting repository is now situated by the community garden, and Gina reports that glass recyclables are being collected in a container outside The Bistro.

Surprisingly, though, the first consideration for Broadmead’s plan isn’t doing more with less or lowering thermostats. “We want to put residents’ health and comfort first and foremost,” said Gina. “We need to be aware that people get turned off by uncomfortable things, and we need to recognize that for most of those who live here it’s just not good to lower the temperature. Instead, we need to address the co-benefits of enhancing the natural environment.” Spending time in nature, she pointed out, is known to improve health outcomes.

Gina points out that the most important impacts on greening the environment, both at Broadmead and in the wider world, will come from large-scale changes. “One person’s private jet use can pollute more in one year than all of Broadmead,” she notes. For this reason, she is focusing on implementing change at fundamental operating levels at Broadmead. Residents’ efforts are important, but cannot be as environmentally impactful as the larger-scale initiatives. At all levels, though, Gina stresses, “it’s the right thing to do.”

  • Gas-powered lawn mowers are significant sources of pollution. “Battery-powered mowers are being developed,” notes Gina. Meanwhile, Broadmead’s Maintenance Department is working with the landscaping contractor to identify ways to conserve energy and preserve habitat.
  • Gina expects to be involved in reviewing Holly House renovation plans to address a high level of sustainability while addressing historic preservation requirements.
  • A book Gina highly recommends is “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. The book poses the question, “Why not challenge the notion that human industry must inevitably damage the natural world? In fact, why not take nature itself as our model?”

Learn more about sustainability at Broadmead.

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