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Archive for the ‘The Green Office’ Category

Gardening during the Dog Days of Summer

Monday, June 30th, 2014

July can be a busy month in the garden, whether you’re tending to flowers, vegetablsummergardenes or fruit or a mishmash of all three.

Whether you have an avid green thumb or are just starting out in the garden consider the following pointers to keep your garden pretty and perky throughout the month of July and beyond:

Flower Power

Remove old blossoms on roses, perennials and annuals so that blooms will continue with a strong showing. Because many annuals such as petunias get leggy with long leaf-less stems by this time, you’re best to cut them back to encourage new growth and flowering.

Frequent pruning will keep most annuals full. Consider pruning back to a set of leaves on one stem per week per plant. Or prune all stems by one third which will leave you without flowers for a few weeks.

Don’t forget to pinch mums to encourage a full, colorful fall flower display. Give late-blooming perennials, such as sedum and aster a quick trim by cutting plants back by one-third.


Early-season bloomers, like delphinium, daisy, and campanula should be trimmed by one-half to one-third. You may be rewarded with a second blooming.


Be sure to keep an eye each day on the water needs of your containers as they tend to dry out sooner than flowers and plants in the ground.


Let it Flow

If you can, replace your sprinkler with a soaker hose or drip tube system as these do a better job of bringing water directly to the soil.

Keep an eye on your water. Watch automatic irrigation systems while they’re doing their job. You want to ensure that you’re not wasting water by watering sidewalks or driveways.

Rain barrels are great because they catch water runoff from your roof. Make sure yours has a cover to avoid little ones and animals from falling in.

Consider using a timer on sprinklers and automatic irrigation systems. Buy one with a rainfall shut-off device. These newer gizmos actually adjust watering frequency based on weather intel gathered from the local weather observation stations.


Edgy Veggies

Your vegetable garden should be thoroughly watered during the hot dry weather July often brings. Try not to water in the later afternoon or evening. Avoid wetting the undergrowth of plants, especially those that are disease prone such as tomatoes and squash.

If your veggies and fruit has rotted and fallen to the ground, pick them up and toss in your composter as rotting vegetables and fruit attracts pests and can encourage disease.


Control your weeds otherwise they will take over your plants and use up space, nutrients and water from your plants. Don’t add weeds to your compost. Try to mulch between your rows of plants. Try to mow away from your garden so that seeds don’t get a chance to invade your garden.

Think about extending our short garden season by preserving food. Root vegetables, potatoes and onions can be stored in a cool, dry spot. Try canning or drying.

July can be a busy month in your garden. If you’re not up to it, you can always try hammock gardening, the low-maintenance kind for lazy gardeners. More on that next month.

Nice Shades: Trees provide the coolest sun block

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Remember the good old days when people used to slather their bodies with suntan oil in an effort to deepen their skin colour? While catching a few rays was at one time a common symbol of health and beauty, the residual effects of a tan turned out to be not so good for us after all.

Translate that thought to your home. While asphalt shingles, bricks and siding can’t contract life-threatening sun-related diseases like skin, they can suffer a good deal of wear and tear thanks to the sun’s damaging ultra-violet rays. More importantly, though, think about how hard your home has to work to keep its internal temperature at a comfortable level come the heat of summer.

Protecting your home with shade trees is one of the cheapest, most natural and aesthetically leasing improvements you can make. Not only will your house look and feel cooler, you’ll be saving on your energy bills and sparing the environment while you’re at it.Deciduous or leaf-shedding trees planted on the south and west sides of your home reduce your dependence on air conditioning. Large leafy trees that shade your roof from the hot afternoon sun can cut temperatures by as much as four or five degrees Celsius, reducing cooling costs by up to 40 per cent.

Trees also provide environmental benefits such as reducing air pollution, providing a natural habitat for wildlife, sequestering carbon dioxide from the air and mitigating storm water runoff.

While getting a tree to grow large enough to take advantage of its shade can take patience and a good many years, there are options that require less time. Here is a look at some fast-growing trees that will shade your home in no time.

The Hybrid Poplar is a fast grower at five to eight feet of new growth per year. It is also the most disease resistant and longest lived of all the hybrid poplars with a life expectancy that exceeds 40 years. It grows in a wide variety of soils and climates. It matures to 60-feet tall and 30-feet wide and could provide cooling shade for your home or yard in as little as three years.

The Autumn Blaze is an extremely fast-growing maple with brilliant red fall color. Under good conditions it can grow three feet or more per year. It is tolerant of clay soils and drought and has a dense, oval head with strong branching. This tree grows in a wide range of climates as high as 50 feet.

The Silver Maple and the Red Maple are very common in eastern North America and are pretty quick growers. The Silver grows to 100 feet.

The Canada Red Chokecherry is a small ornamental deciduous tree that has a beautiful spring floral display with clusters of dainty white flowers, followed by purple fruits. The foliage emerges as bright green turning to a maroon-red in early summer and keeps this color through fall. The tree grows one to two feet per year to a mature height of 20 to 30 feet.

The Weeping Willow is a fast grower with growth rates of three to eight feet per year. While these are known to grow especially well near water there are a variety of hybrids available that are better suited to drier conditions.

The Tulip Tree is known for its beautiful yellow-orange spring flowers and unusual leaves shaped like tulip silhouettes. They grow 15 to 18 inches per year and can reach up to 100 feet. They are good for Zones 5 to 9.

Last year, Ryerson University professor Andrew Millward published a study that showed the environmental benefits of planting trees. Professor Millward and his research team used an online tool to measure the energy savings generated by 577 trees planted by Torontonians on their property between 1997 and 2000. The online tool allowed homeowners to select their city, tree species and location to plant.

The tool – known as the Ontario Residential Tree
Benefits Estimator — provides an estimate of the energy savings, reduction in air pollution and other conservation benefits. Visithttp://www.yourleaf.org/estimator to check it out and then head on down to your nearest garden centre.

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 Unappetizing Truth about Food Waste

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

As the days grow longer and the sun warms our spirits, we cross the threshold into that season when Mother Nature begins to show off her bounty in full glory.

As Canadians who have endured a wickedly cold winter, we need to honour that bounty and one sure-fire way to do so is to minimize the amount of food waste we generate.

We might be inclined to point fingers at food manufacturers or restaurants or grocery stores, those big food consumers, but the truth is that 51 per cent of the estimated $27-billion of wasted food in Canada comes from the leftovers we toss in the trash at home.



Each Canadian family throws out more than $1,000 per year in kitchen waste. To go one further, once the scraps hit the landfill site they become a major contributor to the production of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

A sad yet alarming fact according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is that one-third of food produced to feed people is lost as it moves from field to plate. According to the World Bank, the value of the food waste in Canada is greater than the combined Gross Domestic Product of the 32 poorest countries in the world.
When we discard food we are wasting more than just food. Think about all the resources that go into growing, shipping and producing. Think about all the water that is wasted in the process – that’s all down the drain, too.

But there are things you can do to lessen your food loss and help the environment. Start by taking the produce you buy out of its plastic bag. Might sounds counter-intuitive but airtight wrapping only suffocates your fruits and veggies and speeds up spoilage.
Wait before washing your produce. Moisture promotes the growth of mould and decay so wash just before you plan to eat it.

Don’t hull strawberries or discard fruit stems. This will keep the produce whole as long as possible. Once living cells are broken bacteria starts growing and that’s something you want to avoid.
Plan out your shopping, menus and meals. A lot of times we buy on impulse or out of habit and that doesn’t always serve us well. Will you use up two heads of cauliflower before they start turning black? When you do buy make a point of eating the most perishable items first.

Don’t get roped in to buying a flat of blueberries or two litres of yogurt because the price is right. Unless you’ve got specific plans for those items, some or all may go to waste.

Best-before dates aren’t always carved in stone. Eggs, yogurt and some meats are fine past their dates. Do a sniff test to be sure and if still in doubt throw it out. Time deadlines on more finicky foods such as sushi, cold cuts and soft cheeses are important to follow, though. And bear in mind, that use-by dates don’t usually indicate the safety of the product often refer to how long a food product is able to retain its freshness, taste or nutritional value.

Use up bits and pieces of food items. Find ways to incorporate wilted produce into soup, stew or a casserole. Use blackened bananas to make banana bread. Old bread can be ground into bread crumbs or baked and then cut up into croutons.

Most of us have been guilty of having eyes bigger than our stomachs at one time or another. Maybe it’s time we become more mindful of what we consume, from our in-store purchases to restaurant meals and take-out to the food waste we heap in our garbage and compost bins. And don’t forget to observe Earth Day April 22. Celebrate it with food. Just don’t buy more than you need.

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.

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!
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.



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.



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