Suppose you wanted to create a model project for getting an entire village to carbon neutrality. And suppose you were searching for the perfect village in which to implement your plan. You could pick any community in the world. What characteristics would you look for?

It would ideally have these features:

  • Small enough for the project to be manageable, but large enough to serve as a model for others
  • Local government and the vast majority of residents in support of the goal of net-zero emissions
  • Good mix of residential housing types and larger commercial-type buildings
  • Housing turns over fairly frequently
  • All community utilities easily monitored and paid based on a community-wide account
  • Local government that routinely upgrades the efficiency of houses when they change hands, at no cost to the new occupants
  • Plenty of roofs, parking lots, and open ground with good solar potential
  • “Net-zero ready” construction (buildings that can become carbon neutral with the addition of local solar generation)
  • Back-up generators in place for the entire community, but needing replacement in a few years
  • Residents with some electric vehicles, and many more anticipated
  • Municipal fleet moving toward electric vehicles as old gas and diesel vehicles are replaced
  • Good EV charging facilities
  • Locally-sourced food

There is probably no ordinary town or neighborhood anywhere with all those features.  But there are some retirement communities—including Kendal-Crosslands—that have them. That puts us in a unique position to be at the forefront of the movement to net carbon neutrality.

Kendal and Crosslands are neighboring communities under a common management. Let’s look at how Kendal-Crosslands does on each of the items above.

Size: With a combined population of a little less than 800 residents, Kendal-Crosslands is small enough to undertake projects that involve the entire community. And yet, it has all the features of a village, including restaurants (i.e., dining halls), swimming pools, and even its own waste treatment plant.

Support for net zero: Kendal-Crosslands residents have shown, in several surveys, that the overwhelming majority are supportive of climate-related initiatives. More than 200 residents participated in our voluntary electrical peak-reduction program this past summer. The administration at all levels has also shown its interest and willingness to invest in sustainability. In May, our CEO Lisa Marsilio wrote (in reference to our campus “revitalization” planning) “Now ‘zero energy’ is trending and is our barometer.”

Mix of building types: We have some apartment buildings, some duplexes, and some rows of 3-5 single-story cottages. Each campus has a large central building for dining, healthcare, and various other facilities.

Community metering: Kendal and Crosslands each have a single electrical meter for the entire community. Billing is on a common account. Other utilities, including natural gas, are on a single account for the combined communities. That arrangement makes it easy to determine how much energy is being used, and how much progress toward carbon neutrality is being made.

Upgrades during turnovers: Each residence receives upgrades between residents, which happens every 5-10 years on average. The upgrades are paid for by the community, not the individual residents.

Solar potential: There are many solar-suitable roofs on the two campuses, and several large parking lots where solar canopies could be deployed. Kendal-Crosslands owns a farm adjacent to Crosslands which could be used for a very large solar field, and there are other potential locations for smaller solar fields.

Net-zero ready construction: The new Wollman building has been designed to be “net-zero ready”, and will probably have some solar panels on its roof initially, with the potential for enough solar to be added to make the building carbon neutral. Although there is no policy about making future construction net-zero-ready, the fact that the Wollman project has been done that way shows that the potential is there.

Backup generators: Kendal and Crosslands each have backup generators. Each campus has a small one that supports the healthcare facilities, and a big one (1.5 megawatts) to back up the whole campus. In addition, there is a backup generator for the waste treatment facility. Because these generators are in place, the staff is familiar with operating independently of the grid, and the electrical system is ready for the implementation of alternative forms of local power and storage. The large generators will need replacement within less than 5 years, which provides a window for considering alternatives.

Electric vehicles: There are now 8-10 plugin vehicles owned by residents, up from none five years ago, and many more can be expected in the future. There are newly-installed EV charging stations on both campuses. Kendal-Crosslands operates three electric golf carts and is committed to evaluating electric vehicles as its fleet of buses, vans, pickup trucks, and maintenance vehicles turns over.

Local food: Kendal has launched a small-scale hydroponics project, which will be expanded if it proves successful. Hydroponics has the potential to eliminate much of the carbon embodied in food, including fertilizers, pesticides, farm equipment fuels, shipping, and refrigeration.

If the world is to address the climate crisis, every community, in every part of the world, will need to get to net-zero carbon emissions in the next few decades. Considering the list above, it is clear that Kendal-Crosslands is far ahead of typical communities and neighborhoods in its readiness for net zero.

What we need to do now is to begin putting together a plan for carbon neutrality and exploring ways to fund it.

I assume we’ll need outside partners, too. If you know of organizations that might like to help us with our planning and our funding, please let me know.