Editor’s note: Inman News would like to introduce the first column in what will be a regular series from well-known real estate blogger and real estate broker Teresa Boardman.
I hate to admit it but I am old enough to remember the very first Earth Day. It was kind of a new idea, a huge grassroots movement to protest what was going on with the environment and to educate the general public on environmental issues, like air and water quality. These days, being "green" is all the rage again, but much of it doesn’t make sense to me anymore.
There is an advertisement on television for bottled water that is better for the environment because the plastic bottle, a petroleum-based product, is thinner and has less plastic in it. It seems to me that filtered tap water from the kitchen sink poured into a travel tumbler would leave a smaller carbon footprint. Why is a plastic bottle being advertised as "green" when the bottle is not needed in the first place? To sell water of course.
There are green builders too. They build using materials and methods that are kinder to the environment, and design buildings and homes that consume less energy. They should be applauded for doing so. There is another way to look at it though. In my market area there are many vacant homes in need of repair. I am no expert but it seems that if we recycled existing homes instead of building new homes there would be less of an environmental impact. It would also be better for the already established neighborhoods to have people living in every home and they might be more affordable for first-time home buyers who are still in danger of being priced out of the market.
Homes are getting larger all the time. In the ’70s, families of five managed to live in 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom ramblers. Today, the same-sized family will want at least 2,000 square feet and four bedrooms. If the home is "green" and is twice as big as the homes of yesterday does it help the environment? What about the size of the yard and all that grass that is mowed and fertilized? Does anyone ever consider the environmental impact of ornamental grass lawn?
There are green Realtors, too, who specialize in green housing. They drive large vehicles great distances to show those houses. We all know that there is a tax deduction for small businesses that buy large vehicles. Most of us spend a lot of time on the road and for most of those miles we are in the car alone. It is possible to use a smaller, more fuel-efficient car for day-to-day business and then to rent a larger vehicle for those times when more room is needed for clients. Lower fuel costs may add up to as much as the tax deduction for a large vehicle and the cost of renting a vehicle for business is also a tax deduction.
Has being "green" caught on, or is it just a marketing gimmick? Last year, the local news media called me and wanted to talk to my home buyer clients who had decided to purchase homes that are closer to where they work because of the high price of gasoline. None of my buyers at the time were concerned enough about gasoline prices to give up the dream of a larger home on a larger lot in the suburbs. The American Dream is about consumption — not conservation — and will remain so until we run out of choices.
I am not a "green" Realtor, which is nice because I don’t have to drive somewhere to buy bottled water, or purchase a more energy-efficient home in the ‘burbs. I am not buying into the green movement either; it just doesn’t make sense. I am a small-business owner who is always looking at my bottom line, and who remembers the very first Earth Day. Reducing my own carbon footprint translates into higher profits.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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