Earth-Friendly Kitchen Countertops

remodeling-kitchen1There is a saying in the world of environmental sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle-in that order. What does that mean when it comes to replacing your countertops when you remodel your kitchen. Of course Formica countertops are oh, so passé. Corian has also gone out of fashionable favor. Formica is plastic coated with a resin made with formaldehyde and Corian is petroleum based. So, neither of these is very environmentally favorable. Granite is a “with it” alternative and it’s, well, natural, right? Natural yes, but questionable quarrying practices and the high energy costs of shipping such heavy material make granite a less than sustainable choice. So what’s a consumer to do? Here are some great alternative countertop choices that are both beautiful, and environmentally conscious.

Paperstone
Paperstone is one of my favorite eco-friendly countertops. Yes, it’s made from 100% post-consumer waste, recycled paper. It’s combined with proprietary, petroleum-free, phenolic resins that are non-toxic. It’s contemporary look and warm appearance is visually appealing. It’s heat resistant to 350 degrees, a higher rating than most countertops. It’s stronger than wood but shouldn’t be used as a chopping surface. It’s also very stain resistant. Check it out here.

Vetrazzo
Vetrazzo is the original recycled glass surface. Vetrazzo takes discarded glass like decommissioned traffic lights, windshields, used bottles and plate glass windows, mixes them all together and makes a delightful countertop that is a kalaidascope of color. It’s strong like granite, stain and heat resistant. Learn more at http://www.vetrazzo.com/

Enviroglas
EnviroSLAB and EnviroMODE is another recycled glass product that also uses recycled porcelain-like from old tubs, sinks and toilets. Yes really. But it’s also beautiful, stain and heat resistant. This is a very cool new choice. Find out more .

Green Living Tip
Don’t just wait for politicians to solve the energy problem. Lowering your highway speed from 70 mph to 65 mph will lower your CO2 emissions and  your gas price by 19 to 25 cents per gallon.

When you’re ready to buy or sell a home, call me, your going green real estate advisor.

Gayle Fleming, EcoBroker Certified

www.goinggreenhomesva.com              gayle@goinggreenhomesva.com        703-6251-358   

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What To Do With That $8,000 Tax Credit

In order to claim the Home Buyer tax credit you have to be a first time homebuyer.  This can also mean you haven’t owned a primary residence in the last 3 years. You also can’t earn more than $75K as a single person or $150K as a married couple although partial credits can be claimed with higher incomes.  Don’t miss the low interest rate-tax credit boat.  You must purchase by December, 1, 2009.  Here are more details and  FAQs provided by the National Association of Home Builders.  And here’s some REALLY GOOD news.  You can amend your 2009 taxes to claim the credi this year!

So here are some ways you can use your tax credit to reduce your carbon footprint and make some earth-friendly improvements to your new home. 

New energy efficient Energy Star rated appliances

New energy efficient Energy Star rated Furnace and/or A/C unit

Insulate the attic and walls of your home with either cellulose blown in foam insulation

A tankless hot water heater

A solar hot water heater

Sustainable landscaping with native plants and strategically oriented trees

These are just a few ideas of how you can use the homebuyer tax credit.  But if you purchase certain of these items you can also claim an energy efficient tax deduction on your 2009 taxes. And if you live in Virginia and you wait until October 9-12, 2009 to purchase, you can take advantage of the sales tax holiday.

When you’re ready to take advantage of the Stimulous Package and buy a home, call me, your going green real estate advisor.

Gayle Fleming, EcoBroker Certified

www.goinggreenhomesva.com              gayle@goinggreenhomesva.com        703-6251-358   

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First Things First–Seal Your Home

So you buy or already own an older home and have decided to renovate and remodel “green”.  You have visions of a remodeled kitchen and baths–maybe even an addition.  You’re thinking bamboo, no VOC paints, paperstone or recycled glass countertops, and other cool green products.  But wait–before you get to the hip elective stuff, you have to get a good grade on the boring basics , to use a metaphor.

I was in a home built in the 1950’s the other day that had been nicely remodeled.  The kitchen had been gutted and enlarged. They had added a huge designer bath in the lower level–all nicely done.  But the first thing I noticed was that it was freezing in the house.  The house still had the original single pane windows with broken sashes, cracked and rotted wood frames and no storms!  I didn’t go into the attic, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have found good insulation.

The very first step in greening an existing home is to make it more energy efficient.  It’s another one of those substance over style things.  So the first thing to do is have an energy audit. An energy auditor will tell you where your home is leaking energy and what you need to do to tighten the home up.  There’s nothing you can do that’s more important than stopping the energy waste inherent in an old home.  It’s important to have a trained energy auditor to assess your home so that you spend your dollars wisely. Many of the energy improvements that may be recommended are things you can do yourself.

More than half of all energy used in a home is for space heating and cooling and a lot of that energy escapes through poorly sealed and under insulated attics.  Only 20% of all homes built before 1980 were well insulated. 

Windows are another big source of energy loss but they don’t always have to be replaced.  Sometimes just caulking and sealing around the glass can do wonders.  If you do need windows though, make sure they’re Energy Star rated with low-e glass, multiple panes and gas filled.

Here’s a cool graphic I found on the Dept. of Energy website on what you can do to save energy.

And remember, when you’re ready to by or sell in Northern Virginia, call me your Going Green Real Estate Advisor.

Email me at gayle@goinggreenhomesva.com

Call me at 703-62501358

Visit my website at www.goinggreenhomesva.com 

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Beware of Greenwashing When You Buy a Home

Let’s face it–Green is in.  While the pols and pundits debate and pontificate on gas taxes, cap and trade and carbon offsets, in every aspect of our economy business people are trying to move their trade or products into the Green economy.  Some of these businesses are motivated by a sincere interest in the environment and sustainability.  And yes, they would like to make their committment profitable too.  Nothing wrong with that.  But others are motivated purely by the almighty dollar and thus don’t have a working knowledge of what it means to be Green.  The term greenwashing is used to define a product or entity that paints a misleading picture of enviromental friendliness to the public.

Recently I looked at a home that was listed as “Completely Updated Green Home”.  Admittedly this house was a little gem in a very sought after neighborhood.  It had been nicely updated.  When I looked around for “green” features here’s what I found.  The dishwasher and washing machine are Energy Star rated.  The water heater is tankless.  These alone do not a “Green Home” make.   The listing said the roof was “energy efficient” –Huh?????   What does that mean, I wondered.  So I called the listing agent.  I also wanted to know what SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) and the HSPH (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) of the heat pump to determine if it met the requirements for energy efficency or Energy Star Rating.  The agent didn’t have the answers and clearly had no idea what actually constitutes a “green”  home. 

It would have been fine to advertise the home as having some nice “green” features or updates.  But the implication that the home is green was made without any certifiable standards.  One way that you as a consumer,  interested in buying a home with green features can protect yourself, is by selecting an  EcoBroker Certified real estate agent as your representative.  EcoBrokers are trained to look for “green” features or retrofits in existing homes and assess the qualifications of a new home to be Energy Star rated or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

Did You Know: You can get a tax credit for 30% of the cost of your new energy efficient heating and cooling systems.  The maximum credit is $1500.   Check out the Energy Star website for more information.

Visit me at www.goinggreenhomesva.com

Email: gayle@goinggreenhomesva.com

 Or call me, your going green real estate advisor at 703-625-1358

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Nobody Really Wants Houses or Appliances That Are Energy Hogs

 I’m often asked whether as an EcoBroker certified real estate agent, I get lots of  clients asking about energy efficient or eco-friendly homes.  The truth is, I’ve only ever had two clients seek my out specifically because I am a “green” Realtor.  I’ve certainly wondered why buyers are more interested in stainless steel appliances than they are in Energy Star rated ones.  I’m doing my best to educate, one buyer and seller at a time–kind of each one teach one

But I had an epiphany the other day.  Nobody just woke up one morning thinking “I have to have stainless steel appliances and granite countertops”.   Appliance manufacturers and home builders marketed stainless steel appliances and granite countertops to consumers and made us want them. Then, even buyers purchasing resale homes started looking for remodeled kitchens with stainless steel and granite.  That’s advertising and that’s the way the system works.

Now some home builders are starting to aggressively advertise Energy Star rated appliances (which can of course, be stainless steel), better insulated homes, non-toxic paints, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) flooring, etc.  This will make a huge difference in creating  awareness and getting buyers to choose substance and style.

The Home Owner Affordability and Stability Plan (HASP) may help you or someone you know. This $275 Billion initiative is designed to help home owners take advantage of historically low interest rates to either refinace or modify their loans. The loan must be owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to qualify.  This article provides some addtional information. I can put you in touch with a lender if you’re interested in finding out more.

Did You Know?   Households spend an average of $2000 a year on utilities.  Buying Energy Star rated appliances and heating/cooling equipment can save you hundreds of dollars each year.

 

Visit my website at www.goinggreenhomesva.com or Call me, your going green real estate advisor at 703-625-1358

Techno Trash, Earth Day and Other Musings

Welcome to the first Ecogayle blog. I hope I can provide you with some useful and timely information on both real estate and environmental issues that are important to all of us. I welcome your comments and feedback.

A couple of days ago I was cleaning out a cabinet filled with useless computer cds, floppy disks, an old computer mouse, cords–techno trash.  Although I had no need for these things, I knew that the last place they should wind up is in a landfill where they would remain for hundreds of years leeching God knows what into the ground.  Well I found Green Disk, a company that will safely and responsibly recycle and dispose of techno trash for a small fee.  So I filled a box with all my stuff including some old music CDs that are now on on my ipod and shipped it off to them.  The cost–a meer $6.95 for twenty pounds or less.  Check them out at www.greendisk.com and see all the things they take.

Wednesday, April 22nd is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.  There are events all over the country starting this weekend. The EPA’s 5th National Sustainable Design Expo is taking place on the National Mall from April 18th through April 20th.  If you’re looking for something interesting to do tomorrow, this is a great event.  For ways that you can take part in Earth Day activities go to www.earthday.net

By now you’ve surely heard about the $8,000 home buyer tax credit. Here are some things you need to know.  You can’t make more than $75,000 as a single person or $150,000 as a married couple to get the full credit.  You must purchase AND settle by December 1, 2009.  You must be a first time homebuyer OR have not owned in the last three years.  Partial credits can be claimed for incomes up to $95,000 for a single person or $170,000 for a couple.

Did you know?  LED lights bulbs use 80% less energy than incandescent and 40% less than CFLs and contain no mercury. They last up to 50,000 hours.  At 8 hours a day that’s 17 years!