Green Cleaners Tried and Tested

We’ve been there before. Standing in the middle of the cleaning isle at Target surrounded by choices upon choices of sprays, wipes and concentrates. It seems the choices expand every time you shop. Real Simple magazine did some research and found the following choices to be some of the best green cleaners out there.

Best Anti-Germ

Seventh Generation Multi-surface cleaner | Powered by thyme extract to eliminate germs naturally, but it has an overpowering scent so maybe sniff before buying to make sure it’s the right choice for your nose.

Most Luxurious

Murchison-Hume Counter Intelligence | Chemical free, Safe to use in food zones, and with a white grapefruit scent, who can say no to this natural germ fighter.

Most Addictive

Parsley Plus | Nontoxic and effective with a fresh parsley sent, this one is green to infinity. You actually miss cleaning the bathroom.

Best Unscented

Better Life Whatever! | No scents, dyes, or ammonia, this is a great option for sensitive systems.

Best for dried counter-top spots or toothpaste hunks in the sink

Clorox Green Wipes | These powerful wipers get their strength from coconut oil and corn. Best bang for your natural buck.

J.R. Watkins Wipes | Watkins has been making natural products for 100+ years, so they have some serious green history. And the lemony citrus scent doesn’t hurt the job either.

Best for Kitchen Floors and Decks

Shaklee Get Clean Basic H2 | This powerful cleaner uses only teaspoons worth of soap to gallons of water for the longest lasting option. Mix the right strength depending on the job.

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day All Purpose
| The most aromatic choice in rose, geranium, and clove oils, this grime fighter smells heavenly and works with muscle.

Mildest Scent

Ecover All Purpose | Lemony fresh makes this soap the mildest scented while being made by a super-green company – double bonus for you!

Best Bucket for your Buck and the earth!

Mod Bucket | It’s made from recycled soda bottles. This dirt-trapping bucket has channels along the bottom that separate the dirt from the clean soapy water, making your job easier and more green.

Easy Energy Savers

Merrilee Harrigan, VP of education at Alliance to Save Energy says there are some common everyday decisions that can help reduce energy consumption.

  • Bake with ceramic or glass pans instead of metal. They retain heat better so you can cook dinner at 25 degrees lower for the same amount of time.
  • It’s simple and you’ve heard it before, but turn off the light when you leave a room. It’s a myth that turning the light off and on creates an energy surge.
  • When your car idles for more then 30 seconds, turn the car off. Starting the car uses less energy than letting it run.

Real Estate Going “Green” – What Does It Mean To Me?

Going Green Or Sustainable Is Not A Myth!
by Jeff Hoel

In fact, in real estate today, going green isn’t just a trend; it’s a movement. Many people and businesses have changed their directional movement because they believe that every step toward a greener, more sustainable environment is a step in the right direction.

You’ve probably noticed that green is everywhere these days – in the news, politics, fashion, and even technology. So why not in real estate as well? You can hardly escape it, with thousands of messages and ideas coming at us from all sides, it can be easy to get caught up in “green washing” and tune out without thinking about the big picture of how Ggeen actions might work for you.

While it’s easy to get overwhelmed, it’s also simple to begin making a positive impact. According to a recent National Association of Home Builders survey, 61 percent of consumers said they would be willing to spend more than $5,000 upfront to save on utility costs – which green construction targets.

As a result, in my world of real estate today, we see the setting of new standards for both existing and new green homes. You can implement green products and practices into your home that reduce energy consumption, save money, and save the environment for a lot less than you think.

Many homeowners have a strong interest in energy conservation and the environment, but it can be very difficult to imagine how to integrate those ideas into their homes or businesses. Today, in our area, a few interested real estate professionals are transforming the industry by living, working, and educating green.

Seeing the value of Sustainable Management in real estate has not yet taken the country by storm. We hear about the financial woes across the country, some of us have lost jobs or been cut back, so just finding the money to keep our families together takes all of our personal energy and thinking.

But despite challenges, in the normal course of events, we may have made several decisions that have improved our Green rating – and didn’t even know it! If you have added appliances, furnaces, windows or doors, siding, and any number of other things in the normal course of life’s events, the likelihood is that not only have you have improved your energy consumption and reduced your expenditures, you have made a contribution to the sustainable green movement worldwide. I bet you didn’t think of that!

To me, as a Realtor with a Green designation, these upgrades are part of the appeal to entice new buyers, if you were to sell your property. My goal and the goal of Green Designated Realtors, is to make this an important part of the purchase and sale experience.

In today’s world, most home owners’ first experience with sustainable or green involves their pocketbook. People facing a major household replacement are given some choices and then the decision making process begins. Yes, it can cost more money to go with sustainable or green items or parts, but that charge is often mitigated quickly with the longer term benefits and savings.

If you are really new to Green or Sustainability in real estate, a home energy assessment, also known as a home energy audit, is the first step to determine how much energy your home consumes and to evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. An assessment will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of money over time.

A home energy assessment performed by a Certified Rater can include a blower door test to depressurize your home to look for air leaks, an infrared scan of walls and ceilings, a low E detector for windows, and a survey of your lighting and appliances. Verification of improvements and home updates developed from the report can be a major selling point for homeowners. Home energy assessment’s range from $350-500 depending on the size of your home. Always check with your local utility to see if they offer free or discounted energy audits for their customers.

In summary, what you do at home –from the way you handle your garbage to the bulbs you put in your lamps – sends ripples out into your community and the whole planet. Going green isn’t as hard as you might think and it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. Besides, you may already have made the first step.

Learn more at

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Your Carbon-Saving Equation – Do you know what your footprint looks like? Try these energy saving tips and see if your footprint number is enough to offset the use of 1 car for a year. The average car emits around 12,037 pounds of CO2 per year.

Action: Recycle Aluminum and Steel Cans

Totally worth it: When we recycle cans and other metals we save 95 percent of the energy required to manufacture new aluminum cans from scratch and 74 percent of the energy needed to make steel.
CO2 saved: 414 pounds.
Car off the road: Doing it for 1 year is like taking 3,934,118 cars off the road.

Action: Recycle Newspapers and Magazines

Totally worth it: We Americans throw away more paper than anything else. When we recycle we not only save trees but we could cut air pollution by 95%
CO2 saved: 581 pounds
Cars off the road: 5,511,566

Action: Wash Laundry on a Cooler Setting

Totally worth it: Did you know that almost 90% of the energy used to wash your clothes goes to heat up the water.
CO2 saved: 349 pounds
Cars off the road: 3,316,442

Action: Switch Five Light bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs

Totally worth it: We’ve heard it before, but CFL uses 1/3 of the energy and lasts 10 times longer. Changing just 5 bulbs can save you about $400 over the CFL’s lifetime.
CO2 saved: 500 pounds
Cars off the road: 4,751,350

Action: Compost a Fifth of Your Garbage

Totally worth it: Less trash means less energy to haul it away. Plus composing it saves on greenhouse gases that rotting food emits.
CO2 saved: 832 pounds
Cars off the road: 7,906,246

Action: Modify the Temperature on Your Thermostat

Totally worth it: Save yourself about $150 per year when you turn your house down just 4 degrees when no one is home.
CO2 saved: 1,300 pounds
Cars off the road: 12,353,510

Action: Follow the Speed Limit

Totally worth it: You may be in a hurry, but following the speed limit helps your MPG by almost 15%. And it will save you about $200/yr at the pump.
CO2 saved: 1,500 pounds
Cars off the road: 28,121,158

Action: Buy Green Power

Totally worth it: Visit and see if you can’t purchase some green power in your area. Those in the Chippewa Valley with Xcel Energy have the option to purchase wind power. Check out more at
CO2 saved: 20,508 pounds
Cars off the road: 194,881,372.

Vertical Farming

by Kathryn Flehmer

For many people in the Midwest, the word “farm” brings to mind acres of corn, fields of wheat, and barns that house cows and chickens in the sprawling countryside. However, how much longer can this image remain true? Throughout the world, over 80% of the land suitable for farming is in use. The human population is set to increase by an estimated three billion by the year 2050. This means about 109 hectares of new land will be needed to grow enough food, if the traditional farming practices continue. With these estimates, is it possible that this system of farming can persist? Some people don’t think so. Dickson Despommier, a 67-year old microbiologist at Columbia University, believes that the only way we can subsist is by drastically changing the way we farm. Instead of sprawling farms, Despommier envisions 30-story high sky scrapers that could provide enough food and water for 50,000 people a year.

Called vertical farms, these structures would be home to various kinds of fruits, vegetables, and small animals. Despommier told Popular Science magazine that the idea of the vertical farm was the brainchild of Despommier and his students. Students were assigned a project on urban sustainability. They first proposed the production for 13 acres of farmable land on commercial rooftops of Manhattan. They figured, however, that this would feed just 2 percent of the city. Despommier then suggested that they take the 1,723 abandoned buildings in Manhattan and retrofit them to house hydroponics. Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil.

According to Despommier’s website,, 60% of the human population now lives in city buildings. As we are all protected against the elements, Despommier writes, why not extend that coverage to our food-bearing plants as well?

He thinks irrigation plants in these buildings can produce not only enough food, but water for 50,000 people as well, through evapotranspiration. Condensation would come from the leaves of plants, Despommier said. Irrigation would come from the sewage (which would first be de-sludged). Then it is filtered through non-edible barrier plants, and then again through zebra mussels, one of nature’s best filterers. Despommier says that more than 100 strawberries, blueberries, and even miniature banana plants will inhabit these buildings.

Based on a compilation of extensive research, the vertical farm website lists many advantages of vertical farming, including:

  • Year-round crop production
  • No weather-related crop failure
  • Organic food with no herbicide, pesticides, or fertilizers
  • Eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
  • Returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services reported that the construction of a 21-story vertical farm would cost about $84 million to build, $5 million in operating costs each year, and revenue $18 million a year.

The Lay-Out
A 30-story tower, set in the middle of the city, is a bit hard to imagine. So let’s take a verbal tour of this futuristic farm. The building itself will be circular, using space more efficiently and allowing maximum light into the center. Floors are stacked like “poker chips” for flexibility.

Most of the vertical farm’s energy will be supplied by a pellet system. However, there will also be a rotating solar panel that will follow the sun throughout the day, which ensures the most efficient use of solar energy.

In conjunction with the solar panel, there will be a wind spire. This wind spire uses small blades to turn air upwards, instead of conventional windmills, which are too big for cities. The building is coated with titanium oxide-glass panels that collect pollutants and let rain slide down the glass instead of beading; this allows for better light filtration and pollutant cleansing.

The entire vertical farm is regulated from the control room, which allows for year-round, 24-hour agriculture. The crops in the farm could include fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, poultry, and pigs.

How Does It All Work?
According to New York Magazine, the vertical farm also generates its own power from waste and cleans sewage water. Inside the ceiling of each floor, pipes collect moisture through an evapotranspiration recovery system. The pipes work much like a bottle of Coke that sweats on a hot day. Super-cool fluid inside pipes attracts plant water vapors. The moisture, which comes from plants, can then be bottled and sold. Despommier estimates that one vertical farm could recover 60 million gallons of water a year through this method.

Wastewater from the city’s sewage system is treated through filters and is sterilized, resulting in gray water. This water is not drinkable, but can be used for irrigation.

Working on the “Field”
A crop picker monitors fruits and vegetables with an electronic eye, checking for ripeness, temperature, etc. Because maximization of space is a priority, there are two layers of crops on each floor. If small crops are planted, there could be up to ten layers per floor, as well as crops that could hang from the ceiling. Runoff from irrigation is collected at the Pool and is piped into a filtration system. A Feeder directs programmed amounts of water and light to individual crops.

Pellet Power System
The pellet power system is another source of power for the vertical farms. It turns non-edible plant matter (e.g. corn husks) into fuel. It could also process waste from restaurant kitchens. Plant waste is processed into a powder, condensed into clean-burning fuel pellets and becomes steam power.

While it may take a few years for this idea to literally get off the ground, the concept of vertical-farms has caught the attention of many. Vertical-farms use current technologies and all that is needed for this plan to continue, Despommier said, is money.

(Description information courtesy of New York Magazine.)