Resident Reaction and Response

A Pathway to Change in Cooperative Housing
I am a resident of CTC and a mom of two young children. We moved here last year when my husband got a job as a postdoc researcher. Shortly after moving in, I saw somebody spraying pesticides near residents’ housing. My husband and I didn’t know what chemicals were being sprayed, so we contacted the office to learn more about the pesticides and fertilizers being used. Based on what we learned, we felt that CTC should significantly cut back on using landscaping chemicals for a variety of reasons. We were put in touch with CTC management to communicate our concerns directly, and I felt that we were encouraged to share our viewpoint.  
We also decided to write a letter to the Board, asking them to reconsider their landscaping policies. I had never lived in a housing cooperative before, and I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to make a big change at CTC.  However, I had heard that CTC valued community feedback and that residents were encouraged to get involved.  

Collaborating with others and receiving guidance  
The Board responded by passing a resolution to form the Landscape and Environmental Design (LED) Task Force Committee, which I joined. This committee was created to examine CTC’s landscaping policies and to consider alternatives that would significantly cut the use of lawn chemicals and create a more sustainable landscaping plan. Since March 2018, a group of residents from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds have worked alongside CTC and Community Child Care Center (CCCC) management to work on these goals.
We received guidance and advice from outside professionals who were invited to our meetings, including watershed district and conservation design specialists and a U of M turfgrass researcher. We also worked with an organic landscaper who created three organically managed test-sites on CTC’s property last spring. This fall we met with U of M Land Care, who has a contract with CTC to manage our landscaping. Land Care proposed cutting the herbicides used in the interior of CTC’s property after hearing our concerns.

Surveying the community
During CTC’s last fall clean-up, LED committee members and Ward Representatives conducted surveys to gauge residents’ opinions about the herbicides used on site. After analyzing these surveys, we discovered that 2% of residents who filled out surveys disagreed with the idea of greatly cutting the herbicides used at CTC.

Learning from the process
Being involved in this process was a learning experience for me. It was inspiring to see that residents could create a policy change at CTC. I was (happily) surprised at discovering how much residents’ opinions are considered. I gained important experience working with a group of people who shared somewhat different ideas but were all working towards a common goal. I also grew professionally by working with people who had different types of experiences and expertise. I gained knowledge about the topic and was exposed to the opinions and knowledge of landscaping specialists. It was interesting to conduct research on how other universities were incorporating sustainability into their landscaping plans. In addition, I was able to contribute my own academic background and work experience to the project, along with my experience of being a parent to young children who interact with CTC’s space differently than an adult.

Seeing changes
Large changes don’t happen overnight. After our initial e-mail complaint, my husband and I followed through to continue conversations with CTC’s leaders. About 1.5 years has passed since we made the initial complaint in fall 2017.
I am happy to report that CTC’s herbicide use will be significantly cut in spring 2019. (Please see the upcoming article from the LED Task Force to learn more). I also appreciate that conversations have been ongoing to strengthen communication efforts about landscaping policies with residents. Thank you to everybody who got involved in this project and worked hard to make this happen! Creating these changes was a group effort, which shows the importance of getting involved in our community.
Did the landscaping plan end up looking exactly how I, personally, had envisioned it? No, it did not. There were a lot of other things that influenced the details of the final plan that was brought forth for next spring. But it is inspiring that so much progress could be made within 1.5 years on nearly 42 acres, and I am glad to know that so much change was made.

What’s next?
I urge any residents who have ideas about how to improve CTC to consider sharing your thoughts with CTC management or the Board. By doing so, you could potentially help to strengthen CTC for the benefit of the environment, your own family, your neighbors, and/or the people who will one day move here. I look forward to learning more about residents’ ideas in the future!

Phone: 651-646-7526
Fax: 651-646-3319