Living Green–White Horse Village

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By Christy Brudin

Going green has never been more in. Living green, on the other hand, is not a fashion statement. It is about making genuine and pervasive lifestyle changes to protect and preserve natural resources.

Living green comes naturally for the residents of White Horse Village, a 96-acre continuing care retirement community in Newtown Square, Pa. The community’s bucolic setting attracts retirees who love spending time outside – from amateur gardeners to committed conservationists. With so many nature lovers living in one community, it is no surprise that White Horse has been recognized for its innovative environmental efforts.

The community's Landscape Advisory Committee includes (from left to right) Arlene Flick, Barbara Calkins, Sandy Young and Marge Argo. The committee is currently working on ridding the property of invasive weeds, such as the "mile-a-minute" vine growing on the fence behind them.

The community’s Landscape Advisory Committee includes (from left to right) Arlene Flick, Barbara Calkins, Sandy Young and Marge Argo. The committee is currently working on ridding the property of invasive weeds, such as the “mile-a-minute” vine growing on the fence behind them.

As part of the state-wide blue bird trail, White Horse’s residents maintain 14 blue bird houses on campus. The houses were built in the on-campus woodworking shop and are monitored by a committee of 10 residents. As Chair of the Bluebird Trail Committee, Betty Fink is proud of the community’s efforts to help restore the bluebird population that was nearly wiped out by pesticides and unsustainable building practices.

“Last year, we had more birds fledge than any place around here,” Betty reported. “Nearby Tyler Arboretum even teased us that we had stolen all their birds.”

For Betty, one of the major factors in deciding to move to White Horse more than five years ago was the appeal of having outdoor space. “We really have lots of open space and flower beds, and of course we have birds and rabbits and all kinds of wildlife. I really love that,” she said.

The residents not only enjoy the outdoors, they also like to get involved in the management and upkeep of the expansive campus. Recently, residents have led efforts to rid the property of invasive weeds, including the “mile a minute” vines that were quickly destroying the meadow. However, they didn’t want to bring in heavy machinery to remove the invasive plants, since that would also damage the landscape. Instead, they turned to voracious eaters – goats.

“We researched companies that rent goats as one of our options, and decided it was the best solution,” explained Marge Argo, the Chair of the Landscape Advisory Committee. “We learned that they feed 14-15 hours a day. In just 3-5 days, the goats can clear a ½ acre.”

The use of goats to clear the meadow is just one of many sustainability efforts that the White Horse residents have undertaken. The Landscape Advisory Committee also oversaw the identifying and tagging of more than 1,200 trees on campus—an effort that was recognized and applauded by Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College.

Several garden plots are also available for residents, as well as a plot for the kitchen staff. “They plant a number of flowers and vegetables that are sold in the summertime for a reasonable fee. And the herbs that the chefs grow are used in our meals,” said Marge. The community chefs also raise several plots of tomatoes, peppers, beets, cucumbers and squash that they use throughout the summer.

Marge and her husband moved to White Horse more than seven years ago after considering several nearby communities. The scenic campus, complete with useable outdoor spaces, was certainly a deciding factor for the couple. “This is a community of people who enjoy the outdoors and appreciate the beauty of nature,” Marge said.

Beyond the appealing environment, Marge and her husband were also drawn to White Horse because of the fascinating residents and the overall lifestyle. “This is a campus full of interesting people and activities,” Marge noted. “We have many activities and many talented people who share their time to run classes and clubs.”

Betty Fink shows off one of the bluebird boxes on campus.  White Horse Village is part of a regional Bluebird Trail.

Betty Fink shows off one of the bluebird boxes on campus. White Horse Village is part of a regional Bluebird Trail.

White Horse’s residents also spend a significant amount of time preserving the natural beauty of their home, as well as the natural resources they use. In addition to the Bluebird and Landscape Committees, the community also boasts an Energy Committee. This committee works to keep utility usage down by coordinating with the management to ensure that utilities are kept at lower levels if residents are on vacation.

The biannual clean-ups of nearby Ridley Creek are also largely resident organized.  Both staff and residents pitch in to clean up the area. The community has also focused on using sustainable landscaping practices and designing landscape elements to improve the watershed. For their efforts, local watershed associations have recognized them.

“It’s really the residents that make this such a green community – through their involvement in a variety of resident committees,” acknowledged Dottie Mallon, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations.

The residents of White Horse Village certainly work hard to preserve the natural beauty of the campus, but they also play hard – fully enjoying all that the picturesque location has to offer. Whether they are watching the new goats munch away at invasive weeds, enjoying fresh herbs on their dinners or seeing a young blue bird take flight, they are always living green.

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