Would you like to help your clients save money and "go green" at the same time? If so, today’s column will show you how.

Karen Storey of EcoGreenRE.com is a co-author and trainer for the National Association of Realtors’ green designation. Storey recently spoke at the AFIRE (Awesome Females in Real Estate) conference and shared a wealth of ways to improve your bottom line by going green.

According to Storey, "going green" comes down to three words: "recycling," "reusing" and "reducing." Most people are familiar with "recycling." For example, recycling a single aluminum can can power a television from three to four hours. In terms of "reusing," a 3,000-square-foot house that collects roof water from a 1-inch rainfall would save 1,875 gallons of water. In an area that receives 20 inches of rain per year, that’s 37,500 gallons of water that could be reused.

Until recently, solar energy has been more expensive to produce per kilowatt-hour compared to traditional energy sources. Vivian Albers has headed up a research unit in South Africa that has created a "solar film" that is half the width of a human hair. A 30-by-10-foot piece is enough to power the typical U.S. home. Best of all, the cost is less than using coal.

"Reducing" what you use is surprisingly simple. Fixing a dripping faucet saves a $1 per month. Low-flow faucets can reduce water consumption up to 60 percent. Energy Star appliances save 20 to 30 percent in costs.

For example, the LG clothes washer uses only 16 gallons of water vs. the typical 60 gallons used by traditional models. Assuming that the typical family washes eight loads per week, that’s a savings of 18,304 gallons of water per year. Furthermore, as the washer spins, it lowers your electrical costs by generating part of its own electricity. You can save even more by plugging all of your appliances into an Energy Star power strip.

Best of all, when you replace old appliances, upgrade windows, remodel an existing home, or build a new home, there are a number of federal, state and local programs that pay hefty rebates. You can search these rebates at the Energy Star site. For an additional list of 15 projects for under $500 that you can make your property more green, visit the U.S. Green Building Council site.

One of the goals of "going green" is to become "sustainable," which means that you create as much energy as you use. This is the ultimate in terms of living in harmony with your surroundings. …CONTINUED

You can also become more "green" based upon the types of products that you choose. Instead of using bleach, Borax is better for the environment. Instead of chemical window cleaners, use 2 cups of water with a cup of vinegar. Reduce the pollutants in your home by 70 percent simply by taking off your shoes when you come home. Furthermore, if you find yourself dusting everyday, this can be a sign that your home has mold. Also, instead of using air fresheners to cover odors in your home, you can use spider plants to clean the air. According to Storey, you could place a human and several spider plants in a sealed box and the human would have enough oxygen to exist indefinitely.

According to MotherEarthNews.com, you can also eliminate a number of insect pests by "interplanting your vegetables with borage, lavender, sage, parsley, dill, and other aromatic herbs. Marigolds seem especially distasteful to large number of bugs … so mix goodly numbers of this flower in with you produce plantings … A half-buried bottle that contains some stale beer will attract and happily drown destructive bugs."

Storey also recommended using "green mortgages." These mortgage tools allow buyers to purchase up to 18 percent more in purchase price. They are especially useful in those cases where the buyer plans to remodel or upgrade the property. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and many credit unions have allocated billions of dollars for new businesses and mortgages that make properties more energy-efficient.

Not all aspects of "going green" however, are safe. There are charlatans that engage in what is known as "green washing." They say their products are "green" even though they are not. To discover whether a home or building is "green," look for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation. Avoid being a victim of "green washing" by carefully investigating what you purchase.

Also, research sometimes disproves our assumptions about what is best for the environment. For example, the U.S. is phasing out traditional light bulbs in favor of the new compact fluorescent bulbs. These new bulbs, however, contain mercury, which is highly toxic. If you break one, you need to clear the room for 15 minutes, remove it with rubber gloves, and discard it separately since the mercury can seriously pollute local drinking water. An article from the Boston Globe outlines the dangers, while new research from the United Kingdom warns of additional dangers, including triggering of epileptic seizures, eczema, and increased lupus symptoms.

Going "green" protects the environment and can provide you with substantial savings. There’s no better time than now to start!

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com.


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