What Does It Mean To Be Green?

filed under: Uncategorized posted on May 21st, 2009

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You see it everywhere- magazines, newspapers, television.  It seems to be a ‘Good Thing’ and “Everyone’s” doing it but what exactly does it Mean to Be Green?

In fact, there are many ‘shades’ of green.  One term you may hear (which is meant to be derogatory) is “Green Washed”.  Yes, it’s rather like white-washed but in terms of environmental sensitivity.  An example of “Green Washing” might be replacing the plastic packaging for an incandescent light bulb with recycled cardboard.  Even though it’s packaged ‘green’, it still doesn’t live up to ‘green standards’.   So then, what does it mean to be Green?

Green can refer to all kinds of things but for now, we’ll look at Green Homes (this is a Real Estate Blog after all!)

Going down the Green Home Checklist, we begin with the Location.  That shouldn’t be a surprise if you remember the first 3 rules of Real Estate- Location, location, location.  But in this sense, location takes on even more meaning.

A Green location is not located on environmentally sensitive areas such as prime farmland or wetlands and endangered species habitats.  The “Greenest” locations are what are known as ‘in-fill’ sites or sites previously developed.  Another important factor is proximity to public transportation; schools, parks, shopping and restaurants so you can choose to leave your car at home and reduce your carbon footprint.  Walking and biking to local destinations is also good for your body and spirit!

Next is size and it does matter with a Green Home.  It’s no surprise that a 5,000 square foot home uses more resources than a 2,000 square foot home.  For a truly sustainable home, choose a size that works for you and the environment.

Building Design is the best Green solution.  If you have the opportunity to build a new home, make sure your architect is making “Green” decisions when orienting the home on the home site.  Passive solar efficiency is taking advantage of all the light without all the heat and utilizing the prevailing breezes.  Situate the windows to allow for maximum natural light and use shading devices such as sunshades, canopies, green screens or best of all, trees, to reduce the need for air conditioning in the warmer summer months.  A light colored roof helps reduce heat absorption and the negative effects of a ‘heat island’.   Green roofs are roofs that are planted with organic materials and they create a landscaped ‘garden’ on your roof.  This only works for very low slope or flat roofs and are being used on many commercial buildings in forward thinking cities like Chicago.

Green Building Materialsare non-toxic, reused or recycled and sustainable building materials.  Some examples are low and No VOC (volatile organic compound) paints or wall coatings, sealants and adhesives, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified woods, recycled glass tiles and strawboard for sub-flooring.  We will go into more detail about these certifications in future articles.

Insulation is key to enery efficiency and materials like soybean or cotton can be used.  You may have heard about the Del Sur House using old denin as it’s insulation.  Just think if you had kept all those old jeans…

Windows and Doors should have Energy Star ratings and should seal tightly to avoid drafts in summer and winter.

Using Energy Efficient appliances is one of the best ways you can make a positive difference to our environment today.  They should have Energy Star ratings and can be used in your new home or the very home you live in today.  Energy efficient lighting and the use of dimmers and occupancy sensors can help to reduce your energy usage and the bill that goes with it.

Renewable Energy such as photovoltaic systems allow you to create your own energy and rely less upon “The Grid”.  These can be expensive but will be coming down in price as demand increases.

Water Efficiency is crucial, particularly to us in Southern California where we have experienced drought over the past nine years.  Water efficient irrigation and fixtures are essential to a “Green” home.  Low flush toilets are code today but there are also dual flush toilets available to help you conserve even more.  With a dual flush toilet, it uses the standard 1.6 gallons to flush away solid waste and 1.1 gallons of water, or less, for liquid wastes.  There are also gadgets for your kitchen sink that not only help you conserve water, they are completely addictive and make preparing food so much cleaner and easier.  You’ll have to check back again for the scoop on Auto Tap… For even more water conservation, grey water systems can be employed to reuse sink and fixture waste water for landscape watering.  In some cities, you can even use grey water for interior toilets.  This will vary per municipality and you’ll have to make sure the dog doesn’t drink out of the toilet…

Indoor Environmental Qualityis achieved with good natural ventilation and ample natural sunlight.  Fresh air and the lack of off-gassing paints and adhesives can greatly improve your families respitory health.

Lastly, landscape choices will help you Green Up your environment.  Large shade trees help to minimize heat islands and help to regulate your interior temperature during the hot summer months.  Choosing drought-tolerant plants and minimizing grass areas also help you conserve water while creating an inviting and relaxing atmosphere for your family to enjoy.  There are also hardscape materials available that allow water to seep through rather than run off that can be used around your home.  This is a great benefit to the water table as well as protection against polutants running off into our beautiful ocean just down the road.

Wow.  I’ll bet you’re sorry you asked about what it means to be green!  As you can see, there’s a lot of opportunity to build a better, greener home as well as green up the one you’re in.  Stay tuned for more articles about how to Green Up your home with a Green Remodel and other Green products that will help you help the planet.

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