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 www.wisustainable.com.

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 epa.gov 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 www.xcelenergy.com
CO2 saved: 20,508 pounds
Cars off the road: 194,881,372.

The Bullfrog Fish Farm

At the Bullfrog Fish Farm…
Folks are more than welcome
to enjoy and share in the
farm’s humble sort of beauty…
Whether you are able to
“cop” a tour…
watch your order being
netted, cleaned and iced…
sample our smoked products…
or experience
the magic and belly laughs of
fishin’ ‘round the pond
with friends and family…

A Little History
A 1987 discovery of a plentiful and pure water resource hidden just below the surface of a marginal and sandy farm field gave vision to fish farming as a way of life! Out of the gumption and wit of rural culture, and after seven years of research, design, construction, and planning, Herby Radmann was able to initiate his fish farm business in March of 1994.

The challenge and opportunity of this vision had become quite the adventure. In making its way, it was realized that the Bullfrog Fish Farm was not only the result of its Sole Proprietor’s hard work, but it had also come to represent the efforts and support of its community.

The Bullfrog Fish Farm is dedicated to the genius of “Bullfrog Fresh” RAINBOW TROUT, Smokin’ GOOD FISH and more!

“We are farmers, processors, mongers and whatever else it takes… We have become proficient in the production, processing, and marketing of Rainbow Trout at the rate of 15,000-20,000 lbs. per year and growing. We serve the folks of the Chippewa Valley Area and our visiting friends with the ultimate in fresh water fish and recreation.”

The Fish Farm Crew
The Farm’s “Eat My Fish” offerings include- farm retail sales, pondside fishing, group outings and educational tours by arrangement, a Family Beer & Beverage Garden, the “Chippewa Valley Trout Route,” and the sale of live trout for stocking purposes.

Recently we have been practicing and developing ourselves in two other markets. First is the reaching out or growing more regionally with our products and services, with a focus being given to our famous smoked trout spread and delicious smoked trout fillets. The second is the production and sale of other fish for both food and stocking purposes…the production of bluegills is well on its way.

Founder: “Preservation of Character Society”.

Using a rural way to tell a story… *ADVOCACY * PROMOTION * EDUCATION

Herby and the Farm Crew have not only weathered the pioneering and complex status of Wisconsin fish farming, they have also found camaraderie with other small or developing farms and rural business. This camaraderie, regard for rural culture, and notions in humanality has brought additional meaning and purpose to the farm and all that they do: A farm with a mission!

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, www.verticalfarm.com, 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

CNNMoney.com 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.)

Green Laundry


by Jen Quinlan

Maybe you don’t get all the chemistry behind why phosphates are bad or what effects doing your laundry can have on the environment. That’s OK! You don’t need to be a chemist to know that every aspect of our lives could probably be a little more ecologically responsible. Thanks to Green Planet’s top experts, we have a few easy-to-follow tips to help you green your laundry room.

Consider multiple wears. One of the simplest ways to cut back on the impact of your laundry is to just plain do less of it. Of course, this doesn’t go for everything, but research by the U.N. Environment Programme found that “you can consume up to five times less energy by wearing your jeans at least three times, washing them in cold water, and skipping the dryer or the iron” (planetgreen.discovery.com/fashion-beauty/save-energy-with-your-jeans.html).

Choose your detergent wisely. There’s plenty to complain about in traditional laundry products. Phosphates, for one, can cause algal blooms that negatively effect ecosystems and marine life. Look for products that are readily biodegradable, made from plant and vegetable products, are free of phosphates, and don’t have petroleum-based ingredients. Healthier for the planet, and in many cases, much gentler on your skin too. Fabric softener can be replaced with a cup of white vinegar added during the rinse cycle. It naturally balances the pH of soap, so you get soft clothes with no chemical residue.

Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate. Those smaller packages filled with concentrated laundry detergent have a smaller carbon footprint (more useful product gets shipped using less fuel and space) and deliver more bang for the buck.

DIY detergent ain’t so bad. With just a handful of ingredients available at most grocery stores, you can create the greenest laundry detergent you can get your hands on. You’ll know exactly what’s in (or out of) it, and you can personalize the fragrance. There are lots of recipes for liquid and powder detergents online; check it out. You might be surprised how easy they are to make.

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Get Energy Star appliances. Maybe investing in a front-load washer isn’t in the budget right now, but when the top-loader is ready to be replaced, consider a top loader with the Energy Star logo; they typically use 18 to 25 gallons per load, compared to 40 gallons for older machines. Another tip: wash in cold water. Not heating the water saves 90% of the energy used for washing and over $100 a year. Also, only run full loads; same goes for the dryer.

Use the line. With over 88 million dryers in the U.S., we’re looking at over a ton of CO2 emissions annually. Harvest free solar energy and avoid the dryer altogether, if you can. Skipping the dryer will also extend the life of your clothes!

Dry wisely. A few things can help improve your drying efficiency if you use the dryer. Clean the lint filter to improve efficiency. Use the moisture sensor if you have one; the machine will shut down once it senses clothes are dry instead of continuing the cycle. Skipping dryer sheets can preserve the life of your fabrics as well as prevent exposure to nasty neurotoxins like toluene and styrene. Try a sachet of dried organic lavender in the dryer for a fresh scent instead of sheets. More great ideas at www.treehugger.com.

Avoid the iron. It zaps energy, deteriorates fabric, and takes up valuable time. Instead, hang clothes up right after the wash cycle; the remaining water in them will work with gravity to pull out most of the wrinkles. Fold dry clothes where you want creases to be, and place them under other clothes in your dresser, which will further help to press them.

Don’t dis’ the laundromat. Commercial washers and dryers are generally more efficient than the domestic versions – bring a good book or enjoy visiting with locals while the wash goes. If you use a drop off service, request green detergents. Get a load of this: a Laundromat in Chicago is even using solar power for their hot H2O; there are some out there embracing alternative energy. If you find one in the area, let us know!

Skip the dry cleaner. Usual dry cleaning is as un-green as it gets, notably due to the health dangers associated with the use of perchloroethylene. We’re talking bladder, esophageal, and cervical cancer; eye, nose, throat and skin irritation; and reduced fertility as potential effects from perc exposure. Try buying clothes that don’t require dry cleaning, and recognize that many delicates can be safely hand washed instead. For items that must be professionally treated, reducing your exposure is a good goal. Greener dry cleaners are coming, like those who use carbon dioxide instead of perc. The EPA has a list of CO2 cleaners that are also on the horizon. Some businesses now use liquid carbon dioxide instead of perc (our nearest CO2 cleaners are in the Twin Cities area, unfortunately: www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/garment/gcrg/cleanguide.pdf).

A Few Top Green Laundry Products

…you can find almost anywhere!

Seventh Generation

This Burlington, Vermont-based company is considered a leader in cultural change in consumer behavior and business ethics. One of the country’s first self-declared “socially responsible” companies, Seventh Generation states that each purchase of their products makes a difference by saving natural resources, reducing pollution, keeping toxic chemicals out of the environment, and making the world a safer place for this and the next seven generations.

Laundry Products: Natural 2X Concentrated Laundry Liquid, Natural Fabric Softener Sheets, Chlorine-free bleach & specially formulated baby laundry liquid

Find it at: Mother Nature Foods, Eau Claire; Target, Eau Claire; Econo Foods, Barron; Island City Co-op, Cumberland; People’s Food Co-op, LaCrosse

Mrs. Meyers (Local Pick!)

Based in Minneapolis, MN, Mrs. Meyers products are named after Thelma Meyers, the mother of the developer of Mrs. Meyers products. Their philosophy: to make straightforward, honest cleaners that smell good and work like the dickens on dirt. Products are aroma therapeutic, based on flowers and scents in Thelma’s garden. Products are biodegradable and cruelty-free, made of naturally derived ingredients whenever possible from corn, sugar cane, coconut, and palm.

Laundry Products: Laundry Detergent, Fabric Softener, Dryer Sheets infused with aroma therapy scents including basil, lavender, lemon verbena, geranium, baby blossom, and scent-free

Find it at: Festival Foods, Eau Claire; Just Local Food, Eau Claire; Little Bare Bottoms, Eau Claire; Menomonie Market Co-op, Menomonie

Ecover

Ecover is an international company active in the production of ecological cleaners. Founded in 1980 in Belgium, they marketed a phosphate-free washing powder even before phosphates were branded as a problem. They are now known as the world’s largest producer of ecological cleaning products. Headquarters remain in Belgium, but they now have sites in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Switzerland, and their products are marketed in more than 26 countries.

Laundry Products: Non-chlorine bleach powder & liquid, fabric softener Sunny Day, delicate wash, stain remover, laundry wash & powder

Find it at: Menomonie Market, Menomonie; Festival Foods, Eau Claire; Econo Foods, Barron; South Suburban Buying Club, Eau Claire; Main Street Market, Rice Lake; Island City Co-op, Cumberland; Indigo Iris, Amery; Going Green, Amery; Natural Alternative, Luck