December 28, 2016

Zero Waste and your HOA

"Clothes lines or any similar apparatus for the exterior drying of clothes are prohibited."

In alphabetical order, this is the first roadblock an eco-conscious resident encounters when reading the homeowners' association covenant in my neighborhood.*  It is quickly followed by:

  • No composting bins that actually touch the ground
  • Limit of two rain barrels that must pass inspection
  • " 'Unusual Household Pets' are prohibited" (no chickens)
     and my favorite
  • "No [garden] plant which will exceed the height of three feet (3') at maturity may be planted."

She's literally half the size of the tomatoes.
Yah, about that.  See this picture?

That's my three-foot daughter.

Standing on an 18" post.

Next to some ~6' tall tomatoes.


Know how they got that tall?

  • Chicken pooh
  • Compost

But many of us are stuck with HOAs and their rules.  There is much more to complain about (mandatory green-grass front yards for one) and though I wish VCR obsolescence to all HOAs, I am here primarily to demonstrate that though it is not ideal, you can still be a Zero Waster and live in an HOA.

For one, I still compost.

I have an unsanctioned composter in my back yard.

Report me and I'll start mailing you my food scraps.
It's nowhere near as good a composter that touches the ground or is supplemented with chicken poop, but it's a start.

No gym membership needed.
I take advantage of our mixed-material curbside recycling.   I max the crap out of that bin.

I try to minimize energy consumption by closing off rarely-used rooms (HOAs and excessively large homes often go hand in hand it seems) and putting some of these winter hacks into action.

I shop the neighborhood Farmers' Markets since they are still (luckily) so trendy in these parts.

I get my Zero Waste exercise by running on the well-maintained walking paths. 


I try to exaggerate my hippie-presence on social media and in common areas.  Just because my home falls under this HOA doesn't mean we all WANT to live without solar panels or chicken coops.


But HOAs don't get a pass.  They are there to protect the property value of their collection of homes, not to encourage environmental responsibility.  I'll do 10 push-ups for every legitimate return you get on "Environmentally-Friendly HOA" in Google.

If green living is a family priority, and you are in a position to be picky, I think it is high time families vote with their wallet.  If your options keep you within competing HOAs, ask to see their rules and question them on these issues.  It is important that the service side of business, in all forms (grocery chains, retailers, even schools, to a point), understand that these issues are becoming more important to an increasingly larger portion of the buying public.

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*While writing this post, I could not find a single residence in the area not covered by an HOA.  So if you want to live here, you MUST be part of an HOA.  As a result, this "covenant" is much more once-sided than the association wants it to seem by using that term.

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