Chapter Outreach

2020 WMCCAI Scholarship Winners

The WMCCAI Scholarship Program is open to all high-school seniors within the immediate Washington metro living within a community association (i.e. homeowners association, condominium association, or cooperative association).

The 2020 Scholarship Program was solely funded by WMCCAI members, along with our generous scholarship sponsors, Exterior Medics (Gold Sponsor), WINTRUST Community Advantage Bank (Silver Sponsor), and Cardinal Management Group, Inc, DoodyCalls, and TRC Engineering (Bronze Sponsors).  Thank you to all who donated this year!

Question: Identify an opportunity for your community to improve or implement a green initiative and provide a detailed program for your community.

Eleni Olivea Varlas of Waldorf, MD is the 1st Place recipient of the 2020 scholarship award from WMCCAI and was awarded $3,000. She will be attending University of Maryland-Baltimore County this fall.

“Welcome to Constitution Hills Environmental-Decathlon”

The fact that global warming is alarmingly speeding up should be no surprise to Americans or anyone in the world. Humans continuously produce tons of waste due to improper disposal or not recycling items.  America is the world leader of waste.  America wastes energy, electricity, water and materials.  The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world. On average, each American throws away about 1,200 pounds of organic materials/garbage that can be recycled or composted (University of Southern Indiana). This can be changed with one neighborhood at a time.

What is a better way to motivate people than a competition? My green initiative is called the “Environmental-Cathlon.” Houses located in my neighborhood (Constitution Hills) would compete against each other to make the greatest environmental impact in our community. The Homeowners Association (HOA) would be the sponsor/organizer of this year-long event. The grand prize will be raised through the HOA fees required from every member of the neighborhood. A small portion of those fees will be allocated to create the grand prize of $500. In order to increase the utmost participation, there would not be a fee to enter. Each homeowner will fill out a participation form which will require their information and what category they will compete in. The Cathlon will consist of three different categories: reduce, reuse and recycle. Homeowners, on their participation form, will check one or more of the categories they will compete in.

The three R’s will have their own rules and requirements in order to participate. The rules of the reduce category: Contestants will reduce their water, electricity, trash production, reduce litter found around the neighborhood, and/or reduce their carbon footprint by 5%. The rules of the Reuse category: Contestants will find everyday items in their home and use them in multiple ways consistently. Contestants must upload at least 100 photos to document the reuse. The most creative and consistent reused items wins this category. The rules of the recycle category: Contestants will measure the amount of recycled waste they create and then submit photographs as proof.  The HOA website will have a seperate site to upload monthly progress reports. The necessary documents to prove reduction in water and electricity will be the participants bills (sensitive information should be blacked out before uploading). The information uploaded onto the website would be private and secure.

Constitution Hills H.O.A will be in charge of monitoring the competition. If there is any cheating or suspicious behavior reported then it will be investigated. If a homeowner is found to be cheating immediate disqualification will occur. Once the year has concluded, one winner per category will be chosen. There will be a neighborhood barbeque where  the winners will be announced publicly and rewarded with their prize money. Along with the winners, the environmental impact will also be shared with the participants. This competition will prompt people in my neighborhood to change their wasteful habits to save the earth and also their money. Wastefulness affects your pockets along with the health of the Earth. I hope to see you join your own Environmental-Cathlon in your neighborhood. Let’s compete to save the Earth!

Sorayah Melendez of Sterling, VA is the 2nd Place recipient of the 2020 scholarship award from WMCCAI and was awarded $1,000. She will be attending James Madison University this fall.

My community recycles regularly, and even provides residents with recycling and trash bins. However, I do not know anyone in my neighborhood who composts, let alone anyone who knows how to. Composting has many benefits, such as providing nutrients in the soil, limiting the need for chemical fertilizers, and reducing methane emissions, which in turn reduces an individuals’ carbon footprint. Twenty-eight percent of Americans’ trash is food and yard waste and turning this waste into compost would reduce the amount of space and methane gas in landfills (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2019). By providing community residents with compost bins and instructions on how to properly maintain a compost bin, community associations could single-handedly reduce the amount of waste in local landfills.

Community associations should also provide a list and educate their residents about items that should not be composted, and why. Items such as fire ashes, fruit peels, hair, and tea bags are commonly thrown in the trash; however, few people are aware that these items are actually able to be composted (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2019). Similarly, many individuals do not know which items recyclable and which ones are not; by educating community members about these differences, more items could be recycled or composted, resulting in a greener community and a greener planet. Providing composting knowledge and resources to community residents would be the most beneficial and effective way for each household to reduce their carbon footprint, with hopes that more items will be recycled and composted.

Along with the benefits of composting and compostable items, it is also important to include a list of items that are not compostable, as they could have the potential to harm humans or the environment. For example, dairy products are not able to be composted due to the odor they create and, in turn, attracting pests that could harm the plants (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2019). Other than the short list of items that are not able to be composted, this is an easy way to help beautiful gardens thrive in community homes. Making the homes look more pleasurable and aesthetic to potential buyers would benefit the association, creating more of an incentive to provide residents with composting materials. The community association could hold an annual garden competition in the spring to encourage residents to beautify their gardens and put their compost to use. Community association board members would judge residents on neatness, creativity and diversity of plants used; the sole requirement of this competition would be to have residents provide proof of the compost they created and used in their garden. One winner from each neighborhood in Countryside (Morven Woods, Belmont, Foxfield, etc.) would be chosen by the board members, and from those, a grand winner would be chosen, and their garden would be featured in the community paper. Local businesses or environmental agencies (such as Safeway, Delia’s Pizza, or Loudoun Water Co.) could also sponsor the competition, advertising and encouraging residents to compost their leftover meals along with other compostable items.

Sponsors could also help with awards, such as gift cards or useful items relating to environmental protection and composting. To educate children about the importance of composting, a competition could be held requiring elementary-aged children to draw a picture, write a paragraph, or create a video explaining why composting is important to the environment. This would educate younger generations about the importance of protecting the environment, in hopes that they will not make the same mistakes the human race has made for the past 200 years.

Works Cited: United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2019, November 13). Composting At Home. Retrieved from