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Archive for the ‘The Green Office’ Category

Rethinking Garbage

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

With Spring (hopefully!) around the corner, here are some tips from the National Association of Green Agents and Brokers to follow when you start your spring cleaning!
recycling
The skies might be bluer, the water more clean, the air much purer and our plant life more green if we could only minimize the heaps of household garbage we produce.

It’s been a long time since we talked about garbage. It’s not a particularly appealing or sexy topic, that’s for sure, but it is a blight on our lives that we must continue to tackle. Canadians throw out nearly 1,700 pounds – much more than other countries of the same size and means — of waste per person each year. That’s the weight of eight adult men. When you picture eight guys heaped in a pile at the foot of your driveway it drives home the message more clearly and much more dramatically.

Let’s pay more attention to the three Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle, and hopefully we can work toward bringing our numbers down.

For starters, we need to rethink what we purchase and what we dispose of. Does it really pay to purchase products that come packaged in ridiculous quantities of plastic, foil and cardboard? Choose products that use minimal packaging or packaging that can be reused or recycled. Try to buy unpackaged goods in bulk.

Certain hardware items can be bought this way and that cuts your packaging waste. It’s better to buy one large jar of peanut butter than two small jars so keep that in mind when writing out your grocery list. And finally, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion about over packaging by complaining to the manufacturer or the retailer.

Start by reducing the stuff you buy, not just the quantity but the kinds of things you buy. Consider buying quality products that tend to last longer rather than cheap items that are more easily tossed out. Think twice before purchasing disposable items such as cups, diapers and lighters. What price does our environment pay for the throwaway items we buy? Think of reusable facsimiles. They’re out there.

Try not to use shopping as therapy or as a pastime. While this can be very difficult in our brand-driven, consumer society, the less time you spend in stores, the less junk you’ll accumulate. Try to buy only what you need. Make a list and follow it and try your hardest not to deviate from it.

Try to simplify your life. When was the last time you used that foot massager or hands-free hair dryer? The avocado slicer and talking cookie jar haven’t been used in years so pack them up and give them away. If you don’t use it, don’t need it or don’t absolutely love it, toss it out. If there is a sentimental attachment to something know that you always have your memories.

Reusing household items is what our grandmothers did. Well, guess what? The trend is back in fashion but not as much out of economic need. It has to do with green concerns of a different kind — saving resources, preventing pollution and using less energy.
Pass along magazines and books to friends and neighbours or donate them to women’s shelters, doctor’s offices or nursing homes. Perhaps your local thrift store will take them off your hands? Eyeglasses can be donated to Operation Eyesight Universal.

Don’t forget pre-schools and daycare centres. They’re often looking for simple household items such as egg cartons, buttons and toilet paper rolls that their mini Picassos can transform into masterpieces. Become the resident expert on recycling and where to dispose of odd items such as electronics, cell phones, dentures and old trophies. (Yes, there is a heaven for just about all earthly things).

Don’t forget the beauty of yard and garage sales. You can recycle a lot of items and makes a few quarters while you’re at it. For an online version of a yard sale check out Kijiji, a website that lets you donate or sell items for free. Freecycle.org also allows you to post items you’d like to get rid of.

Our pursuit of stuff often means we burn through too much waste in our quest to amass. Learn to be happy with less and you’ll be giving and getting so much more.

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.

Test Your Eco Smarts!

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

 

You call yourself a tree hugger, perhaps a green activist or super saver of the world, but how well do you really understand eco-issues concerning the planet?

Oftentimes, it’s not until we compare our knowledge to someone else that we realize how little or how much we really do know. So in the spirit of fun and self-improvement, we’ve put together an amusing and informative (and very unscientific) quiz that will help you understand how earth-friendly you really are. Who knows? Maybe your efforts are worthy of a prestigious environmental award. And then again, maybe not.

Let’s begin:

1. When it comes to public transportation you think:

  1. The prospect is revolting
  2. You’ll consider it when your car breaks  down
  3. That’s the only way to go

2. Vehicles are better if:

  1. They guzzle gas,  torque and possess every possible bell and whistle
  2. They get a moderate rate of fuel efficiency
  3. You don’t hop in them for your every move

3. What’s not safe to throw out in your trash?

  1. Your mother-in-law
  2. Dryer lint
  3. Household hazardous waste

4. How do you dry your clothes?

  1. I dry clean everything
  2. In the dryer
  3. On a clothes line or rack

5. Your plastic shopping bags are used as:

  1. Fire starters
  2. I prefer to use my cloth bags
  3. I re-use them for other uses such as garbage bags

6. What does CFL stand for?

  1. Crazy For Life
  2. Canadian Football League
  3. Compact Fluorescent  Light

7. Your showers are:

  1. So long we had to install a second hot water tank
  2. Twenty minutes followed by electricity guzzlers such as heat lamps, towel warming racks and a blow-dry
  3. Ten minutes tops

8. Global warming is:

  1. A silly myth perpetuated by over-the-top nature lovers
  2. Believed by some to be a threat to the earth
  3. A scientifically proven fact

9. What room in the house generates the most household waste?

  1. The bathroom – obviously.
  2. The garage
  3. The kitchen

10. The Slow Food Movement is about:

  1. Chewing food more slowly
  2. An exercise that slows down your metabolism
  3. Enjoying real, healthy food and moving away from fast food

 

Green Lite:

If you answered mostly As, you’re a pale version of green. You like to profess your love of the environment when others are listening, but in reality you’re affection for green centres mainly on money and ogres. Get a grip. Know that it’s up to each and every one of us to do our part for the planet. Start with baby steps and build up from there.

Getting -There Green:

Mostly B answers nets you this very respectable showing. Getting-There Green means exactly that – you’re on your way to becoming a pillar of the green movement. You understand the issues and you comply with many of the ways that show your solid understanding of green concerns.  Try to deepen your knowledge this year and begin passing your knowhow on to others. There’s nothing like playing an expert to turn you into one.

The Gandhi of Green:

Need we say more? This category means you’re at the pinnacle of eco-consciousness in all you know and do. Being kind to the earth is so innate that you would be wise to spread your gift to those around you, either formally or informally. Consider teaching or writing. As a green master, wasting your ability would be a shame. But you already knew that.

 

 

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.

 

NAGAB

Monday, November 18th, 2013

As realtors we’re in people’s homes all day long so think about the possibilities that presents.

Being that close to the public, their loved ones and their most prized possessions all at once opens the door for exchanges that are often frank, personal and illuminating.

And just as I learn and grow from my clients, I know how privileged we are as real estate professionals to have that platform to spread the word, whatever that word might be.

In my case, the word is all about environmental issues affecting homes, especially older homes. And that’s why in 2006 I thought it was high time that realtors act as a conduit to educate their clients on energy conservation and sustainability. Up until then, so much of our efforts had been placed on greening new homes, when most of our housing stock is actually older, energy-inefficient homes.

That when I got the idea for NAGAB, which stands for the National Association of Green Agents and Brokers. As Canada’s largest non-profit group of realtors dedicated to environmental awareness, NAGAB offers green programs that lead to designations for agents and brokers. These designations give realtors the real-world green expertise that they can then pass on to their clients.

My idea for a green association geared to realtors earned support from industry notables such as Royal LePage CEO Phil Soper, whom I had never met, and Mike Kalles of Harvey Kalles Real Estate. They jumped on board early on and together we began to conceptualize what our green association would look like.

With this novel and much needed idea in hand, we approached the federal ? government for seed money and in the intervening seven years have managed to build a large non-profit that has not only educated the public about eco issues, but also helped reduce carbon emissions and lessened our dependence on foreign energy.

Environmental issues have always been near and dear to me. I graduated from York University in 1987 with a master’s degree in environmental studies. Two years after graduation, I joined the family business started by my father 41 years ago. I practice what I preach. I use solar panels in my home, grow native and vegetable gardens and drive a car that’s considered energy efficient.

Most importantly, our Freeman agents, all of whom have received accreditation from NAGAB, are spreading the word to their clients. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that what goes around comes around.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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