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Archive for March, 2013

The Gift of Slow Consumption

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

As I write this, Superstorm Sandy has just blasted the northeastern U.S. and parts of Canada, leaving death and large-scale destruction in its wake. While the storm’s memory doesn’t lend feelings of warmth for the holiday season, it certainly does show us how an act of nature can abruptly halt life as we know it.

If any good comes from such a catastrophe, it’s that it reminds us of what’s really important: family, friends, sustainable food, clean water. As we enter the season of giving, it’s these basics of life that should be upheld and honoured. Appreciating family and friends or the air we breathe shouldn’t inflict havoc on our world or our wallets. Why not consider a streamlined, minimalist approach to the holidays instead of the usual fanfare?

There are some real advantages to slowing or reducing how much we consume. Minimalism means less debt, which means less stress and hopefully better health and greater longevity. Living in this anxiety-free state allows you the mental space to focus on relationships, to appreciate works of art, to enjoy nature and to cultivate new endeavours and adventures that become memories you’ll cherish.

Whether you’re celebrating Chanukkah or Christmas this December, draw on Sandy as a reminder of how the stuff we accumulate and define ourselves by disappears in a flash. How important, really, is that collection of mid-century modern ceramics? How much room, time, money and energy does collecting take? When you close your eyes at night do your baubles bring you comfort, peace and the satisfaction of a life lived well?

Perhaps we’d be better off if we rethought our approach to buying. When purchasing gifts, do we buy things that will last? Do we consider well-designed, timeless items that are worth repairing as opposed to faddish, here-today, gone-tomorrow things that end up in the trash? It’s frightening to think of the toll this takes on our environment. Think about the energy it takes to make and distribute all this disposable stuff. We need to give more influence to well-made products that are durable and worth repairing.

While it’s important to examine our approach to the holidays and consumerism, there are times when your heart really wants to give. Perhaps an old client has recommended you to a new one. Or maybe you really appreciate the clockwork delivery service of your neighbourhood newspaper girl. Yes, there are times when only a present will do.

Try to green up your gift buying this season. Make sure you read labels, look for organic or fair-trade certification, ask where the item came from and where it was made. If no source is given, it’s probably best to pass on it.

While a home-made sock puppet may not appeal to the 16-year-old on your list, there are green gift options that teens and adult recipients will enjoy.

Environmental, wildlife and conservation organizations offer memberships which, in some instances, allow entry to nature reserves so this is a great idea for the bird lover or wildlife enthusiast on your list. Memberships may also come with a magazine subscription packed with environmental info.

There are numerous websites that allow you to purchase great green gifts. Try www.etsy.com for handmade, vintage items or visit www.wwf.org and click on the WWF store for unique, animal-themed gift ideas. At www.planetfriendly.net/gifts.html you’ll get good recommendations for eco-friendly gifts that you can purchase online and in person.

Consider making a donation in the gift receiver’s name to a cause that’s near and dear to their heart.

Your time is a profound gift. Offer to baby sit, pet sit or house sit. Draw up a certificate that promises something you can lend your expertise to – help someone create a pot of soup, plan a garden or assist with financial planning.

As you rejoice with family and friends this holiday season, be grateful for the company of people you care about. That message is simple and sparing, I know. Remember it’s often less that is so much more. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukkah!

The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provide a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email elden@nagab.org.

Crank Up Your (Green) Heat Know-how

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

In an ideal world, we’d all be beautiful and smart and the warm sun would shine down on our gorgeous, clever heads every single day of our very long lives. Alas, we live in a country with long and often fiercely cold winters. So how do we stay comfortable without burning holes in the atmosphere or our wallets?

Did you know that nearly 60 per cent of Canadians use a forced-air furnace to heat their homes, while 30 per cent use electric heat sources? According to Statistics Canada, natural gas and electricity were the most common types of energy used in 2007, accounting for 80 per cent of all energy consumed by Canadian households.

But there are more eco-friendly ways to heat your home this winter.

Pellet stoves are the new darlings of eco home heating. They are comparably inexpensive to install as many don’t require ventilation so no need for a chimney. They burn little compressed wood pellets that are cheaper to buy than firewood or even electricity, and best of all, they are a resource that can be renewed easily. Some burn corn or nut shells as well so there are options. Pellet stoves do require electricity, though, to keep the fan motor running. But that cost is small compared to other forms of electric heat.

Eco fireplaces might just sound too good to be true. Not only do they burn a clean and renewable resource known as liquid bio-ethanol, they’re easy to install and look quite stylish. The heat is very efficient as the fireplaces are flue-less so all of the heat stays in the room. They come in a variety of styles that include fireplace inserts that you place in your traditional fireplace and modern-looking, portable pieces of ‘fire’ furniture. Here’s the catch, though: while these eco fireplaces are good for room or spot heating, they can’t replace the kind of whole home heating you get from a furnace.

Geothermal energy or ground-source heat pumps capitalize on the constant temperature of the ground or of a nearby water source such as a pond or lake. Geothermal systems work thanks to a heat pump unit that’s connected to a loop of piping that is buried at a depth of six feet or more.  Water and antifreeze circulating through the piping absorbs the heat from the ground and takes it back into the house. The opposite occurs in summer when the system draws on the earth’s lower temperatures to cool a house. A heat exchanger draws energy from the liquid in the pipes to either heat or cool the home.

Solar home heating is perhaps the granddaddy of eco home heating as its long history will attest. Passive solar technology relies on the sun’s rays and doesn’t require mechanical or electrical devices. A good example of this is sunlight that lights or warms a room.

Active solar technology employs pumps and fans to transfer the sun’s power to where it’s needed. Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems consist of solar panels that collect and convert sunlight into electricity to power your home. While this does require an initial investment, there are a number of programs that can help reduce the cost of the system.

Radiant heat is an interesting alternative to gas or electricity and it is also an ancient form of heating. Using invisible electromagnetic infrared waves, radiant heat doesn’t heat air but rather objects that come into contact with the rays. Once those objects heat up they radiate heat to other objects in the room. Examples of radiant heating are fireplaces and fireplace inserts, wood stoves, portable electric heaters and floors heated thanks to radiant tubing.

Knowing about these home-heating methods won’t necessarily turn up the heat on your real estate practice, but it will increase your eco capital while earning you a few brownie points. There’s nothing like enlightening clients to have them extolling your virtues to family and friends.

The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provide a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email elden@nagab.org.

Play with Fire the Green Way

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

September always signals that bittersweet transition as summer passes into fall and the kids head off to school. But if we’re lucky, September can be one of the most gorgeous months of the year with that just-right temperature that allows you to still enjoy the outdoors without having to don sweaters or run for the nearest sprinkler.

It’s also a great time to hold end-of-summer barbecues or invite the neighbours over for your world-famous burgers. And while outdoor cooking and all that entails – smoked food, charcoal, lighter fluid, burning up a non-renewable resource such as natural gas – summons several big environmental no-nos, there are ways your eco footprint can tread a little more lightly. Here’s how:

Get Your Grill On:

Bear in mind that bigger is not always better. With gas grills, it’s important to know that gas burns much cleaner than basic charcoal, which emits carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.  Still, the carbon footprint emanating from the use of gas grills is pretty large when you consider the fuel you’re burning is non-renewable and that the amount of fuel needed to operate a gas barbecue is comparatively large.

Consider what material your grill is made of. Cast iron or stainless steel barbecues are non-toxic but look out for those made from chrome-coated aluminum, which becomes harmful when the aluminum oxidizes.

Explore the new and pricier generation of grills such as solar-powered, hydrogen-powered, electric barbecues and ceramic grills.

It’s been said that the most eco-friendly barbecues are those you build yourself. With some bricks and stones build a surround for your organic charcoal. Make sure it’s the right height so you’re not hurting your back and use a metal rack from an oven as your grill-top. Dead simple.

Fire Up the BBQ:

Barbecuing with charcoal produces more carbon monoxide and soot than any other method. Charcoal briquettes may contain sodium nitrate and coal dust. The way they’re processed contributes to deforestation so avoid them.

Instead, use organic or natural lump coal, a much greener alternative that still gives off that delicious smoky barbecue flavour. Lump coal has no additives or chemicals and it does not contribute to deforestation.

Avoid lighter fluids altogether. They’re known to contain harmful VOCs and are carcinogenic. Try twigs and old newspaper instead.

Vegetarian Barbecue, Anyone?

Nothing says barbecue like a nice steak, burger or sausage, right? Perhaps but environmentally speaking, we’d all be better off if we consumed less meat. Why? Well, that rib-eye you devoured comes at a pretty steep cost when you consider how much water it takes to produce it and the levels of harmful greenhouse gases produced by cows. Consider meat that’s organic or grass-fed. As an alternative, try more carbon-neutral proteins such as fish or chicken. Buy sustainable seafood.

Grill vegetables on your barbecue and mix them together in a salad. Pour on a blend of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a squirt of mustard and a smidgeon of honey. Season with salt and pepper and fresh herbs from your garden.

Fruit is becoming a popular favourite on the grill. Try sliced pineapple seasoned with freshly cracked black pepper or grill peaches marinated in rum and butter and serve with ice cream.

Whenever possible buy locally grown and produced products. The thinking is that fewer chemicals go into growing and producing these foods plus there’s the added bonus that far less energy is used transporting them.

Throw a pizza on your grill, try salmon on a cedar plank or grill corn-on-the-cob right in their husks. Your possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

The same goes for our eco-evolution.

The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provide a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email elden@nagab.org.

More than 50 ways to green your business

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Some of us get stymied by our lack of imaginations when it comes to trying new and untested frontiers. Sometimes we’re short on vision and, as a result, we lack the conviction needed to branch out and try new boundaries.

That’s one of the reasons we’ve come up with 56 ways to help you make your place of business more eco-friendly.

These green initiatives are part of a new program by the National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB), a non-profit group of realtors committed to greening the world in which we live. The program, which is aimed at businesses, is an opportunity for your company to dramatically improve its reputation as a leader of environmental citizenship.

Becoming a NAGAB member organization is a great way to build your brand and reach key audiences such as customers, suppliers and employees. NAGAB and its Greenrealestate® program are trusted brands that evoke high awareness levels among Canadian consumers and business leaders.

NAGAB provides corporations with a complete toolkit of communications support materials to help your company realize the full marketing and public relations benefits of your NAGAB affiliation. These can include a listing in the NAGAB Greenrealestate® office index three times a year, a company listing in each NAGAB e-newsletter which gets distributed to thousands of Canadian realtors and a NAGAB certificate for your lobby announcing your Greenrealestate® designation to corporate visitors.

Qualifying for the program is simple. As mentioned, we have a checklist of more than 50 initiatives that will make your company eligible. Your firm’s green plan might include replacing memos with email messages, installing low-flow aerators on sink faucets and changing the landscaping outside your office to include drought resistant plants. Or you might insulate all hot water pipes and tanks, apply window film to replace solar heat gain and use recycled laser and copier toner cartridges.

Toronto firms  Freeman Real Estate Ltd. & Market Point Realty  will become the first companies to display NAGAB’s Corporate Green Designation. A total of almost  50  agent in both companies ƒ have completed or are about to complete their accreditation as a Greenagent®.

The 40-year-old firm founded by Barry Freeman subsidized the cost of the program for its agents.

“It’s important to have agents who can talk intelligently about energy efficiency and sustainability,” says Freeman. “It’s also another skill set they can promote that sets them apart and that will hopefully earn them more money.”

Being a realtor with green credentials will automatically raise your status in the buying public’s eye. As society evolves and becomes more sensitive to matters of sustainability, you are positioned to step in, offer your know-how and seal the deal.

The Bathurst Street realtor scored an Emerald level – the highest ranking– thanks to the many green upgrades it made during a recent renovation of its site. Required initiatives for an Emerald rating are 20 or more, for a Jade level corporations need to implement 15 to 19 green projects and for a Turquoise designation it’s 10 to 15 initiatives.

In an effort to build awareness, NAGAB will also offer its new corporate program to real estate boards free of charge in the hopes that their green stewardship will ultimately trickle down to their membership. Boards and private companies that qualify will be entitled to offer the Greenrealestate® program to their agents at a 60 per cent discount.

“As a realtor who came through the age of consumption, it’s an honour to be at the forefront today leading our industry through the age of conservation,” says Freeman, whose real estate career began in 1966. “If we can get CEOs and presidents of real estate companies promoting the program from the top down it will encourage more agents to become certified. That’s good for our future and the health of our planet.”

Elden Freeman B.A., M.E.S, broker is the founder and executive director of NAGAB. Freeman says he believes that realtors can and should play an important role in educating their clients on increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For more information about NAGAB or to sign up for a coursevisit www.nagab.org. To contact Elden Freeman call  1-877-524-9494 or email him at  elden@nagab.org.



Green air conditioning: Cool enough for you?

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

It’s true, as Jane Austen once said that real comfort comes from home. But I’d like to interpret her words more literally. Real comfort does come from home but sometimes our homes need a helping hand providing that comfort.

By that, of course, I’m referring to air cooling systems that keep us comfortable during summer’s blazing heat. So, as air conditioning units blast more holes into the ozone layer, let’s consider what we can do to help our clients keep cool while staying green.

You can have a home that’s comfortable without air conditioning, say eco pundits. But you need to be mindful of your home’s ventilation, windows and double glazing and shading and insulation.

For starters, shade your house with awnings, pergolas, trees and other barriers that prevent the sun from getting into your windows and the rest of your home. Exterior rolling shutters are very effective but expensive, while solar screens, which look like standard window screens, also cut glare in addition to heat.  Double glazing your windows can cut the intake of summer heat inside your home by 30 per cent.

Ventilation is essentially that much-needed breeze that helps cool you down. This is assisted at times by ceiling or room fans.  Use fans to draw cool air from your basement or the cooler side of your home. During the summer, try to keep your house sealed tight during the day when heat and humidity are high. Ventilate at night either by opening windows or with fans. Don’t forget to turn on your stove fan and to open your chimney flue as these will help draw warm air out of your house.

Use insulation in your roof, ceiling and walls to repel that hot summer radiant heat.

Geothermal systems use the earth to heat and cool spaces and can be up to 40 percent more efficient at cooling a home than conventional air conditioners. But they are very pricey to install. Still, consumers might look to recoup some of the cost from government grants and incentive programs.

If using AC is your only option this summer, let’s look at ways to do so more efficiently.

Make sure your air conditioning unit is the right size for the job. Using one too small means your space won’t be well cooled plus this inefficiency will only drive up your energy costs as the unit overworks in vain to try to keep your space cooled.

Think about using new energy-saving air-conditioning technologies such as a two-stage compressor. Compressors use the most electricity but a two-stage compressor compresses less on cool days and more when it’s hot which saves energy. They can run at two different speeds so when it’s operating at a lower speed it’s using less power.

While new technologies tend to be pricier, there are easy and affordable steps you can take now. Installing a programmable thermostat is a great way to green your cooling system. Homeowners can program the thermostat to stay off when the home is vacant and to kick in once household members return for the day.

See to it that your air conditioning unit is maintained once per year. HVAC professionals should inspect and service your AC checking for refrigerant pressure, accessing the unit’s air flow and checking for leaks.

Chances are pretty good that your cooling system is old. By old I mean it was installed over ten years ago. If that’s the case, you should know that these systems operate well below today’s environmental and energy-efficiency standards. So think about replacing your existing unit with a newer, greener one.

In Canada, staying cool as the mercury soars is a standard we’ve come to expect. But it comes at a cost, both financially and environmentally. By using these options we can help save money while sparing our planet.

The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provide a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email elden@nagab.org.



Let your home turf set an eco-example this summer

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

It’s difficult not to get a case of the open-air crazies at this time of year. Everyone is pruning and seeding or fertilizing and mulching or aerating and planting.  It’s infectious and perhaps a reaction to being cooped up indoors most winters.

While it’s fun to pretty up your outdoor space, it’s also important to be mindful of the impact beautiful gardens and lawns have on our environment. Perhaps the biggest consequence of this love affair with lawns is our unrestrained water consumption. Canadians are already big water abusers, using 350 litres per person per day. That amount jumps by 50 per cent in summer months thanks to outdoor water usage.

Ever heard of xeriscaping? It’s fuss-free gardening and landscaping that uses a minimal amount of water, time and effort. The concept, which is also known as drought-tolerant landscaping and smart scaping, was pioneered originally for desert regions but has spread to water-abundant places thanks to conservationists.

One of the most important things you can do when xeriscaping is to find plants that are native to your area. These are generally plants that sustain themselves on less water. Good selections are drought-tolerant plants that have long roots or succulents that store moisture in their leaves. Other good choices are plants that have fuzzy, waxy or silver leaves which either reflect the sun or lock in moisture.

Before you start planting you need to consider your soil. Improve it with organic matter. This encourages deep-rooted plants, which means plants can find their own sources of nutrients and moisture buried deep into the ground, unlike shallow-rooted vegetation.

Group plants based on their moisture needs with the more water-dependent located closer to the water source.  This limits the amount of water you need to spread around your grounds. Think about placing plants that are more water reliant in more shaded areas to limit evaporation of water.

Limit your lawn to flat areas which are easier to keep moist. You should limit the size and number of these sections by using drought-tolerant plants to surround the areas of turf. For the grassy areas take care to use drought tolerant species of grass rather than those that require much more water to thrive.

Water turf and garden areas no more often than once per week, but water deeply. This forces the plants to develop extensive root systems. Drip irrigation from a soaker hose reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation by sprinkler systems. Or collect water from your roof in rain barrels.

Mulch soil to prevent water evaporation, maintain an even, cool soil temperature and prevent the germination of weed seeds. For ornamental gardens, choose mulch that is as natural in appearance as possible and that will eventually break down and become soil. Consider chopped leaves or pea gravel. The best time to lay mulch is in late spring after the soil has warmed, but before summer’s heat begins.

There is plenty of information online about what grasses, shrubs and plants are best for xeriscaping. Favoured perennials are the Black-Eyed Susan and Poppies, while good grasses include Maiden Grass and Little Bluestem.

The most obvious benefit of xeriscaping will be your lower water bills, but there are plenty more. Think of the neighbourhood cachet you’ll draw as the house with the eco-garden. Think of the extra time you’ll save cutting your lawn. When other garden beds begin to wither thanks to water restrictions, yours will flourish.

This is a type of gardening we’re sure to hear more about as the cost of water rises and more people warm to conservationist issues.

The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provides a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494; Email elden@nagab.org.


Reduce Your Kitchen’s Carbon Footprint by Cooking Green

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

If the family room is the emotional centre of a house, the kitchen is its heart and soul.

It’s where we do a lot of living. And as such, it’s one of the more expensive areas of a home to build, to renovate and to keep running smoothly and efficiently. It’s also an area we can easily overlook in our quest to raise our environmental know-how.

Installing faucet aerators and shopping at Whole Foods are great for our eco-consciousness but there is so much more homeowners can do to lessen their impact on the environment and to save money in the meantime.

About 30 per cent of your household energy use takes place in the kitchen. Because energy guzzling appliances are a big part of the kitchen, it’s important to rethink or relearn how to use them. According to Kate Heyhoe, author of Green Cooking: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen, this can be done without sacrificing your favourite recipes.

Your overall cookprint – which is what Heyhoe calls the environmental impact created when you eat and cook – is what we need to begin shrinking. You’ve heard this term elsewhere, more likely as sustainable eating.

The oven is an energy hog or as Heyhoe puts it, the Humvee of the kitchen. As only about six per cent of the fuel used for an oven goes toward active cooking, try using a toaster oven or your cook-top instead. Try more passive cooking. Reconsider the length of time you preheat the oven and give it a try without any preheating time at all. Consider turning the oven off 10 or 15 minutes earlier than the prescribed cooking time which allows the food to finish cooking from heat already built up inside the oven. Try softening noodles by soaking them first in boiling water.

Many green foodies abhor microwave ovens, but they probably don’t know that they consume far less energy than a stove. The beauty of a microwave is that it doesn’t heat up your kitchen and lead you to turn up your air conditioning. Try not to use them to defrost foods, though, because that’s simply wasteful. Thawing food overnight in your fridge is best.

Did you know that convection ovens produce 30 per cent less greenhouse gases than conventional ovens?

Many kitchen faucets are controlled by a single valve. If you leave the handle tilted to the hot side (usually the left) and turn that on, you fire up the hot water tank even when you don’t want hot water. Simply leaving it turned to the right saves so much energy.

Teflon cookware and single-serving containers are two of Heyhoe’s biggest pet peeves. Teflon is not only toxic but often poorly made and therefore easily disposable. Single-serving containers of yogurt and individual bottles of iced tea add needless waste to our landfill sites. Consider instead brewing your iced tea at home or eating your yogurt from a bowl or lunch-box container.

Since kitchens generate the most waste of any room in the house, start by minimizing the excess packaging you purchase at the supermarket. Buy fresh, unwrapped produce, avoid buying in bulk and huge portions unless you eat in bulk or have a big family to feed. Reuse plastic bags, glass jars and packaging. And don’t forget to compost your organic waste.

The toxins that go into dishwashing soap, floor and glass cleaners, detergents and the gamut of household cleaners we use in our kitchens is frightening. There are solutions with cleaning products that are non-toxic, biodegradable and plant-based. Or consider making your own household cleaning products from such kitchen staples as baking soda, lemon juice and white vinegar.

While we should celebrate the earth every day of the year, April brings us Earth Day on the 22nd as a reminder. Consider sharing some of these tips with your clients. The earth will thank you for it.

The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provides a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email elden@nagab.org.



Use March to Shed Some Light

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

There’s a reason they call it March Break. It’s around the time when children and adults yearn for milder climates and a reprieve from the cold, dull grey of winter.

If travelling to warm, sunny spots is impossible at this time of year, consider brightening the interior of your home or office with lighting. But not just any old lighting. We’re talking about eco-lighting.

Lighting your interior space the green way is a good first step on the path to environmental awareness and action. It’s comparatively inexpensive to other eco initiatives so if this is your client’s first foray into going green, it’s a good way to go. Keep in mind, too, that their eco efforts are likely to pay off in reduced energy bills so the return on investment is well worth it.

We all know about incandescent light bulbs, those energy guzzling lights that cast a beautiful, warm glow unparalleled, some say, by compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and LEDs. Many governments have passed measures to phase out incandescent bulbs in favour of more energy-efficient choices. In Canada, that ban was scheduled to take effect in 2012, but the government has postponed it until 2014.

Incandescents waste energy because they need to heat up substantially to operate, have a short life span and need to be repeatedly replaced and discarded, which jams up landfill sites.

CFLs have long been touted as the ideal replacement for incandescent light bulbs. They use up less than 25 per cent of the energy required to run incandescents and are known to last up to ten times longer. While these benefits are considerable, these lights are far from perfect. The bulbs issue a harsh light that doesn’t compare to incandescent. More importantly, they contain mercury, a toxic substance and they should be specially disposed of, a fact of which many consumers aren’t aware.

LEDs (light emitting diodes)are viewed as the next generation in home lighting as they’re more energy efficient than CFLs, burn little heat and contain no poisonous gases. Their life spans are remarkable, lasting up to 35,000 hours or about 16 years based on six hours of daily use.

LED lamps can be easily recycled with regular glass products and should they end up in a landfill heap, no lasting environmental damage will be sustained as they contain no toxic chemicals. Finally, unlike CFLs, LEDs have improved their technology so that light bulbs are available in warm, cool and neutral tones. They also come in many different models and styles.

LEDSare made using as many as 180 bulbs per cluster, and encased in diffuser lenses which spread the light in wider beams. When they were first produced they were limited to single-bulb use in instrument panels, electronics, pen lights and, more recently, strings of indoor and outdoor Christmas lights.

On the down side, LEDs are not known for their brightness. And they’re expensive starting at around $35 and up. This expense when compared with incandescent and CFL lighting seems to be the major sticking point right now in the market. Still, consumers are beginning to understand how economical LEDs are to operate. And as their price continues to drop many are warming to the idea of installing LEDs in their homes and offices.

A cost comparison by www.eartheasy.com on running the three main types of lights for 50,000 hours shows incandescents at over $350, CFLs at nearly $90, while LEDs come in at almost $66.

Knowing LEDS cost more upfront isn’t as painful when you consider the long-term savings you gain in running them. Think of it as the price of shedding new light onto your life.

The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provides a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email elden@nagab.org.





Understanding Green Home Trends for 2012

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

The uncertainty over the global marketplace, which emerged as the big economic story of 2011, will continue this year to influence most markets – including Canadian real estate.

Within this cautious milieu, we will begin to see changes in the way consumers spend their money and how they approach buying real estate. Because markets are volatile, consumers will be generally more likely to rein in their spending or find ways to acquire status that doesn’t cost money.

The consumer research firm Euromonitor International says we should look for altruism, connectivity and eco-credentials to have more prominence in people’s spending habits. Because consumers will grow even more green, value-conscious and mobile, expect those traits to penetrate the housing industry more deeply than ever.

Renovate is the fourth R when it comes to the environment – More people will turn to makeovers when it comes to changing the space in which they live. This is good news for their pocketbook and for the environment. Realtors might anticipate that buyers will do more with less as they consider purchasing smaller homes with fewer bells and whistles and renovating when the time is right.

Expect homeowners to invest in energy-efficient upgrades that reduce the draw on a home’s heating and cooling. Consumers will be more vigilant when it comes to sealing leaks, installing windows and doors, adding insulation and replacing old energy hog appliances with Energy Star models.

Footprints Shrink — When people build new homes, more will be doing so with smaller as opposed to bigger footprints. While the days of the monster home have not completely vanished, the days of being awestruck by them certainly have. Today, they’re more apt to make us cringe. Let’s face it, less square footage means less cost for building materials and labour, less waste, less use of precious natural land as well as less in terms of the ongoing cost to heat and cool the home.

Smaller spaces don’t always mean tight quarters. Perhaps we need to rethink how we design our homes. Do we really need mammoth master bedrooms that are primarily used when our eyes are shut?  According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the average size of a new home in 1978 was 1,750 square feet, a figure that had grown to 2,520 square feet by 2008. In 2010, that figure fell to 2,480 square feet, the first time since 1982. The decreasing trend is expected to continue with square footage estimated to fall to 2,152 by 2015.



Net Zero – A net zero home generates as much energy as it consumes, which is clearly a tall order, though a noble one. To achieve this, homeowners need to combine passive and active design strategies. Passive energy includes such methods as strategically placed windows that maximize or deter heat or shrubs and trees planted to help cool your home. Solar panels and wind turbines, on the other hand, produce energy.

While investing in a renewable energy system such as a geothermal well can be costly, perhaps the net result is worth it in the long run.

Energy Monitoring Systems — Keep track of your minute-by-minute energy usage. Find out what it costs to wash a load of laundry or to cook a meal. These systems let you check on how much energy you burn from the convenience of your laptop or mobile phone. The point, of course, is for you to learn how and when you use the most and to figure out ways to cut back. You save money and wear and tear on the environment, both good things.

LEDs – These lights use less energy than compact fluorescents (CFL) and have much longer life spans. At one time, LEDs were pricey, had low lighting output and emitted unattractive and cool light colours.  Prices are starting to drop with LEDs so more and more consumers will adopt this lighting especially once they learn how much more they can save on their energy bills.

Getting a handle on these emerging trends for 2012 will give you a leg up as you gain a deeper understanding of the prevailing M.O. of your clients. You’ll be viewed as a savvy and responsive realtor who’s in tune with your clients’ demands. And isn’t that what we’re all after?


Elden Freeman B.A., M.E.S, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB). Freeman says he believes that Realtors across Canada can play an important role in educating their clients on increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (877) 524-9494; www.nagab.org; elden@nagab.org.



Put Earth Eco on Your Agenda This Year

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

The New Year is a good time to reflect on our past performance, our present considerations and how we see them fitting into our dreams for the future.

As we take leave of another holiday season, a time of year often marked by excess, we should turn our thoughts to ways in which happiness and contentment fill our hearts not by how much we consume but by what we save and spare.

As a realtor, your role as a trusted advisor in the lives of your clients cannot be undermined and that’s why it’s vital that you use your position to spread the word about saving the planet. We’re not talking about getting self-righteous and preachy, but sharing your know-how from a place of compassion and practicality. Besides, in this day and age, it’s the socially responsible thing to do. You’ll be surprised at how influential you really are.

So when you consider how you’d like to make 2012 better, think about the ways you can help the environment and, by turn, your clients. Know also that they’ll appreciate your tips, advice and recommendations. After all, you’re helping them save money.  In the end, their estimation of you is elevated and that’s good for everyone.

Raising your green IQ might be a good place to start.  Generally speaking, green real estate has less impact on the environment in its construction and its day-to-day operation when compared to its less environmentally friendly and conventional neighbours.

Do you know about efficient ways of using energy and water? How’s your knowledge on environmentally sustainable materials?  What constitutes a healthy house in your mind?

So that your clients can take advantage of government-sponsored rebates and incentives on eco-friendly upgrades, get acquainted with whom they should talk to about obtaining energy audits in their market area. The audit essentially pre-qualifies them for the grants. It’s probably also a good idea to find out what rebates are available in your province and, if applicable, in your municipality.

But don’t let your heightened awareness stop there. Find out about ways your clients can save on their energy bills. What types of insulation are best suited for mid-century homes? Are tankless water heaters really worth the investment? Is it worth replacing your older appliances with Energy Star ones? What renovators and builders in your market take into account green principles when plying their trade?

Take a look at your own eco footprint. As a real estate professional, do you burn through fuel, paper and energy as though there were a limitless supply? You might want to think of better, cleaner ways to run your business.

Consider the National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB), a national non-profit professional association that aims to educate real estate professionals about energy conservation and environmental awareness.  NAGAB offers designations that help realtors gain more clients and increase profitability, protect the natural environment, fight climate change, access new markets and create a positive, long-term impact on their community.

As January begins a shiny new year filled with hope and optimism, we’re eager to earn more money, mend ailing relationships, lose weight, and go to the gym more often. But why not do our earth a favour and add the environment to your list of resolutions for 2012? The world will be glad you did.






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