Sustainability at Kendal at Oberlin

Deeply rooted in Kendal at Oberlin’s values is a focus on sustainable practices to improve our environment and planet. These practices include maintaining an accredited arboretum, energy conservation, recycling efforts, and ongoing education and enhancements through strategic planning and committee work. One of the goals for our Strategic Plan (2022-2026) includes a commitment to extend our conservation and sustainability initiative, including cost-saving measures and reductions in greenhouse gas emission. 

In partnership with Oberlin College and the City of Oberlin, Kendal at Oberlin’s resident Environmental Concerns committee works to identify environmental sustainability concerns. The long-standing committee also develops action programs, provides educational opportunities and encourages participation from the Kendal community.

Arboriculture: The John Bartram Arboretum

Our campus is home to 100 acres of trees and other plants that are grown for enjoyment, education and celebration of the natural environment in the John Bartram Arboretum. Accredited and registered in 2015 as a Level 1 arboretum by ArbNet, it is named after the man who is considered to be the first American-born botanist. The John Bartram Arboretum is a beautiful and tranquil place for residents, staff, and the greater Oberlin community. 

John Bartram, a Pennsylvanian Quaker, was a friend of Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers. He distributed native seeds and specimens that he collected along the east coast and also shipped quantities to Europe. Much like John Bartram, Kendal at Oberlin hopes to inspire other communities and future generations to improve our natural environment by planting trees and other plants. 

The John Bartram Arboretum has numerous environmental benefits, including producing oxygen that enhances respiratory health and serving as an important habitat for birds, insects and animals. In addition, trees improve water quality by reducing runoff and erosion, and they help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.

Logo - Arbnet Level 2In October 2022, the arboretum was named a Level II campus by ArbNet. The John Bartram Arboretum is one of just 170 other arboretums worldwide with such a designation.

Energy Conservation: Solar and Geothermal Energy

Kendal at Oberlin continuously works toward significantly reducing carbon emissions by 2030. Part of this effort includes plans to improve energy conservation across the campus and replacing mowers and vans with electric models.

Solar panels have been added to a new garage and carport, and each contains two charging stations for electric vehicles. The solar panels will generate enough electricity to light both buildings, power the charging stations and illuminate 75 LED light poles and posts in the community.

Energy conservation projects include:

  • Geothermal heating and cooling in a number of renovated cottages
  • Insulation that meets or exceeds the recommended resistance values
  • Energy-Star-rated windows and appliances
  • Energy-efficient LED lighting
  • Low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucet aerators
  • Carport solar panels support outdoor LED lighting
  • Battery charging stations for electric vehicles

A Greener Lifestyle: Recycling, Reducing and Reusing

Recycling and reducing waste is a community-wide initiative at Kendal at Oberlin. Residents and staff work together to avoid adding waste to landfills and resolve to provide convenient ways to reduce, reuse and recycle everyday items.

Some of these green initiatives include:

  • Used frying oil distributed to local biodiesel manufacturer
  • Compostable paper products for select food items 
  • Washable and reusable clamshells used for carry-out dinners
  • Locally-grown produce for meals
  • Campus-wide recycling program 
  • Food waste collected by a commercial composting service 
  • Renovation remnants donated for home construction or resale
  • Resale Shop, an outlet for resale of resident donated items (furniture, clothes, home decor, etc.)

Ongoing Education and Action Programs

Strategic planning and committee engagement will continue to set goals and priorities for ongoing environmental projects. In addition, residents are developing a collections policy and working to fulfill additional requirements to elevate the arboretum’s accreditation to Level II. 

Resident members of the Arboretum Committee plan educational programs like guided tree walks throughout the property. The group also publishes various maps and pamphlets with a variety of helpful information about the trees, plants and other wildlife commonly found in the arboretum. 

Kendal at Oberlin looks forward to the annual celebration of Arbor Day each year. This event, open to the public, includes special presentations on environmental topics and the importance of education and conservation efforts.

Additionally, Kendal at Oberlin residents participate in an advocacy and educational outreach organization called Senior Stewards Acting For the Environment (SSAFE). The group, organized by residents of eight Kendal communities in late 2020, consists of nearly 150 residents from numerous life plan communities. 

In partnership with the Kendal Corporation, the mission of SSAFE is to create a model for educating seniors to join the broader U.S. climate movement, taking action alongside younger generations. SSAFE aims to ensure a more sustainable planet by uniting local and national decision-makers, promoting education and acting in their respective communities to foster the same objectives. They plan to reach their goals through local, national and global actions to promote climate justice and avoid climate destruction.

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