Posted by Arthur Swanson, Jr. on Thursday, July 14, 2011
Green Ways to Save Green Money
San Francisco requires apartment building owners to provide recycling and composting bins for their tenants. While this was not something most property managers were happy about, it has turned out to be fruitful on several levels. I saw the potential for savings money: the amount of actual garbage in the Lightner Group buildings I manage dropped so much I figured we could reduce the number of garbage containers and garbage company charges for emptying them. Inasmuch as the recycled waste is picked up without charge, the Lightner Group buildings I manage saved an average of $235 per unit in 2010.
Dealing with the Catch 22 of Conflicting Laws
But saving money through green management wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. The first hurdle to overcome is a conflict in San Francisco Rules. While the recycling rule leads to potential cost savings, another rule that requires a landlord to supply at least sixteen gallons of garbage per apartment per week has not been amended to account for the city’s recycling and composting programs.
Having built relationships with garbage company staff, I was able to overcome this obstacle after a number of plaintive phone calls. Hoping to save others the frustrations I encountered, here’s some advice on how to handle this issue, as well as a couple other tips on trash.
First, monitor the amount of garbage in each container each pick-up day for several weeks in order to see how much “unused” space is in the garbage bins. Maintain a written log. With that data you can then judge which are the slow garbage days. I found them to be Wednesdays and Thursdays. But be conservative with your estimates. If you get it wrong, you could be charged an overflow fee.
Other Garbage Strategies – The Resident Manager’s Help may be Required
If you reduce your garbage pick-ups because tenants are compliantly using the recycling and composting bins, the garbage company will reduce the pick-ups of the recycling to match to garbage pick-ups. If you have the space, you should request an additional recycling bin from the company in case of overflow. We also ask our resident managers to go through the recycling bins and cut things into smaller size for more efficient bin utilization. This works really well!
Another way to save money is to make sure your building’s garbage chute empties into a garbage bin instead of into the large bin’s floor. Charges can double if the sanitation workers have to put the trash into their container. You may need to change the containers on a weekend when garbage is placed in the chute more frequently.
It’s Up to You
See if your recycling program is reducing the need for garbage pick-ups. Create written evidence. Call the garbage company and ask for a reduction in service. Keep probing diplomatically until you find your way to savings. Monitor chutes and bins so the garbage doesn’t overflow.
Did you know that San Francisco was just voted the Greenest City in North America in a study commissioned by Siemens?
Mr. Swanson is Chief of Operations for Lightner Property Group, where he oversees a portfolio of larger apartment and office buildings in the City. Mr. Swanson is qualified to opine on property management standard of care as well as past and present rental values of San Francisco apartment units.