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Archive for the ‘The Green Office’ Category

Celebrate Mother Earth

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Did you know the first Earth Day was marked 48 years ago in 1970? To help celebrate this April 22nd observance, why not head outdoors and do something green?

Begin with your own property. By now, hopefully winter’s assault is over and what you’re left with is the promise of spring mixed with the remains left by snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Take a mental inventory and begin to prioritize what needs tending first.

Prune dormant trees, non-flowering shrubs and vines such as wisteria, clematis and climbing roses. Rake up leftover curled fall leaves caught in your flower beds, shrubs and hedges. Now is the time to feed your garden so try an organic fertilizer on trees, vines, roses and other plants. Trim summer-blooming shrubs such as hydrangea. Also don’t forget to divide perennials that have grown too big.

April is also a good time to begin trying to keep weeds at bay. According to Mark Cullen, weed control comprises a four-step approach:

  1. Kill them when they’re young.
  2. Mulch is so effective at preventing weeds. It’s also not a chemical and easy to apply. Cullen says the secret is to apply four to five centimetres of finely ground up cedar or pine bark mulch. The sooner this is done, the better.
  3. For grass weeds, he recommends removing all loose debris from the area and getting grass blades to stand up on end. Smoothly rake on three to five centimeters of lawn soil or triple mix. Use quality grass seed on the area. Rake it smooth and then step on the patch to ensure the seed comes in contact with the soil and water until germination. Keep it damp and be sure to fertilize.
  4. Consider trying biologically based weed killers.

Once your lawn and garden is spring ready you may want to tackle the neighbourhood. Consider organizing a spring clean-up on your street or in your community. It’s likely in desperate need of a polish what with coffee cups, dog poop and plastic bags now on full display now that the snow is gone.

The city is also encouraging spring cleanup with drop-off depots for items such as electronics, books, dishes and toys. Beginning April 7 in Scarborough-Rouge River and Parkdale-High Park wards will take turns hosting these Community Environment Days until the end of July. Free compost collected thanks to the city’s yard-waste program is also available.

According to the CBC.ca, about 200,000 volunteers from Toronto schools, businesses and community groups participate in Community Cleanup Days, which are local city-run events that clean up public spaces. They take place from April 20—22.


The Lowdown on Lead-Based Paint

Monday, April 9th, 2018

It’s for good reason that Toronto is known as the City of Neighbourhoods with some of those many communities dating as far back as 200 years. Given that lineage, it’s safe to assume that lead-based paint could be in your home.

If your house was built prior to 1960 chances are pretty good that lead-based paint was used. Homes constructed between 1960 and 1990 may have lead in the exterior paint, though paint used inside could still contain some smaller amounts of lead. Residences built after 1990 should not have any lead in their paint as North American manufacturers were producing lead-free paint by then.

The danger with lead paints is highest among children because they absorb it more easily and because they are still developing.  According to the federal government, even small amounts of dust with lead are dangerous to babies and children. Unborn infants could also be at risk if a pregnant mother-to-be consumes lead. Lead poisoning causes anemia in addition to brain and nervous system damage. A simple blood test is how you determine your level of exposure.

There are ways to detect if lead-based paint was used in your home. Having paint chip samples analyzed at a lab is a possibility as is hiring a contractor who has the appropriate x-ray equipment to detect lead on painted surfaces.

The federal government recommends taking action if your lead paint is chipping, flaking or within reach of children who might ingest it. But it also stipulates that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone when it comes to lead paint, as long as the safety of children is not compromised. As an added protection home owners can cover lead-based painted areas with wallpaper, wallboard or panelling.

If you plan to do the work yourself, know that it’s a tall order. Remove all furnishings, rugs and window coverings on which lead dust might cling. If you can’t remove a belonging or furnishings make sure they are covered in plastic. Cover your heating and cooling vents and doorways as you want to prevent scrapings and paint particles from travelling throughout your house. Open your windows. To trap the dust and keep yourself protected you will need tarps, a respirator, protective eye coverings and gloves.

It’s a good idea to take frequent breaks, every ten minutes or so. Exit the work area immediately if you begin to feel dizzy, sick or have trouble breathing.

Use a chemical paint stripper paste and apply it with a brush. You want to avoid sanders, heat guns or blowlamps as they create toxic dust and fumes.

Then again, you may decide to hire a lead abatement company to get the job done. You’ll find them online. Be sure to check references.

How Technology Helps Green Our Homes

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

There’s no doubt that when historians look back on this time it will be deemed the Age of Technology or some such name that indicates the era as a whirlwind of rapidly changing automation.

Perhaps nowhere is that revolution more evident than in our homes with how technology has served to make them warmer yet more eco-friendly. Let’s take a look at some of the tech advances that are helping green our homes:

Temperature-Controlled Living

Saving us money and time, but perhaps most importantly, saving our planet from environmental ruin are home automation systems that allow you to cool or warm your home remotely. What’s unique about smart thermostats is that technology allows you to be eco-smart so that you are not heating or cooling a space when you’re not there. Sync these thermostats with your iPhone so that your habits are remembered. Some tech companies allow you to use your smartphone to link your temperature controls with your lighting for added savings. Just think: no more fiddling with tricky timers or leaving lights on at all hours to fool people into thinking you’re home. With this technology, you can easily control the timer from anywhere with a simple click.

Tiny Bubbles

While laundering your clothes will never be a snap, there are smart washing machines now that don’t guzzle energy like their predecessors. Equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, these machines also allow you to use your smartphone to detect any issues that crop up with your washer.

Ditch the Dryer

While that is much easier said than done, dryer chugs through an inordinate amount of energy that rivals your washer, dishwasher and refrigerator combined. Try using folding racks to hang and air dry your laundry or simply hang clothes such as shirts from hangers. Or consider hanging half your laundry and machine drying the other half. Just be sure to air dry the heavier items and let the lighter loads in the machine, which will cut down drying time.

Skip to the Loo

Dual-flush toilets are all the rage and with good reason. Instead of flushing away six gallons of water with each flush, dual-flush toilets only use up either.8 or 1.6 gallons. Let’s say a family of three each uses the toilet five times a day. If they are using an older style toilet then they are flushing nearly 100 gallons of water down the drain each and every day. Dual-flush toilets allow you to select the level of water required for each flush. Another great technological advancement is the toilet that uses gray water from your bath and shower in order to flush.

Eco Padding Your House

While spray polyurethane foam insulation is a workhorse of a product in terms of helping keep homes draft free and temperature controlled, environmentalists don’t look too kindly on it for its greening properties. Soybean-based spray foam is a good alternative as it does not contain the chemical (MDI or diphenyl diisocyanate) that causes off-gassing. Castor-oil based lcynene is also a good option. Cotton denim batting is a good green insulation, though it can be expensive to install and not nearly as easy as foam. Similarly, sheep’s wool is a good eco-friendly alternative, but like denim, it is not as easy to install.

Sources: Mother Earth News, Better Homes & Gardens, Organic 4 Greenlivings, Eco Building Pulse, Green High Five

Attracting Bees and Butterflies to Your Garden

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

If you’re looking to heighten your level of environmental good-deed doing this summer, why not consider establishing a garden or flower bed that welcomes bees and butterflies.

Little thought they are, bees and butterflies are incredibly important to our ecosystem.  Did you know that 75 per cent of the food we eat, from fruits and nuts to herbs, need pollinators? Bees do this quite well. The fruit and vegetables you grow will be delightful with more bees around.

Butterflies play an important role in pollinating flowers, especially those that are strongly scented, are red or yellow or those that produce a healthy dose of nectar from which to feed. It’s believed that an abundance of butterflies is a sign that our ecosystem is doing well.

So let’s look at ways to create a bee- and butterfly-friendly space in your garden:

Make a Bee House

Paint a wooden house a bright colour with low-VOC paint. The bees will buzz around and make mental snapshots of their new home before nesting in their new dwelling. Once the temperature hits 12 to 14 degrees C hang the house at eye level out of the rain facing south or east.

Dig down below the soil near your bee house to expose the clay soil. This will encourage the masons to use it as construction material or you can also keep a bowl of moist clay near their house.

Offer Food

Grow a variety of plants that flower at different times. That way there’s always a snack available for them.

Showy flowers are sometimes the worst food providers for bees. Look for native plants or heirloom varieties. Consider planting flowers in clumps. Bees especially love blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. A variety of flower shapes are good for a diverse bee population with different tongue lengths.

Here are a number of bee-friendly plants categorized based on their bloom times. Early bloomers include blueberry, crabapple, foxglove, heather and willow. Good mid-season bloomers for bees are chives, dahlia, lavender and sunflower. Late blooming plants include coneflower, cosmos, pumpkin and sedum.

Butterflies like alyssum, bee balm, delphinium, hollyhock, marigold, nasturtium, phlox, Shasta daisy, verbena and zinnia, among others. Don’t forget to include plants like dill, fennel and milkweed that butterfly larvae feed on.

Create a Bee Bath

Bees and butterflies needs fresh water to survive. Because of the way they’re built, though, they need something to land on when trying to touch down in bird baths and the like. Try lining a shallow bowl with rocks or stones, leaving the rocks to stick out in spots so bees and butterflies have landing pads on which to settle.

The bath should be at ground level in your garden. Better yet, place the bath near your problems plants, those that get aphids and such, and these beneficial insects that are flying in for a drink will also take care of your plant’s pests.

Refresh the water daily.


Sources: www.gardeners.com, www.davidsuzuki.org,

Save Money and the Planet this Winter

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

You may still be recovering from excessive holiday spending so now might be the perfect time to look at ways to save money this winter.

Keeping comfortable in our homes in winter not only costs money but also wreaks havoc on the environment. What better time than now to look at ways to help you save while sparing our planet.


Keep it Simple

We may not get lots of it, but winter sunshine can be a good friend for those trying to heat their homes economically. Open curtains, shades and blinds and let in the free, natural light. When it gets dark, you should close your window coverings, which provide a layer of insulation against the cold.

Is your couch blocking a heat vent? If you’re trying to save coin and do so in a way that is eco-friendly, that’s not how to do it. Let the warm air circulate more freely by moving away couches and furniture that blocks the vents.

Try a draught excluder. They run the length of your door and prevent draughts from getting inside. You can buy them fairly cheaply or make your own. These long sausage-shaped draught excluders can be made from something as simple as an old pair of tights stuffed with socks, rice, kitty litter or lentils. Naturally, you can pretty them up to match your décor if that’s more your style.

Area rugs help prevent the heat loss that comes from bare hardwood floors.

Don’t forget to let ceiling fans do their work. By reversing the direction they turn to clockwise in winter the fan will push warm air back down from the ceiling height. Use on a low setting.

Don’t mean to sound all 1930s on you but throw on a sweater and some wool socks. Walking around your home in shorts and a t-shirt in -15 degree weather doesn’t do your furnace any favours or your wallet.


New ones can be pricey but there are other means to help you control your expenses. Inspect your windows for cracks and leaks and caulk if needed. Also consider weather stripping to reduce air leakage. Window insulation kits are a cheap alternative to replacing your windows. A thin layer of film adheres to your window, blocking warm air from escaping. The film, which looks like plastic wrap, doesn’t block or impair your view. Another option for windows is to hang heavy curtains that prevent the cold from coming in.

Hot Water

Turn down the temperature of your water setting. Did you know that heating your water accounts for about 18 per cent of the energy consumed in your home?

What’s the Temperature?

When you’re home try to keep the furnace temperature on the low side. When you’re sleeping or out of the house, turn down the temp considerably. Try setting it back between 10 and 15 degrees F for eight hours daily and you could save five to 15 per cent on your annual heating bill.

 Block the Fireplace

In many older homes, fireplaces make for attractive rooms but are highly impractical when not in use. Be sure to keep the flue closed or buy a chimney balloon, which blocks cold air from getting in while allowing ventilation.

There are plenty of simple, eco-friendly ways to save money this winter while keeping the earth green. Stopping to think before cranking up the thermometer is a good start.

Revive Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Revive Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Whether you’re thinking of selling your house or staying put, creating curb appeal is something every home owner seems to aspire to. Having an admiration worthy home is something many of us yearn for and some of us spend serious time and money trying to achieve.

There’s no better time than now to dust off the cobwebs, pack up winter gear and roll out springtime. Here is our must-do checklist for adding a bit of curb appeal:


The Front DoorFront Door

As the home’s focal point, your front door should be inviting and attractive. It should say, ‘You’re welcome here.’ Make sure it’s clean for starters. Paint it a pretty, eye-catching colour. Think of changing the hardware or adding an attractive door knocker. Finally, consider adorning it with an attractive spring wreath or door decoration.


What’s Your Number?

Is your house number clear and easy to read? Walk across the street to see yours. You don’t want the numbers blocked by shrubs or trees and it’s best if they’re placed near an outside light housenumberso the pizza delivery person can find you in the dark. Also, try to position the numbers horizontally because they are easier to read than if laid out vertically.



Garden in a Pot

gardenpotAdding to that welcoming feeling is a grouping of spring plants near your front door. Depending on your space place one great big pot or three various sized ones on your porch or the walkway near your front door. Providing your steps are wide enough, you can also use the sides of your front stairs to arrange pots bursting with spring blooms. Hanging pots of plants also lend curb appeal.


Pretty Up Your Porch

Many older city houses have a front porch ideal for watching the world go by or just being a nosy neighbour. Regardless, your porch can be an extension of your summertime living space so throw down an outdoor rug, a table and some patio furniture. Decorate your space with favourite colours and tchotchkes such as lanterns, pillows and candles. You’ll never want to go indoors.


Grass & Flower Beds

Is your lawn looking a little tired after winter’s abuse? You may need to reseed your graflowerbedss or replace patches of it. Cover your flower beds with natural mulch such as leaves, sawdust or shredded bark so they retain moisture longer and look even and finished.

Wash Windows & Siding

There’s nothing like clean windows and spotless siding to draw the eye. Try using a power washer or simply a regular hose with a washing attachment.

Look Up

Your roof should get a once over. Curling shingles or those that are crumbling should be looked at by a professional.


Putting the Green in Spring Cleaning

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Come the warmer temperatures, our longing for renewal, shine, even a little spit and polish grows stronger with each passing day.

Spring cleaning is somehow more tolerable than regular cleaning simply because, well, it’s springtime. Add to that ways to clean that don’t pollute or waste valuable resources and you have an activity that’s practically heaven-sent.  So let’s get to it. imagesM6BA60CL

Start by opening up your windows and letting all that fresh air inside your home. You’ll likely need to clean your windows so using a mixture of water and vinegar is a good green way to start. Wipe them clean with newspaper for a lint-free shine. Wash curtains and sheers. Dust shades and blinds. If yours are really grimy you may want to soak them in the bathtub or laundry sink. As the eyes of a home, the windows play an important role in maintaining its appeal. Don’t forget to clean your interior windows and window ledges as well.

The entryway or hallway of your home suffers a fair bit of abuse with the comings and goings of family members, friends and pets. Use an all-natural all-purpose cleaner to wipe away mud, salt stains and grime. Vacuum out your closet and de-clutter. Hang something fresh and spring like on the outside of your door.

Vinegar is a great cleaner for most floors. Mix it with some rubbing alcohol and a few drops of dishwashing detergent. Area rugs will need a good going over after winter’s assault. Sprinkle baking soda on your rugs to eliminate odors. Be sure to vacuum both side of your rug.

Use old athletic socks turned inside out to dust your home. Just cover your hand with the sock and start dusting.

Springtime is the right time to get rid of clothes you haven’t worn and other household items that have been left to collect dust. Consider donating gently used items to charity, where they can get another life. Opt for tearing up old absorbent articles of clothing and towels to add to your rag bag. Think of the money you’ll save on paper towels. untitled

Remember to go easy on the toxic chemicals. Many household cleaning supplies, while safe in small doses, may have longer term side effects. Volatile organic compounds, phosphates, petrochemicals and chlorine bleach have been linked to various health concerns. Instead, stock up on kitchen essentials that with a little finesse on your part do a beautiful job of making your home sparkle. Vinegar, baking soda, lemon, borax and essential oils either on their own or in various combinations make great eco-friendly cleaners that easily match or exceed store-bought products.

There’s no need to choke back noxious fumes or waste gobs of paper and water when spring cleaning. And while old habits die hard, it’s not a bad idea to stop and think can I clean in a way that’s safer, less toxic and generally kinder to the planet.

Put Earth Eco on Your Agenda This Year

Friday, December 19th, 2014


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 2015 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 2015? The world will be glad you did.

Understanding Green Home Trends for 2015

Monday, December 15th, 2014

In 2015, we will begin to see changes in the way consumers spend their money and how they approach buying real estate.

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 environmentimages710F933R
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.

Expect homeowners to invest in energy-efficient upgrades that reduce the draw on a home’s heating and cooling.

Footprints Shrink — When people build new homes, more will be doing so with smaller as opposed to bigger footprints.  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 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. 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-monitoring-system-onzo-smart-energy-kit-3energy
usage. Find out what it costs to wash a load of laundry or to cook a meal. The point, of course, is for you to learn how and when you use the most and to figure out ways to cut back.

LEDs – These lights use less energy than compact fluorescents images1D1BU5U1(CFL) and have much longer life spans. Prices are dropping  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.




Your September Garden Checklist

Saturday, August 9th, 2014


Given the extreme weather we’ve been having – from floods and ice storms to reports of tornadoes – it’s difficult to know what September has in store as I write this in early August.

Will the weather gods smile down and give us a month filled with balmy Indian-summer days?

Or will September feel winter’s looming grip just around the corner? Either way, September is the perfect time to start getting your outdoors ready for the big chill.

Begin by putting together an attractive autumn planter using the best of the fall season –ornamental cabbages and kales, mums, cora bells, verbena and sedum. Hopefully this may inspire you to continue with garden jobs that are less immediately rewarding.

Collect seeds for next spring and harvest herbs for drying and other ripened vegetables.

If your hostas are the size of Mini Coopers now is the time to divide and conquer. Overgrown perennials can flower poorly and become floppy. Fall is the best time to divide perennials and share them with neighbours or to plant elsewhere. Water the plant well a day or two before digging it up. Try to divide on a cloudy day as hot sun will stress plants.

Now is the time to plant spring and summer flowering perennials as well as new trees and shrubs allowing six to eight weeks for roots to form before winter’s frost sets in. Be sure to add compost or manure to your garden beds.

While this is easy to neglect, watering trees and shrubs until the ground freezes is an important task as it helps them better weather the ravages of winter.

Don’t let fall leaves go to waste. Shred collected leaves and bag them to be used as winter mulch.

Pull weeds before they go to seed to reduce the amount of weeds your lawn and garden will have next year.

Don’t forget to turn off your outside water taps. Store hoses and sprinklers. Clean and store or cover bird feeders, gardening tools, water features. Empty and clean clay containers. Bring them indoors to protect them from cracking.

If you’re a big fan of the ‘Stinking Rose’ otherwise known as garlic then you will want to find a sunny spot to plants your cloves. Plant cloves eight centimetres deep and 15 centimetres apart. Expect to harvest the following July.

Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips can be harvested all winter. Remove top foliage from the plants and cover them with a 15-centimetre-thick mulch of leaves or straw. Throw an old piece of carpeting on top and let the snow fall as it may. Lift the coverings to dig out veggies as needed.

Feed your lawn with organic lawn fertilizer in the fall. Typically, these fertilizers while more expensive up front are cost effective in the long run as they require fewer applications in addition to decreasing the need for pest controls and promoting better growing conditions. Or you can try making some with your very own compost. Fill a bucket or container one-quarter full with compost and top up with water. Leave for three days and then strain the mixture. Dilute the compost tea with water before spraying your lawn. Also, remember to aerate your lawn as well.

While none of these suggestions will ward off winter’s arrival, know that your lawn and gardens will be better off for making the effort come spring.


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.

The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Toronto Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.