September 2012 Newsletter

In This Issue

EverGreen Winners: GRC's Spectacular Six
Back to Basics: Shrink Your Plastic Footprint
Selling, Marketing, Saving. Learn It All at Annual Convention
Fall Webinar Delivers Marketing Smarts
Beth Terry's Roadmap for Kicking Your Plastic Habit
This Month's Tips

Newsletter Archive

Previous Issues

EverGreen Winners: GRC's Spectacular Six

Building and living in a LEED-rated home and opening it for tours.

Actively promoting green and educating homeowners.

Championing green education and advocating for green lending.

These are just a handful of the accomplishments of the 2012 EverGreen Award winners.

Brightest green lights

The GRC sought the best and brightest green minds and it just announced this year's EverGreen winners.

Winners' experiences and interests are diverse, but what they have in common is a commitment to advancing the green housing industry.

In the coming months, you'll see complete profiles of each EverGreen winner in the monthly newsletter. Here's a quick picture of each winner.

David Popoff. The Fairfield, Conn.-based Popoff tirelessly works to get the green message out to colleagues and consumers. In the last year, he's had a presence at a long parade of green-focused events in his community, including Live Green Connecticut, Fairfield (Conn.) Earth Day, and the Green Greenwich Energy Conscious Home Show & Forum. In addition, Popoff, a practitioner with William Pitt Sotheby's, Darien, Conn., shares his knowledge and sustainable habits with friends, colleagues, and readers through his teaching and blogging.

Betsy Macomber. Macomber serves up first-hand knowledge about Platinum LEED-rated homes. After all, she and her husband built one and live in one awaiting LEED certification. To help others gain a better understanding of what rain water collection looks like, how PV solar operates and how a LEED house looks and feels, Macomber, a Ramona, Calif., practitioner, invites architects, student groups, and others to take a peek inside.

Dave Porter and Marjory Gentsch. The two are being recognized for their teaching achievements. Porter taps his 30 years of mortgage industry knowledge - gained from working in the real estate and mortgage lending fields - to train tomorrow's practitioners in green best practices. He was instrumental in developing the Greening the MLS Toolkit and he's an advocate of encouraging the lending and valuation industries to recognize the value of green. He regularly shares his knowledge by teaching the NAR Green Designation course.

Gentsch, a 2007 EverGreen award winner and broker and founder of Hill Country Green Team, Austin, Tex., gets another nod this year for her passion and dedication to the GRC's education mission. She's willing to teach NAR Green Designation classes in virtually any Texas city, and she thinks creatively about how to keep students and real estate boards engaged with green.

Laura Stukel. Around Chicago, Stukel's name is synonymous with green real estate because of her deep involvement with the green housing industry and the groups that promote it. This year, Stukel, of L.W. Reedy Real Estate, Elmhurst, Ill., is receiving a special award, the Green Industry Advocate, for her tremendous dedication to advancing sustainability in the real estate sector.

She's been leading the charge to shift the industry from thinking about housing costs only in terms of principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI). Transportation, utilities and maintenance (TUM) costs, she believes, are equally critical in measuring the total cost of homeownership, and she's been promoting her concept of PITI+TUM.

Texas Association of REALTORS®. Real estate associations are key partners in green, and the GRC counts on them to get the word out about the value of green education and to provide training. TAR doesn't disappoint. During 2012, the association has hosted 16 green classes in 2012 and has served 105 students.

Meet them in Orlando

If you're attending the REALTORS® Conference & Expo November 9-12 in Orlando, you can get to know the EverGreen winners face to face.

The GRC will be hosting its annual reception on November 11, 2012 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Rozen Plaza Hotel, and we'll introduce the six EverGreen winners there.

The reception also is an opportunity for you to mix and mingle with fellow GRC members and share information and best practices with like-minded pros from around the country.

For more information and to RSVP for the reception, click here.

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Back to Basics: Shrink Your Plastic Footprint

Beth Terry made a seismic shift when she decided to eliminate as much plastic from her day-to-day life as possible.

It brought her new knowledge, new habits, and a better understanding of the potential dangers that plastic poses to human health and to the environment.

It also brought a book. Terry (read a Q&A with her in this issue) is the author of Plastic Free — How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. In it, she soft sells the green message exquisitely, not inducing guilt, but offering insight, checklists, worksheets, tips and resources to help you and your clients reduce your plastic footprint.

Here are 10 ideas.

1) DIY: Make it yourself. If you want to know what's in the products you use and eat, make them yourself. That includes cleaning products, body soaps, condiments, bread, and so forth.

2) Icing: Opt for stainless steel ice cube trays and popsicle molds and eliminate plastics from your food storage life. Find non-plastic storage products.

3) Personal care: Did you ever read the ingredients of your favorite personal care items? Ever see how they're packaged? Try more natural remedies. For instance, use baking soda with a powder puff in lieu of deodorant sticks. Join the growing "No Poo" method and wash your hair with baking soda, water and apple cider.

4) Ask: Tell family and friends that you're cutting out plastic and ask them not to give you anything made of plastic. When ordering something online, ask for the item to be sent without plastic wrapping. Keep in mind that plastic packing tape is a no-no too.

5) Reuse and swap: Terry acknowledges that sometimes you need a plastic item. No shame in that. But rather than buying it new, opt for used items or rent or borrow them. Sources of secondhand items:

• Yard sales and estate sales and community swaps.
• Thrift stores, vintage shops, and consignment shops.
• Online resources for buying, donating and swapping. See Freecycle, Craigslist, .eBay, Swap.com, GearTrade.com, PaperBackSwap.com, SwapaCD.com, and SwapaDVD.com.
The Reuse Alliance promotes reuse over recycling. Find local exchanges for scrap and salvaged materials.

6) Little things. Small changes done by many add up. For instance, consider the little plastic "table" in the middle of the pizza box. Writes Terry, "Think about it. A single use plastic device meant to save a single use cardboard box. What about all the marine animals that swallow that type of disposable plastic? When ordering, say, 'Please don’t put that little white plastic thing in the middle of the pizza.'" Instead of storing cartons of ice cream, head out to an ice cream shop and have one fresh cone.

7) Salvaged building materials. When you or clients are looking to renovate, look for salvaged and reclaimed materials, and donate your unused building materials.

8) Pack a Zero-Waste Lunch. Save money and save the planet by leaving no trash after you eat.
• Use a sturdy lunchbox or cloth lunch tote.
• Put sandwiches in stainless steel sandwich tins or cloth sandwich bags and carry hot food in stainless steel food containers.
• Package snacks in either cloth or stainless steel tins.
• Tote beverages in reusable bottles.
• Use a cloth napkin and stainless steel or bamboo--not disposable--utensils.
• If you love drinking from straw, carry your own glass one. Because it's an oddity, the straw just might help you to launch a conversation with a stranger.

9) Refill Ink Cartridges. Refilling cartridges is less expensive and has a lower environmental impact. Services like Cartridge World sell refilled cartridges and guarantee their performance, according to Terry. Consider investing in a Silo Ink system if you do lots of printing, she suggests.

10) Take the challenge. Wondering just how much plastic you consume in a week or month? Tally it up. Terry's site offers up some guidelines for something she calls the "Plastic Trash Challenge."

Essentially you save every scrap of plastic during a set period of time, photograph it, and share your findings with others at the site.

It's not an exercise to induce guilt. It's a way for you to see your plastic footprint and assess where you can cut back. For more information, see her Website.

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Selling, Marketing, Saving. Learn It All at Annual Convention

Close the sale on that green-certified home. Help buyers understand the goodness (or badness) that lurks behind the walls of their new home. Help your multi-family clients work solar into their next project.

That's just some of the knowledge you can take home with you if you attend the REALTORS® Conference & Expo (November 9-12) in Orlando. The three topics are among the education sessions you'll find during the expo.

In addition, don't miss out on the business management topics about going paperless.

Wisdom to carry you through 2013

This year's conference brims with new knowledge and ideas specifically geared to your green business that can carry you through the next year and help you better market yourself, your business, and your green listings.

As in past years, the GRC will be sponsoring the Green Pavilion on the expo floor. It's the place to find green-related colleagues, products, and information.

Educators will also be on hand at the Green Pavilion to do 20-minute meet-and-greets and to answer your questions. You can find details on the scheduled meet-and-greets at the conference website.

Solar. Up close

And if you've never seen a solar installation close up, now's your chance. You can hop on a tour of the Orange County Convention Center's (OCCC, the convention venue) solar installation.

The OCCC takes its commitment to sustainability seriously, and it wisely tapped the Florida sunshine to help power the facility. During the convention, you can learn more about that initiative.

GRC reception

Another big event is our annual GRC reception. It's a chance for you to relax and network with fellow green-minded practitioners and applaud the just-named 2012 EverGreen winners.

The free GRC reception will be held on November 11, 2012 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Rozen Plaza Hotel.

For more information and to RSVP for the reception, view the invitation online.
So be sure to join us in Orlando.

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Fall Webinar Delivers Marketing Smarts

The fall series of GRC webinars kicked off with some spectacular marketing insight from Ben Kaufman of GreenWorks Realty in Seattle.

He spent the hour revealing some of his best how-tos on creatively generating new leads, marketing green property, and closing more deals.

He also talked about creating a business that dovetails with your passion and mission.

Your big why

His first recommendation entailed a question. What's your "big why?"

Identify why you got into the real estate business, what drives you, and what's the passion that keeps you in the business.

Then find a way to mesh that passion with lead generation.

Part of his passion, for example, entails making his community better, healthier, and more sustainable.

He marries his passion and business by stepping into his community to educate locals about the benefits of going green, networking with others who can improve the community, and addressing more livable communities when he's talking to groups.

He's found that that passion for bettering his community tends to generate green business leads too.

5 smart points

Here are just five high points from Kaufman's presentation.

1) Forefront of demand cycle. Kaufman pointed out that there's rapid growth in the demand for green properties among consumers. It looks like a long-term trend to him. So kudos to you for being on the forefront of that trend, he said. The challenge is that there aren't enough educated real estate practitioners to service that emerging market demand.

2) Arm yourself with local data. Kaufman discussed some statistics that illustrate that green homes in his market sell at a premium. You should find that local data too, he suggested. See his data in the charts section of this month's newsletter. It can be a tremendous marketing and educational tool and help to validate the assertions you make about the value of green property.

3) Tap builders. Use your data when you're trying to get your foot into the door with home builders. Discuss the premium that green properties command in the market and talk about the benefits builders can realize by adding performance score labels to their homes, for example.

Kaufman also suggested doing some advance footwork on rebate and incentive information (one source is www.DSIREusa.org) that will help builders' bottom line. He pointed out that when you bring unique information and services that can help builders' financially, those builders will be more likely to tap you to market their green properties.

4) Network in corporate America. Local companies have employees moving in and out of town frequently. So build relationships with companies' directors of sustainability. Talk with them about how you can help people who are relocating to find energy efficient properties. He or she may put you in touch with someone within the company who can help you make direct connections with such prospects.

5) Co-marketing with like-minded businesses. Trust is important to consumers, Kaufman, pointed out. And when you've been endorsed by a trusted business and when new clients come to you through a trusted business, it gets your relationship off to a warm start. That's one reason he started co-marketing with a respected local CSA. It's simple. He promotes the CSA to his clients. The CSA promotes Kaufman to its clients.

Green appraisals equal market differentiation 

Kaufman also addressed the green appraisal addendum and its growing importance in the green housing arena, along with how it can be used as a differentiator for properties.

He discussed the greening of the MLS and ways to improve that system with checklists, greater uniformity and standardization, and performance scores.

And, he suggested tapping all the benefits the GRC offers so you can spend more time working on your business rather than in it.
Among the valuable tools he pointed up included the GRC's monthly Webinars and newsletter for education, and the Facebook app and print shop for marketing.

Listen to the entire Webinar to learn more about reaching Gen Y, boosting green lead generation, tapping online resources, and hear Kaufman's take on the future of green real estate.

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Beth Terry's Roadmap for Kicking Your Plastic Habit

Beth Terry once was a frozen dinner-eating material girl in the San Francisco Bay area who, like most people, used plastic--bags, containers, disposable cups, you name it--with abandon.

Then, in 2007, she spotted a photo of an albatross carcass filled with plastic garbage.

The image motivated her to investigate the hidden dangers of plastic.

And it radically changed Terry's world, leading her to eliminate as much plastic from her life as possible and launching her and her book, Plastic Free — How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, into the national spotlight.

Terry talked with the GRC about the dangers of plastic and why you and your clients should care, along with strategies for reducing your plastic footprint.

Talk about the horrifying bird image and the ah-ha moment that followed. 

I'd seen pictures of clubbed seals and trapped polar bears. But the bird picture struck me like no other environmental picture I've ever seen. That bird was full of mundane items I used every day.

Global warming isn't tangible, but this was such a direct link between my actions and another animal. The fact that the bird was a baby and the mothers were feeding them plastic really broke my heart.

Human mothers also are feeding their babies plastics through bottles or breast milk. Even BPA- free products aren't necessarily free of hormone-disrupting chemicals.

Clients of our members are concerned with health and saving money and the environment. How does reducing plastic tie in with those topics? 

Plastic is made from nonrenewable resources, and in producing it, toxins emissions are created. Communities where plastics are products tend to be poor and have high rates of cancer. Women, especially, have other serious health disorders.

Plastic is made into pellets--called nurdles--and they're a source of pollution. They're lightweight and they're often spilled and get swept up in the wind. They're getting eaten by animals.

It's also difficult to recycle. Just because you put something in a recycle bin doesn't mean that it gets recycled, if there's no market for it. Not all plastics are marketable.

When you recycle, sometimes you're just down cycling plastic because it often gets made into something else, like polar fleece, that doesn't get further recycled. It's only slowing down the process from cradle to grave.

In the U.S., most plastic recycling gets shipped to China or other Asian countries. The ways it's recycled in China isn't environmentally friendly because they don't have the same regulations we do. That's a big carbon footprint.

And sometimes it goes in to the land fill or gets incinerated. It doesn't biodegrade, but it breaks down and you end up with tiny molecules of plastic in the environment. Litter gets eaten by animals, makes way into ocean. Fish are eating it and plastic is getting in the food chain and humans could be eating it.

So plastic is detrimental to the environment from beginning to end.

What other dangers lurk?

Those pellets are made into products, and in the process, a lot of chemicals are added.

There are chemicals to make plastic shiny, slippery, more stable, and to add color. Anything added can potentially leech out, especially when it's heated or subjected to rough treatment.

So a container is BPA free, but what else is in it? As consumers, we don't know those chemicals because the recipes are proprietary.

Green real estate practitioners often have lots of influence on consumer choices. Houses teem with plastic, so where can these pros make the greatest impact and reduce consumption?

I mostly focused on consumer purchases. In the book, there are some good resources about housing.

When there isn't a plastic-free alternative, I try to find it secondhand. There's a big movement in the building industry to use reclaimed materials.

There also are organizations working to get PVC phased out as a building material because it's toxic. In plumbing, you can reduce PVC by switching to metal, for example.

Other things to think about are carpet because lots of carpet is made of plastic, and adhesives can be toxic too. I'd rip out the carpet and have nice wood floors.

Blinds and window covers are something to look at because often they're made with PVC.

Recycled denim is an alternative to plastics in insulation.

Steer clear of vinyl siding. See the movie "Blue Vinyl" about a woman's quest to get her parents to get rid of their vinyl siding.

One big push in the housing industry is making homes more energy efficient. In the winter, that entails covering windows with plastic. You see the rub right away. So how do you weigh all these environmental decisions? 

Just one option is considering thermal shades made of fabric. I'm lucky because I live in the Bay area and it doesn't get that cold.
There are lots of times when we do have to weigh our priorities. People always say, 'My favorite thing comes wrapped in plastic. What am I going to do?'

Don't start with your favorite thing. Why start there? It'll feel like an awful sacrifice. There are so many other places in your life where you can reduce the plastic first.

One of my goals is to get people to do that and to think about the various consequences and really focus on the low-hanging fruit first. If you don't find a plastic-free alternative, focus on other things you can do.

You also don't aim to get everyone to be as radical about plastic reduction as you are.

I want people to reduce, be aware, and be concerned. I don't think it's possible for everyone to reduce every bit of plastic consumption. But I try to make lists of what's possible and to give people lots of choices to try. I don't want people to get so hung up and lose the forest through the trees.

I heard your National Public Radio interview. In it, you talked about someone who started buying yogurt in tubs, rather than in individual cartons, and you said that was an important, incremental step.

Yes. Say no to singles. That means no single-serving sizes and single-purpose and single-use items.

You carry all your own containers to stores to buy in bulk. I'm picturing you laden with bags, stainless steel tins, heavy glass containers, and your glass straw. Disabuse me of this notion that you're getting around town with a pack mule. I'm guessing that this just entails some extra planning and new habits?

Yes. It's all pretty light, and I actually do my shopping on by bike because I don't have a car.

I carry jars, fabric bags, lightweight cloth bags, a cloth roll with bamboo utensils, a cloth napkin, and a glass straw.

And I always have a travel mug. Aluminum bottles are often lined with BPA. Also, canned goods have plastic lining too.

What's the reaction? At Whole Foods, it's probably fine. But in other places, do they look at you like you're loony?

No. More often people walk up and say, ' Wow. I didn't know you could do that.'

People are used to accepting the status quo and they don't think to ask for something else and speak up to get policies changed.

You recommend chatting up neighbors, friends, family. Sometimes people don't know what to say. What are good conversation starters?

When people ask questions, I tell people what I'm doing.

I let people--friends and family--know what I'm doing. First, I didn't want them to give me any plastic. So let people know. Just letting people know what you're doing and why and then letting them ask questions is the best approach.

With kids, find a way to explain it and make fun. A mom living in North Carolina took her kids to a beach clean-up. It showed them firsthand what the problems were. In families, you can brainstorm ideas of what to do, instead of dictating that we're doing XYZ.

You're an accountant. Whole Foods is expensive. What about the lifestyle costs? 

I've not figured out how much I've saved. But I don't buy as much stuff. It's a matter of shifting spending. Start with the change that will have the biggest impact.

If you're using bottled water and start carrying a bottle and drinking tap water you're saving money there.

It's a matter of switching spending. Some things cost more, but I save money in other areas. The food I put in my body is more important than other things I might have spent money on.

It's a matter of prioritizing. And being smart and starting with changes that make the biggest impact first. If you're on limited budget, start with bringing your own bag to the store. That doesn't cost anything.

What I liked about your NPR interview was that you weren't aggressive, strident or preachy, and you didn't sound like a wacky treehugger. Talk about that approach.

I know myself. If someone comes to me in that righteous way, I automatically want to resist. So I assume others are like me. I think this approach is more inspiring.

I can get preachy and when I do, it always backfires.

Your book and Website give people good starting points.

It's the book I wish had been available when I started this. It has checklists, worksheets, tips and other people's stories. Plus, the book--the pages, the jacket, the binding--has no plastic.

It's good for those just starting and good for people who are already there.

People have to understand what the issues are with plastic and know that they're not helpless. They do have choices and what they do can make a difference.

For more insight from Terry, visit her Website, and see this month's story, "Back to Basics. Reduce Your Plastic Footprint." Listen to her National Public Radio interview here.

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This Month's Tips

Green Your Halloween

Sure, it seems early to be thinking about Halloween, but the folks at Green Halloween already have a date for its annual National Costume Swap Day. It's October 13.

The site features a slew of ideas for a fun, green holiday. Share the ideas with clients and try some of them, if your office is planning Halloween celebrations.

1. Costume swap. You drop off costumes that your kids no longer use and swap them for gently used ones. Why swap? It keeps loads of stuff from being tossed in landfills and saves you money. Organize or find a swap.

2. Treats. Consider passing out non-food treats. Green Halloween suggests coins, barrettes, and soy or beeswax crayons. For a complete list of ideas, click here. If you're committed to candy treats, be sure they're organic. The site also provides links to green sweets.

3. Green lights. If you're sending kids out with flashlights to keep them safe in the dark, be sure to use rechargeable batteries.

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