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Small choices, big changes

The 2022 class of Elaina’s Sustainability Fund grant recipients

By Anshu Bera, CPM
EcoRise helps students conduct a trash audit to learn about recycling and environmental impacts.
EcoRise helps students conduct a trash audit to learn about recycling and environmental impacts.

As real estate managers, we know that nearly everyone in the world engages with commercial real estate in some way. Whether you live, work, shop, play, or learn in a building, the way that structure is managed can contribute greatly to the health and wellness of the occupants, the economy, and even the environment.

Yet buildings and their construction process account for nearly 40% of all carbon emissions globally, with building operations accounting for roughly 28% and building materials and construction making up the rest.

Improved standards for new building construction are helping to reduce emissions, and technology is advancing to support improvements in existing buildings. Yet despite this progress, adopting sustainability practices isn’t always financially feasible for every owner, awareness is still growing, and these practices are still not universally understood.

Learn more or donate to Elaina’s Fund at One hundred percent of your donation is used to fund innovative projects that impact the built environment.

Not every owner may be able to afford sustainability retrofits, but small choices can make a big difference. Elaina’s Sustainability Fund, established in 2019 to honor the late Elaina Tattersdale, seeks to support those willing to take the first step.

About Elaina

On June 5, 2019, Elaina passed away after a short battle with cancer at the young age of 35. She leaves behind two daughters and a loving family, including her parents, 2020 IREM President Cheryl Gray, CPM, and Rick Gray, CPM.

Elaina believed that one person could make a difference. She worked as an enterprise project manager for Canada-based real estate firm Morguard Investments. Her dream was to improve the impact that buildings have on our environment by working in sustainability, but sadly, those doors never opened. To honor her passion and her legacy, Elaina’s parents launched Elaina’s Sustainability Fund with a $50,000 donation to the IREM Foundation in 2019.

IREM is truly honored to steward her legacy, and this year, the IREM Foundation received a total of 19 applications across three categories: innovate, adopt, and research. The following five organizations were chosen as finalists with a total distribution of $22,400. We are inspired by their innovation, passion, and creativity, and IREM looks forward to following their success.


EcoRise is a nationally recognized leader in sustainability education, serving over 3,100 K–12 schools, 8,200 educators, and 461,000 students in all 50 U.S. states and 52 other countries. EcoRise encourages student groups to propose innovative solutions to environmental issues on or near their school campus. Funding students’ green projects creates memorable, real-world learning experiences that inspire students to realize their vision and embrace their agency to act as sustainability leaders and creative changemakers within their communities.

A $5,000 grant will support approximately 10 student-led projects that help make schools and communities more sustainable. Examples of projects include schoolwide water conservation efforts, air purification installations, and outdoor classrooms. EcoRise works with schools that typically lack access to grant funding and are disproportionately impacted by environmental stressors.

Based on the average school size, it’s estimated that these 10 projects engage 40 students and directly benefit at least 7,000 students and community members via school building improvements, cost savings, and environmental benefits.


Demi’s compostable containers feature a sleek design.

Demi is on a mission to make composting the new normal. Composting offers a way for small choices to create a big impact, but unfortunately only 3% of American food waste is composted. Most existing composting solutions are not practical for the 37% of Americans who live in apartments and lack the necessary space and personal outdoor access.

Demi partners with residential building managers to provide an integrated composting solution while also reducing waste management costs, enhancing sustainability initiatives, and attracting new residents. Demi provides residents with sleek, compostable containers with a QR code that tracks users’ composted waste. Residents drop off the entire container for compost—so they don’t have to empty or wash their bins themselves—and building managers enjoy the benefit of stackable bins containing the mess and smell. Demi picks up the containers, scans the QR codes, and allows users to track metrics from the mobile app to gamify and incentivize the adoption of residential composting.

A $5,000 Elaina’s Fund grant will support Demi’s pilot phase for their composting program in 10–15 residential buildings.

Small Tourism Accommodation Owners of Trinidad and Tobago (STAOTT)

A STAOTT member property.

STAOTT is a registered nonprofit based in Trinidad and Tobago supporting a membership of 13 tourist accommodation property owners and five tourism-related business affiliates. STAOTT promotes sustainable tourism and energy efficiency within the broader micro- and small enterprise segment of the country’s hospitality and tourist accommodations sector. STAOTT aims to reach green certification readiness for its members’ many tourist accommodation facilities through energy usage assessments and energy efficiency upgrades.

As is the case in most Caribbean islands, tourism provides a significant source of revenue for many in Trinidad and Tobago. Increasing investments have been made to strengthen the tourism sector, and of 590 guest accommodations, 10 are currently global hotel chains that have made sustainability upgrades to their infrastructure. Though large chains have made progress in this regard, there has been little improvement for the remaining smaller and medium-sized hospitality enterprises offering these critical accommodations. Research has attributed this slower adoption mainly to issues of awareness and location.

A $5,000 grant will support a three-phase approach, including educating small tourist accommodation owners, green certification support, and hitting a target of 50% of member properties achieving green certification.

Apple Patch Community

An Apple Patch Community home and its residents.

The mission of Apple Patch Community is to provide support to people living with disabilities by promoting opportunity, choice, and connection to the community. Apple Patch Community serves over 250 people with developmental and intellectual disabilities by providing day programs, case management, positive behavior support, and residential services.

Apple Patch Community owns 17 homes that each house three residents and are seamlessly integrated into two neighborhoods. Apple Patch Community is responsible for the maintenance and comfort of these homes. A $2,400 grant will support a weatherization pilot in one of the homes, creating a more comfortable environment and increasing the building’s sustainability through improved air sealing. By capitalizing on the resulting savings earned from the first home improvement, Apple Patch will replicate the project and upgrade the rest of the community.

Plant It Forward

Farmers supported by Plant It Forward grow fresh food for their communities.

Plant It Forward is a Houston-based nonprofit with the mission to empower refugees to develop sustainable farming businesses that produce fresh, healthy food for the local community.

The Plant It Forward Food Hub is a 1,000-square-foot warehouse that provides physical space for cold storage, triple-wash sinks, work surfaces, and packaging and distribution supplies to help farmers bring their products to market. The existing cold storage facilities are inefficient, unreliable, and offer insufficient temperature control.

The $5,000 grant from Elaina’s Fund will support the purchase of two high-efficiency, walk-in cold storage units. This will reduce the overall energy consumption of the facilities from 131,400 kWh/year per pallet to 19,710 kWh/year per pallet, and it will minimize food waste and embedded energy. The project will also strengthen the ability of small, family farmers to distribute fresh produce throughout a local delivery radius of 15–250 miles.

Elaina’s Sustainability Fund Selection Committee
Anshu Bera, CPM, Committee chair, The RMR Group
Kaci Hancock, CPM, ACoM, REIS Associates
Rita Khan, CPM, Kramer-Triad Management Group
Elizabeth Machen, CPM, Machen Advisory Group, Inc.
Lynne Miller, CPM, Charles Dunn Company
Chris Mellen, CPM, ARM, The Simon Companies
Rhianne Menzies, Brookfield Properties
Jo D. Miller, IREM Houston

Journal of Property Management

Anshu Bera, CPM, is an associate area director for The RMR Group in the Greater Chicago area. She serves on the IREM Foundation Board of Directors and is chair of Elaina’s Sustainability Fund Committee.

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