Green Industry Articles

Instilling a Love of Nature

When he was a high school science teacher, Bill Costley, an avid outdoorsman who kayaks, canoes, and bikes, tried to instill his students with a love of nature. His hope was that a respect for the environment would, at the very least, make them think twice before tossing a Burger King wrapper from a car window.

Part of that education entailed taking them out of the classroom and offering students a romp in nature, along with canoeing, and hands-on education during trips to South Manitou Island and Isle Royale.

He applies some of those same teaching techniques with NAR's Green Designation when he teaches for the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® (TAAR). Costley serves as the outreach and education director at TAAR, one of the winners of the GRC 2010 EverGreen Award.

Classrooms as Teaching Instruments

Rather than situating NAR's Green Designation classes in character-less, bare-bones spaces and clicking through PowerPoint presentations, Costley often holds such events at local LEED-rated facilities. The sites, themselves, then become classrooms. At one venue, a motel set on major thoroughfare, Costley points out to students that they hear not a bit of street noise. Why? The
walls are about 11-inches thick.

Another spot is the Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa, a Thompsonville, Mich., LEED-rated resort. It's rich with sustainability examples, including a rainwater collector, native plant species, low-VOC products, ground water heat pumps, and energy-efficient lighting.

Costley also invites guest experts to demonstrate how a blower door test and infrared cameras can detect leaks. "Just talking about energy efficiency and not being able to show it to students doesn't mean much," he comments. And at the green classroom sites, he often asks the architect, builder, and owner to talk about the buildings' design and function. "If students see, hear, and
touch these things, they mean a lot more to them," he adds.

Generation next

Costley's personal experiences factor into classes too. He shares details about the retirement house he built nine years ago. Even at a time when green products weren't well understood, he was able to incorporate numerous green strategies, including energy efficient windows with low-e glass, a house properly oriented to catch sunlight, blown-in cellulose insulation, and a highefficiency
furnace.

Costley says it's critical for real estate practitioners to understand green building. He believes that in coming years, houses simply must operate more efficiently, and that rising energy prices will increase interest in such buildings.

And it's more than just real estate practitioners who need the education. He recruits professionals in other building-related businesses to take TAAR's green classes. He believes everyone, from appraisers and lenders to painters and septic tank inspectors, need to understand this new way of building. After all, they're all part of the real estate transaction, and he argues
that if appraisers understand green features, they'll properly value them. Similarly, if bankers understand, they'll be more inclined to offer green mortgages.

An emphasis on green extends to other TAAR classes too. REBAC's Generation Buy course, for instance, addresses ways to market to various generations. Costley points out that Gen Y buyers simply aren't willing to embrace old-school practices, like driving around for hours with practitioners to shop for houses. It's also terribly inefficient. The Generation Buy class addresses
alternatives and technologies that help prospects to preview property in some detail and narrow down choices, instead of driving to houses only to nix them.

TAAR also teaches by example. It was on the forefront of greening its MLS, all staffers have taken NAR's Green Designation Courses, and the office serves as a model of efficiency in how it recycles and cuts waste. It also co-sponsors a green festival and maintains a Website aimed at educating consumers.

Costley says he keeps the quote, "We don't own the land. We only borrow it from our children," visible in classes. "That's something all REALTORS® can promote by taking NAR's Green Designation Courses. I can't think of anything I'd rather do than teach young people about ways to take care of our planet in sustainable ways. They are the future custodians of what we leave behind."

Source: Green REsource Council Newsletter, January 2011