Dec 15, 2021  /  Other cool stuff

How to accomplish sustainability in Coliving

By Miriam Barnhart

With what began as a niche field of interest, the topic of sustainability has supercharged into a movement of necessity – driven by the recognition of our negative impact on the planet and a resulting urgency to make a change before it’s too late. The construction and real estate industries are responsible for consuming 40-50% of the world’s raw materials, producing more than 53% of the world’s waste, and are responsible for approximately 33% of the CO2 emitted worldwide ( Epea Umweltforschung GmbH ). But practically speaking, where do you start? For many, there is a gap between the desire to implement sustainability and the HOW to make it happen. 

As we began our journey of developing the concept of POHA House, we started by asking ourselves, what are the practical steps to implementing sustainability into the Cospaces concept ( more about Cospaces here )so that it actually has an impact? Keep in mind that this is our personal journey. We are still in the process of developing what accomplishing sustainability in serviced living/ working looks like for us.

Step 1.

Creating our own interpretation of sustainability. For us, this was combining sustainability and wellbeing into one. This made the most sense for our product and how our residents will interact with it. Sustainability is about wellness for our planet, elongating its life; the same is true for humans, wellbeing is about holistic wellness in mind and body.

Step 2.

Once we had our sights set on sustainability and wellbeing, we moved forward in creating a framework for what sustainability and wellbeing mean to us in the context of our product. Meaning, what are our standards and boundaries for how we will implement these topics? There are so many approaches to sustainability, creating a framework of “we do this, but not this” has helped us to stay true to a cohesive approach as we continue to develop our product. 

Below you can see our category breakdown with examples of what or how they can be implemented, we refer to this as the “POHA Standard.” 

Nature 

Our Cospaces are mostly an urban product, so how do we make nature accessible? Research has shown for years that spending time outdoors can greatly increase your attention-span, emotional state , and overall mental health. Millennials often care about sustainability but are hardly connected to nature. How do we maximize our resident’s health in our buildings?

Energy 

Building smart tech around sustainability can turn utilities such as energy into a tool to maximise wellbeing. There are many independent suppliers who are solely using renewable energy such as Lichtblick or Octopus .

  • Electricity types: Solar, water, wind – do a price comparison of each type. There might be additional cost savings for having less meters
  • Water: Installing showerheads, sinks, and toilets etc. that are efficiently optimised to use less water
  • Heating: Controlling heat consumption of the whole building i.e. with smart sensor design
  • Lighting: Hiring a Lighting Designer and utilising natural light, reflective surfaces and LED light bulbs.

Materials 

Materials very generally impact everything in Cospaces. This is where having a framework as mentioned in Step 2 can be exceptionally helpful to help determine where to source from and the quality level of the items, and any certifications which may be important. 

  • Opting for secondhand hardware/ appliances from sources such as Back Market and Refurbed
  • Finding sustainable sources for consumption products: Office Stationery, Toiletries, Kitchen supplies
  • Seeking out supplier partnerships such as Concular both in the development and furnishing of your space in order to reduce waste by repurposing existing materials and products

Movement 

This category has two prongs to it: ease of transportation and motivating people to be active. We find that these priorities can work together to achieve wellbeing and transportation without having a major impact on the planet.

  • Creating partnerships for responsible transport options: bikes ( Swapfiets ), carsharing ( Anymove ), scooters ( Tier – who is carbon neutral).
  • Providing bike storage and repair equipment on site 
  • Prioritising operating centrally located spaces for accessibility 

Waste 

Microplastics are all around us. In one study, it was estimated that there are between 15-51 trillion microplastics particles floating on the surface of the oceans ( Erik van Sebille et al 2015 Environ , via National Geographic ). How can we create solutions for managing and minimizing our waste that can make it easy and adoptable for our residents?

  • Implementing waste solutions for washing synthetic clothes such as Guppyfriend, PlanetCare or Mimbly , innovations that directly filter out microplastics before they have a chance to pollute the environment
  • Utilising zero-waste or low-waste detergents and cleaning products such as everdrop or Ecover  
  • Providing waste separation organisation in community spaces and kitchens

Community 

How can we use events and educational activities to inspire sustainable living without shaming or forcing a specific style of living on our residents?

  • Through events, educational workshops, and by making it as accessible as possible. Lacing sustainability into events and community so that the barrier to enter into the topic is lower. 

Innovation 

What tools can we implement in order to offset, track and measure our progress towards sustainability?

  • Implementing Green Leases as our contracts with residents and landlords; working together to improve the overall environmental impact of the properties in which we exist.  
  • Offsetting on behalf of our residents who live/work with us through partners such as everwave , a company driven to clean up ocean-bound waste out of rivers in order to preserve aquatic ecosystems. 
  • Partnering with development companies such as Moringa who are driven to build sustainability into the future of real estate. 

Food 

Whether we offer a full-service restaurant or only sell snacks, food sourcing and waste generated from food packaging impacts sustainability globally. Also, a recent study done by Greenpeace shows if we decrease meat consumption by 71% in the EU before 2030, we can realistically tackle farming’s contribution to the climate crisis. How can we promote nutritious food aligned with our planet?

  • Sourcing locally, having less-impact options (vegan options, zero-waste or biodegradable packaging)
  • Partnering with a service such as ToGoodToGo to prevent food waste and source local food options.
  • Ensuring that water is accessible through the spaces to make staying hydrated easier.

Step 3.

Offsetting and Tracking. It’s important for us to be able to measure the positive impact we are working towards as well as our remaining gaps. Having developed the framework in Step 2, we can now use that as our basis for setting operational KPIs. For technical, usage-based KPIs, setting up a partnership with an impact tracking company can help us monitor our impact through our utility usage and offsetting efforts. Amazing companies we found for this are Planetly , and PlanetMark

Moving forward: As we continue to integrate sustainability in everything we do, POHA House is focused on continuing to use our framework as a guide. Transparency – we don’t want to shy away from talking openly about our progress, both the good and the bad. Lastly, we have learned that it’s important to have fun with it. Sustainability can be an incredibly overwhelming topic, but it can also be a really exciting opportunity for innovation and cross-industry collaboration. 

Want to collaborate or have some innovative ideas to share? Reach out: hey@pohahouse.com

How to accomplish sustainability in Coliving

Author
Miriam Barnhart

Date
15th December 2021

Category
Other cool stuff

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