The Green Home – And Yard

So sure a garden is always green – it does not need to be made environmentally friendly? Well, yes and no; while we read much information about how to create green housing, less is written about the yards. Some yards are green, but some are not. Many of us still add to the pollution by spraying pesticides on our fruit trees and vegetable patches.

Apart from avoiding this harmful action, there are actually ways to be proactive and to improve the environment, just by using your own back yard. One easy way to be proactive is to start your own compost, and this will mean that you will be improving your own earth by keeping your own bio-degradable scraps. Sometimes composting these scraps will produce microorganisms that will enrich your soil with nutrients. There are many informative articles on the Internet which will tell you how to start composting.

Another way to help the environment is by buying fruit trees. Trees emanate oxygen into the atmosphere, and so help to offset carbon emissions. Many buyers have been driven into a house-sale by the fact that a garden already has fruit trees and an established vegetable patch on it.

Could having your own beehive be a plus when selling a home? It is certainly an environmental plus in today's world. Scientists are alarmed at the lack of bees to pollinate flowers and vegetables; if more home-owners kept a small hive, they would not only have their own honey, but the vegetables and flowers in the local neighborhood would also be pollinated and would there before produce a harvest.

Bee-hives do not need to very big, and they can be positioned in a spot where they will not bother the neighbors. They should not alarm the public, but if you position the hive so that the flight path into it (of about ten feet) is all on your land, there will be no worries. After the first ten feet, your bees are up and buzzing just like everyone else's. Starter sets for beginner bee keepers and various instructions for setting up are all listed on the Internet.

Of course growing vegetables is another 'green garden' habit and can be indulged in at any time of the year. Winter vegetables are now planed now, and brussel sprouts, broccoli, squash, turnip; lettuce and green onion can be planed now in readiness for the winter. If you are wary of green fly or black fly forming, you can always be organic and spray the plants down with diluted washing up liquid

Other ideas to be green in your garden include switching from a gas lawn mower to an electric one and not watering your lawn, but just letting it fade from lush green into muted amber!

Many sub-divisions have been lobbied to allow (or re-instate) clothes lines back into the back yards where they can dry with that outdoorsy smell. If you are unsure of your rights, an umbrella clothes dryer is usually allowed as it is lower than the fines and therefore not easily seen. Line-drying clothes can save quite a bit on your energy bills, and on your 'scented freshener' bill!

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Housing Estates Go Green

According to the US Energy Information Administration, residential buildings are liable for 21% of energy consumption in America, while the construction and operation of buildings is liable for 50% of the greenhouse gases generated by the country. And according to Edward Mazria, an architect from Santa Fe, New Mexico, architects have a lot to answer for.

Mazria cave up a lucrative career in architecture to establish Architecture 2030, a nonprofit organization that aims to challenge the construction industry to halve carbon emissions by 2010 and to be carbon-neutral by 2030. He also travels the US in an effort to increase awareness and responsibility for the building sector's responsibility in the current environmental crisis. To this end, he's written a revealing and informative white paper titled “It's the Architecture Stupid”.

Mazria is not alone in his green housing crusade. Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen, partners in an architecture firm, consider themselves to be guerrilla soldiers fighting for a global cause, essentially reducing the negative impact that housing has on the environment. In 2006 they won a competition to design a zero-energy affordable-housing development in cyclone ravaged New Orleans. Their project is currently under construction and consist of both houses and apartments that will be powered by solar panels and feature built-in rainwater collection systems. They are also designed to make the most of natural ventilation and will be constructed from prefabricated, sustainable materials.

In addition to their New Orleans project, Berman and Kotchen design custom-made, energy efficient homes for the wealthier members of society. As part of their environmental friendly campaign they try to change the way their clients perceive status and space. While many of the more affluent members of society attribute wealth and success with the number of square feet they own, Berman and Kotchen try to persuade them that smaller is in fact better, and that they can have opulence, luxury and good design in a small space.

Wilfred Wang, one of America's more colorful and controversial architects, says that in order for builders to save the planet they need to stop building. He maintains that instead of designing new buildings, or knocking down existing buildings and replacing with completely new structures, architects should retrofit existing buildings to make them more energy efficient.

In response to the environmental and energy crisis, many green housing projects have been proposed or implemented all around the world. In Las Vegas the Enchantment Way Development project was recently announced. The project is part of the US Green Building Council's pilot program to introduce green building techniques and energy efficient design to the region. Part of the project will be devoted to creation of a Desert Tortoise Habitat and to protect indigenous desert growth.

Britain has its first entirely green housing estate project on the cards, with a proposed development in London's Docklands. The project will include wind turbines, rainwater harvesting, organic fruit and vegetable gardens, solar panels, a cycle club and a car pool club. Austria has its own own EcoCity, or Solar City that uses modern insulation material and solar panels to reduce energy consumption and unique urban planning that places all city facilities and amenities with walking distance of each other. Australia has the Aurora housing project that aims to deliver 8,000 energy efficient homes for 25,000 people within the next 20 years. And even India is getting in on the action with Kolkata's Rabi Rashmi Abasan solar powered housing complex.

Many people believe that the current slump in the housing and construction market is exactly the boost that green housing initiatives need to propel themselves into the limelight and bring their advantages to the attention of a desperate public. A report from McGraw-Hill Construction and the National Association of Home Builders reveals that the green housing market is expected to grow from $ 12 billion in 2008 to between $ 40 and $ 70 billion in 2012. This suggests that green housing projects will soon exceed traditional construction methods in both popularity and profit margins.

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Energy Off the Grid

Well, there is a rush to go green, to be green and yet we all get stopped at the starting post trying to find 'green' contractors! While different states and the different levels of government are coming up with green grant incentives, we are still hunting around for information on how to choose a solar contractor.

With solar power being such a new idea, many states have not yet got around to regulating the specifics for a 'solar' contractor. However, there is a renewable energy incentive program for every state and this would be a good place to start. There is also a web site for solar energy trade groups, which lists contractors.

Licensed solar contractors in your area will have been trained and trained in installing PV panels. This training will have been followed by field experience, so if you spot some solar paneling installed in your neighborhood, ask who did the work.

Solar contractors need to know more about their job than just installing the panels on the roof tops. He or she should be able to advise you on the size of panel that will work for your home as well as how it works. Hopefully you will know a little about solar energy before you go into it.

You will also need to negotiate some help if you are filling in any forms for grants etc. These must be discussed with the contractor prior to starting an order to make sure that everything will be up to the specification standards required for the grant. The passage of the inspection will be completed before final payment is made to the contractor.

Your contractor will advise you on an inverter which will change the direct current (DC) power from your panels into the alternating current of AC electricity. AC electricity will power your appliances etc and it is compatible with the grid electricity that comes into your home.

You will also need to buy batteries which will store the excess power from sunny days and allow you to use it as electricity on cloudy days. Your contractor will know about metering, grid connections, excess power and if and how you can pump juice back into the grid.

It may be difficult to find a contractor who has years of experience, so be sure to employ one who is knowledgeable, who can show you previous work, and who's references you can check.

Finally, as with most home building jobs, get three quotes – for exactly the same solar system – from different contractors and compare prices.

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Yale Economic Journal Says Economy Won’t Slow Green Consumerism – I Say Bull!

Call me esoteric, but one periodical I like to read is the Yale Economic Journal. Why you ask? Well, not because I believe everything in it, but I realize the incredible power that school has in the present period, many of the students that go there, are later elevated to high office or Wall Street insider jobs. Not long ago an article in the Yale Economic Journal stated that: “The Slow Economy Will not Slow Green Consumerism.”

Well, as the economic advisor to the Online Think Tank, I have to disagree, as there is no business that is not affected in some way by economic cycles. And a SmartCar still costs some $ 30,000 and let's not forget installing solar panels on a home is not cheap either and financing is not as easy as it once was for home equity loans, Re-Fis or second mortgages.

Now then, it bought be obvious to everyone that the next “bubble” like the Silicon Valley Bubble and the Housing Bubble will be the “green tech” bubble. And funding for green tech will continue into the future whether or not any of these latest technological breakthroughs or the companies that produce them ever make a profit.

So, whereas the green industry will be robust, which I will give the Yale Economic Journal that, I still can not buy into that that current economy (if it gets much worse) will not slow the purchases of green tech by consumers. Anyone who purports otherwise is just involved in silly rhetoric, wishful thinking and pie-in-the-blue-sky business plan proformas. Think on this.

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Green Building Projects in Jackson Hole

Whether it is residential or commercial, the trend to build green in Jackson Hole, WY is growing at a rapid pace. There are many homes and commercial developments aspiring to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in Teton County. The LEED green building rating system is a measurable tool that is evaluated by a third party in regards to sustainability and performance. The four different levels of green that you can achieve include: certified, gold, silver, and platinum levels.

At Teton Village, the newly built Hotel Terra is tracking to receive silver LEED certification which will place it in the elite group of the 5 LEED certified hotels in the United States and the first LEED certified hotel in the state of Wyoming. The hotel's green features include: low or no VOC paint, dual flush toilets, maximizing use of natural light, organic mattresses and bedding, and many more.
Another green project is Pine Glades, located near Snow King in the Town of Jackson. This high-end, townhome community is being built with environmental preservation in mind as all of the units will be utilizing only five out of the property's sevent acres leaving the remaining twelve as open space. One of the main goals of the project is to remove as few trees from the site as possible. They will be accomplishing this by having the road which takes you through the development located underneath a portion of each structure.

In nearby Victor, Idaho, five homes in the Mountainside Village community were the first to be LEED for Homes Certified in the state of Idaho. In 2006, the Mountainside Village neighborhood received the Idaho Smart Growth Award in addition to being the pilot neighborhood for the US Green Building Council's LEED for Neighborhood Development program. This community includes features such as walkable streets, bike paths and a convenient mixed-use center.

All of these projects are examples of how green building is on the rise. In a country where our homes our responsible for 21% of our nation's greenhouse gas emissions, building green can greatly help stop the causes of climate change. Not only does it help protect our environment, but it also lowers energy use in addition to protecting our health. The green train is coming and it looks that Jackson Hole, Wyoming is getting on board.

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What Makes a “Green” Home?

While “green” has become quite the buzzword when it comes to home building and design, what exactly it means is not always clear. There are a few standards for eco-friendly homes, but the term “green” does not have a universal definition beyond being a color made by mixing yellow and blue. So how does a consumer know when a home the builder is calling “green” is actually built with an ecological focus, or at least enough of one to justify its price?

Some of the standards for ecologically conscious homes include increased insulation. To be really energy efficient, a home should be insulated beyond the minimum local requirements. This includes floor insulation, which in some cases is built right in to the concrete foundation. In addition to the walls, floors and ceilings, windows should also be insulating. Therefore, double paned and / or vinyl windows are becoming the “green” standard.

Energy efficiency should be continued through the home. Low water use toilets are a must, and those that have different flush options are extra eco-conscious. These options allow you to have a more efficient flush for solid waste, while liquid waste just gets much more conservative flush. Shower heads, washing machines, faucets and dishwashers can also be equipped to limit the water used without compromising function. Air conditioners, refrigerators, heaters and all other appliances within the home should be of the highest standard of energy efficiency. In addition, compact fluorescent lights should be used through the home, or replaced by LED lights wherever those are suitable.

Beyond energy efficiency, use of non-toxic, ar at least less-toxic, materials is important in “green” homes. Look for a home with low VOC paints. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, which are toxins that gas-off from conventional paint. Remember the lighter the pigment, the lower the VOC's, so white or off-white walls are healthier than some of the bolder, trendy colors. This is because it is the paint base that is quality controlled, but it is impossible to take the VOC's out of some pigments.

Another finishing detail that is popular for eco-friendly homes is bamboo or cork flooring. Bamboo is popular because it grows so quickly. It takes about five years to grow bamboo to the right size to make flooring. It is versatile and comes in a variety of styles and colors. Cork is an option because it is sustainable to harvest – removing cork does not damage the cork tree, as it renews its cork bark every year anyway. Cork makes a lovely, soft and springy floor surface that is also naturally warmer than many other flooring options.

For our final indoor consideration, eco-friendly homes will use more natural fabrics such as wool and cotton for carpets and window dressings.

Outside the home leaves plenty of room for “green” considerations, too. Xeriscaping is a popular means of landscaping utilizing plants native to the area being built in. These plants are naturally drought-resistant because they are acclimatized to the local environment, requiring less watering and maintenance than lawns or beds full of foreign flowers.

Another “green” outdoor trend is utilizing permeable paving stones. These actually absorb water, which then is naturally filtered through the earth and goes back into the ground-water supply. These avoid the toxic run-off that can be caused by water rushing over cement and into drains, carrying oil and exhaust residue straight into the drainage system, which ultimately ends up being near a body of water.

If a home you are looking at is being promoted as being “green”, do not hesitate to ask the builder about some of these features. If they do not measure up, do not buy it.

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Log Homes – An Environmentally Responsible Choice in Home Construction

Environmentally friendly homes are defined as having little impact on the planet during the planning, construction, and life of the home. This includes the energy required to manufacture and transport materials to the construction site. According to one study, our homes account for over 40% of carbon dioxide emissions, which is why it's imperative that we all work to build more sustainable and earth-friendly residences.

Classic log homes are one type of property that has a much smaller carbon footprint than traditionally-built houses. One reason that log homes are excellent choice for environmentally aware buyers is the fact that log homes are made out of a naturally renewable resource. If we require loggers to use responsible logging methods such as re-planting where they cut, then we will have a steady reserve of logs for the future, without damaging the environment.

Another benefit is that in many areas of the country, logs can be locally harvested unlike steel or concrete, which require transport. Delivering materials around the country can be very expensive, emits a high amount of carbon dioxide into the air, and uses up a great deal of oil and gas. By shopping locally, you can reduce the impact your home has on the environment -during all its stages of building.

Another benefit to wood structures is that unlike common building materials, log homes do not require manufacturing or substantive processing, which involves chemicals and energy expenditure. The chemicals that go into making popular building materials are emitted in your home, which can pose a serious health risk for your family. These volatile organic compounds, or VOC's are breathed into our lungs and can get into our bloodstream. Studies are still being done to examine the long term effects of being surrounded by these toxins, but it's a good idea to avoid them at all costs.

In addition to being a non-toxic choice, log homes are also extremely energy efficient alternative to other building materials. Owners of log cabins have long known the benefits of these types of structures in terms of how cozy there are in the wintertime and cool in the summertime. Wood has a natural ability to absorb heat and then release it, which is what enables cabins to stay comfortable all year long.

Log homes are also biodegradable and recyclable -far more so than other building materials. Log cabins can be torn down, and the logs used for other structures. These logs have a long life cycle, as they can be reborn with each new project. And when the log is past its usefulness, it easily biodegrades back into the earth.

By being mindful of what we use to build our homes, we can have a huge impact on improving the health of this planet. In addition, we can lower our energy costs and reduce the amount of indoor toxins that our families breathe in. If we're conscious of the choices we make and look into better alternatives like the log home, we'll all benefit in the long run.

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Environmentally Conscientious Caribbean Holiday Hideaway

When one thinks of the ultimate in luxury holiday breaks, the Caribbean may spring to mind immediately; after all the region is a paradise of sun kissed islands whose shores are caressed by warm azure sea waters and often blessed with a backdrop of gently swaying palms, magnificent mountains and inhabited by friendly and welcoming people. But would you consider the Caribbean region to be one where environmental consciousness is at the forefront of tourism development, where sustainability and ecological concerns dominate current property and hotel developer thinking for example?

Perhaps not – but there is a corner of the Caribbean where a successfully emerging holiday market is being carefully crafted to ensure that the biodiversity, stunning natural landscape and environmental preciousness of the location is protected, preserved and even enhanced. Surprisingly despite, this corner of the Caribbean is Isla Margarita, the off shore tourism paradise belonging to one of the world's largest oil producers, namely Venezuela.

When one thinks of Venezuela it's undoubtedly one would think of the nation as having a green conscience, and yet one would be oh so wrong, because Venezuela's president and government are totally committed to the preservation of the nation's perfection and beauty – no matter what it may cost the likes of mining and oil extraction companies. The president Hugo Chavez recently stated: “We are an oil producing country and that obligates us to take even more care of the environment-on an extreme level-and to avoid contamination, and to reduce contamination in all areas: earth, water and air . ” And nowhere are his green policies more evident than on the island of Isla Margarita, which is central and absolutely key to the nation nation's travel and tourism generated GDP.

The island was one of the first parts of the entire country to benefit from complete water treatment coverage for example, and today the local authorities are working hard to enhance water supplies through the use of desalination plants and wells, and to reserve this incredibly important natural asset by encouraging the careful development of all tourism related amenities and facilities. Constructors of the new luxurious resorts that Isla Margarita is becoming famous for, such as the Caracola Beach and Spa Resort on the outskirts of the beautiful and vibrant city of Porlamar, have been challenged with the task of constructing in an eco sensitive way, of making properties for sale thermally efficient, of harnessing and utilizing the sunshine that Isla Margarita has in abundance for solar power …

Mark Andrew from Emerging Earth, experts on the development of Isla Margarita as a luxury Caribbean travel destination comments: “developments such as the Caracola Beach and Spa Resort are indeed fulfilling the environmental and ecological objective as laid out by the forward thinking Venezuelan government. properties for sale and rent within the development use the latest and best construction methods and materials, what's more, the development itself, like the other five star resorts on the island, utilizes rather than abuses the natural attributes that Isla Margarita has in abundance. ”

With this level of commitment to the preservation of the island, made famous for the perfect pearls that explorers found off its shores hundreds of years ago, Isla Margarita's stunning national parks, white sandy beaches and abundance of rare and incredible flora and fauna such as its sea ​​horses and flamingos, hawks and pelicans will be safe from insensitive over development and from unethical tourism. As we are all encouraged incrementally to do what we can to preserve this amazing planet of ours, it's good to know that there are nations taking their responsibilities very seriously, and passing on their own principles and ideologies to everyone from the property developer behind a luxurious beach and spa resort, to the visitors which are ever increasing in number year after year in Isla Margarita.

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Green Building

Many people are interested in Green Building and Materials these days and have asked me many questions about building green. I decided to share the answers here so everyone can learn.

What is Green Building?

Green Building is about creating a project that is energy efficient, eco-friendly, and has sustainable design. A structure designed to conserve resources and reduce negative impacts on the environment, whether it is energy, water, building materials or land.

What does LEED stand for?

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings put forth by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

What makes a given product Green?

To keep it simple remember the three R's

Reuse – Reduce – Recycle

Whenever we can reuse a product instead of producing a new one from raw materials we save on resource use and energy.

Products that reduce material use are considered green. For example, concrete staining can turn concrete slabs into attractive finished floors, eliminating the need for conventional finish flooring.

Taking a material at the end of its useful life and recycling it to make another product is considered green. For example, plastic bottles after use can be recycled into carpet.

Can you list some Green Building Materials?

There are so many “new” green materials popping up all over the place. Here are a few new ones that interested me and I'm considering using the new, soon-to-be-built green eco-friendly spec home in Paradise Valley.

Soy-Crete – Yes it's made from Soy. It's a soybased concrete stain that is non hazardous, low VOC (volatile organic content), acid free and looks just like acid stained concrete flooring – only healthy.

Eco Top – used for countertops – it's composed of FSC (forest council certified) bamboo blend and mixed with recycled wood fibers. It is available in 7 colors. It will not fade and is extremely durable.

Natural Clay Earth Plaster – adds a rich texture to walls. It's available in 43 colors. A nice bonus is it's fade resistant, non toxic and easy to repair.

Denim Insulation – made from recycled denim. No they're not digging out your old blue jeans from the landfill, instead they're using the scrapes from the manufacturers. It's 100% recyclable and formaldehyde free. And it will not itch like the fiberglass type.

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What is Environmentally Friendly Real Estate?

We are hearing this expression a lot more these days “Green”. The federal government does not have a specific definition for “environmentally-friendly”, so we have to rely on organizations that will set standards to qualify a product or usage of a product to meet minimum requirements to be labeled for energy efficiency or environmental safety. In this time of high oil prices, and climate change, there is a new awareness of how we effect the environment we live in.

Environmental concerns have become popular conversation. While some of the ideas and practices have been around for ages, the practical use of these concepts in our modern times is new. We hear and see it in everything from clothing, alternative fuel, building products, and cleaning products. We are seeing it in businesses (banks, colleges, municipalities) that are cutting back on mail-outs and billing, trying to lessen the use of paper. There is also a lot of discussion on what makes a product “green”. These words have been used loosely and with-out directive or management. There are organizations on a national, state and local level that offer a set of specific guidelines or criteria for products to be able to garnish their label of “environmentally safe” or “energy efficient”. For the most part consumers have to educate themselves and look for reputable companies, read labels and research products.

Green building has become a popular concept and along with all the great products and professionals that are available, there are also plenty of scams and scam artist associated with being “green”. The term “green wash” typically describes the exaggeration or overstatement of terms used as “being green” or “good for the environment”. Check with your local government and other organizational offices for information about product providers or a list of professionals who can guide you in products for your home. From new home builders who are building homes that have to meet energy efficiency standards of the local city ordinances or to products for home owners who want to improve their homes energy efficiency. Local offices can provide information about professionals who have the ability and training to perform energy audits and other services that can help in your decision to make minor or major environmental or energy efficient changes. Consumers need to have the ability to understand how features and products that make claims of being green or good for the environment will be of a particular value to them. As a single consumer you may think that your efforts do not make a difference on the whole but every little step or action adds up to a greater end.

Being green does not mean you need to be wealthy or compromise your comfort and health. In most instances living green should not require any special effort. There are many cities that work with energy companies to help consumers switch to efficient products with rebates and other incentives, including such products as low water flow boilers, programmable thermostats, solar panels, thankless water heaters, fluorescent bulbs, weather stripping and the list goes on. A little energy saving here, a little less trash in our land fills there, one less gallon of gas, all of these can add up to a lot of savings. And not just in monetary gains, but in a safer and cleaner environment for all of us. The world is getting smaller due to technology; maybe if we can make small changes to our own surroundings, there will continue to be changes on a larger scale. So what is environmentally friendly? Maybe it means to live and treat the earth around us like there is a tomorrow.

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Conservation Suggestions to Destination Clubs From the Veras Group

“Greening” businesses have been a popular topic for many years, and a recent conversation on the DestinationClubForums led us to compile some of those suggestions into an article on destination clubs and the environment.

Visit The Veras Group website and you see two short words at the bottom of every page: “Wind Powered.” Much like many of our destination club partners, The Veras Group strides to limit our impact on the environment and designed and power our website using local wind power.

Quintess, Leading Residences of the World absorbs the costs of the energy consumption for each of their properties, factoring in a plethora of factors.

Electricity consumed on a month to month basis for each home

Square footage of common areas
Total number of rooms
Average occupancy rates
Estimated total number of guests per year

Abercrombie & Kent planted a tree for every client that traveled in 2007, totaling over 30,000 new trees. Select Abercrombie & Kent travels even allow clients to personally help save the Earth while they travel. We are eager looking forward to learning more about how the new Abercrombie & Kent Residence Club will continue and further these initiatives in the future.

With the help of our friends at DestinationClubForums, we have created a short list of ways destination clubs can help the environment.

Provide An Easy Way To Recycle While Traveling

The easiest and one of the most effective tools available to destination clubs and their members, providing recycling bins in each home can vastly reduce the amount of waste produced during a member's trip. High Country Club has already begun offering this service to their members.

Use Lower Wattage Bulbs / Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

If every American home replaced one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, enough energy would be saved to light more than 3,000,000 homes for a year and prevent the greenhouse gases equivalent to 800,000 cars. For the destination club finance departments, each bulb saves an average of approximately $ 30 over its lifetime. The average home has approximately 45 light bulbs each. Now with over 750 total homes, the industry could save over $ 1,000,000 for this simple, environmentally friendly fix.

Use Energy Efficient, Low Water Use Appliances

Many appliances, including dishwashers, washers and dryers, are now available available and use less than half of the energy and water consumption used by their counterparts.
Have High Efficiency Heating and Cooling Systems

Between the warm climates of each club's beach properties and the cold ski properties, 69% of the industry's homes (21% in alpine destinations and 48% in beach locations) are in climates requiring either heating or cooling systems. Traditionally, 45 percent of most family's utility bill goes towards heating and cooling. As a nation, the United States emits 150 million tons of carbon dioxide each year from these systems. Just like light bulbs and appliances, heating and cooling units are quickly becoming more cost effective and energy saving options, but until then, there are many smaller fixes that can help lower heating and cooling costs.

Furnace Maintenance

Prior to the furnace being turned on each year, The Veras Group suggests that a technician come and service the unit. This can save over $ 400 each year in heating costs. In addition, furnace filters should be routinely changed. Not only are there health ramifications for dirty furnace filters, but a clean filter can save over $ 60 in heating bills and maximize the heating unit's productivity.

Home Furnishings

Destination club homes are built for large parties. Couches and chairs often are placed in areas to maximize seating space, not considering air flow. Make sure that air vents are exposed and not covered by beds, couches and other furniture throughout the house. For another simple fix, pull couches and chairs slightly away from exterior walls when you are traveling to ski properties. Exterior walls are the coldest areas of the home and positioning seating away from the walls keeps you more comfortable. Likewise, large furniture pieces such as entertainment centers and bookcases should be positioned next to outer walls to provide for greater insulation.

Reverse The Spin of Ceiling Fans During Winter

Most fans have a toggle switch that changes the direction of the blades rotation. In winter, rotating the blades so they rotate clockwise will gather the warm air that collections near the ceiling and pull it down into the heart of the room. Set the fan at its lowest level and you will not even know it's on.

Buy and Build Responsibly

As destination clubs continue to build their presence in the luxury travel industry, they gain more buying power in resort areas. Not only can destination clubs seek out these luxury resorts but can using their own pull in current resorts and push for increased eco-friendly initiatives.
Secure Agreements with Rental Car Companies Offering Hybrids

Between Enterprise, Hertz and Avis, there are over 10,000 hybrid vehicles available for rental through the United States. Destination clubs can secure and expand partnerships with other luxury travel accommodations and airlines. Working with car rental agencies to acquire preferred rates on hybrid vehicles to members is yet another way that clubs can help satisfy their members.

Limit The Number of Lights Used For Guest Arrival

Destination clubs all want to make strong impressions on their members. To welcome members to a home, clubs typically turn on all the lights prior to a member's arrival. Clubs can limit the number of lights turned on before members arrive, and still make a great impression.

Alternative Power Sources

Wind, solar and hydropower are all less polluting than coal energy. We advocate for more destination clubs to work these alternative energy sources into both new and existing homes, and also building / purchasing in areas where alternative energy sources are readily available.

Concierge Services

Training the on-site concierges how to complete the above mentioned items like changing furnace filters and to limit light consumption prior to a member arrival will do wonders in the long run. Not only that, but hiring knowledgeable local hosts who can suggest environmentally friendly options can also greatly impact the amount of energy spent while traveling.

Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully committed citizens can change the world. Destination clubs and destination club members alike have begun to dedicate more time to energy conservation. The Veras Group applauds these initiatives and looks forward to assisting clubs and club members in any way possible to further these goals.

To learn more about destination club travel and green initiatives put into place by these clubs, please feel free to contact The Veras Group.

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Green is More Than a Trend, It’s a Standard in Home Building

Last week (September 17, 2008), Sandy Dunn, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) president and a home builder from Point Pleasant, W.Va. responded to the August 2008 decline in housing starts and builders' reducing production and pulling fewer permits for new homes to help restore better balance between supply and demand positively, stating, “With help from the new first-time home buyer tax credit and improving rates on home mortgages, the long downswing in production activity is slowly but certainly putting us back on track to a healthy housing market. ”

The road back to a healthy housing market must include green and sustainable design and building techniques. Our old ways of building, without concern for the environment and energy consumption need to be replaced with careful consideration of each site environment and ways to incorporate renewable energy. Every positive action counts.

From my vantage point as a green architect, any improvement to any portion of the building process helps the environment. An incredible 40% of energy consumption in the United States is attributed to residential buildings, and of that, 32% is consumed in heating and cooling.

Homeowners desiring to make the largest effect for the smallest effort & investment will build a better insulated, energy efficient home with renewable heating and cooling systems, utilizing natural day-lighting and incorporating a renewable energy system such as solar to produce hot water and / or electricity or geothermal system, which uses stable ground or water temperatures near the earth's surface to provide heating, air conditioning, and in most cases, hot water.

Small steps in aggregate will have an awful impact on our global environment – and give you a comfortable, energy efficient home with a great return on your investment.

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3 Major Solar Panel Mistakes – Plan Your Solar Panel Array Properly

Almost every homeowner who is interested in installing solar panels in their home goes through their planning stage looking at their house, how much power they consume, what kind of panels are out there and what is the final cost.

What follows are the tree most common mistakes that homeowners make when researching solar panels. They have nothing to do with average sunlight, solar cell efficiency or rooftop square footage but they could make or break your solar panel plans.

Mistake No. One : Not checking with local authorities. You have up to three sets of people you need to get approval from if you live in a city, suburb or especially a historical district (people in rural areas usually have little to worry about here).

Check with your local zoning board. There may be restrictions on what you can do to the exterior of your house, especially if your southern exposure faces the street. Sometimes it is as simple as applying for a zoning variance. It may take a few weeks to get approval but cover your behind! One pesky neighbor could bring your solar dreams to a halt.

The building inspector needs to be sure you are not putting your roof in jeopardy. Solar panel are heavy and roofs are not designed, generally, to carry loads. You may need to reinvine the area over which you are planning to install the panels. Most newer homes, however, should not need altering.

If you belong to a homeowner's association make double sure you have the latest bylaws in hand. Make sure you do not need approval by the association to install panels. I would even suggest having a lawyer look over the regulations before you start if you have any questions about it. A couple hours of a lawyer's fees is cheaper than dismantling a solar array.

Mistake No. Two : All or nothing, full speed ahead. Solar systems are modular. One panel connects to another and another until you run out of panels and then on to the inverter. If you do planning right, you can install what you can afford now and come back to install more later. My dad always said, “If you're buying something that you intend to keep for more than five years, buy the highest quality you can afford.”

His advice plays well here. Fewer higher efficiency panels now can be added to next season. But if you cover your entire roof with lower efficiency, cheaper panels now, you have no place to expand later. If you've done the math, you know how many kilowatts you can get out of solar arrays of different efficiencies.

The more efficient the panel, the more energy you can create in a given space. A roof filled with high efficiency panels may take two or three years to afford but they may provide a profit over a full roof of low efficiency panels that do not quite generate enough power.

Mistake No. Three : Not checking with your uncle. Even though your local authorities may put a roadblock or two in your way (see Mistake No. 1), your state and federal government has plans in place to help you go solar. ' At the time of writing, there are federal tax credits available to homeowners who install solar panels. They may increase or go away but it is in your best interest to find out if there is money on the table.

Many state governments have plans to reimburse homeowners up to 70% of the cost of installing solar panels. Your mileage may vary depending on where you live. But you should check them out. Many of these plans have proven so popular that there are many people on waiting lists while the state gets more dollars to fund the programs.

Get your name on them and get reimbursed for taking a load off of the energy utilities in your state.

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Go Green in the City Part 2 – Eco-Friendly Remodeling For Residential and Commercial Real Estate

As gas prices increase more homebuyers are moving closer to the city, their jobs and hubs of activity to decrease travel costs for themselves and the whole family. In the article “Green in the City Part 1” we discussed compact fluorescent light bulbs, tankless water heaters, low flow toilets and how to use power strips and surge protectors to conserve energy. In rural and urban environments green building and eco-friendly renovations that work for existing homes, town homes, condos and apartments are in higher demand. Whether you have a large budget or almost no budget you can reduce your carbon footprint and energy costs. Green home remodeling and practices are a cost effective way to save energy and money every month.

Low Flow Faucets and Shower Heads

Another great addition to any home or commercial property is low flow faucets and showerheads. Low flow faucets and showerheads use less GPM or gallons per minute, yet they still provide the necessary water pressure. Efficiency faucets and showerheads can be purchased in a variety of styles to suit your personal needs.

Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Windows and Doors

Leaks around windows and doors can be one of the worst energy drains in older residential and commercial real estate. If you are not sure where your leaks are on a windy day take a candle and place it in front of different windows and doors. Watch the flame and see where the air originates. If you have traditional, single pane windows with storm windows then consider caulking the storm window frame on both the interior and the exterior of the house. If you have a larger budget invest in new, double pane windows, especially Low E double pane windows, which have a thin layer of silver that lets in light, but not heat. To seal old doors consider re-hanging doors that are loose or have difficulty closing. Also add door sweeps to the bottom to keep air from escaping along with weather stripping.

Avoid Chemical Exposure with All Natural Carpets and Flooring

The off gassing of new carpet and even some rugs has generated a lot of consumer concern. If you are replacing carpet be sure and buy carpet made with all natural materials or at least unroll the carpet outside in order to allow the chemicals to dissipate. This helps you avoid poor indoor air quality. To avoid chemicals found in flooring consider eco-friendly options such as linoleum alternatives, pressed cork or bamboo flooring.

Protect Indoor Air Quality with Low or No VOC Paints

Residential and commercial real estate can also become greener by using low or no VOC paints, stains, and finishes. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) are found in many different products but especially in paints, lacquers and finishes. VOC's are highly toxic, like chemicals found in the off gassing of new carpet. Nontoxic, VOC-free paints or low-VOC can be found in any color and are now commonly found online and in hardware stores across the country.

For more information about green building and eco-friendly renovations read “Go Green In The City Part 1”.

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Go Green in the City Part 1 – Eco-Friendly Remodeling For Residential and Commercial Real Estate

As gas prices increase more homebuyers are moving closer to the city, their jobs and hubs of activity to decrease travel costs for themselves and the whole family. As more people embrace urban environments green building and eco-friendly renovations that work for existing homes, town homes, condos and apartments are in higher demand. Whether you have a large budget or almost no budget, there are ways to reduce your carbon footprint and energy costs. Green home remodeling can benefit you, the environment and the future of our entire world.

The Truth About Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

There is a lot of controversialy these days about the green value of compact fluorescent light bulbs, better known as those spiral light bulbs that only use a small percentage of the wattage traditional light bulbs. As a positive, these light bulbs do not use near as much electricity as traditional bulbs and often last for years at a time. Then it was reported that if these bulbs are broken a small amount of mercury is released. After the harmful impact mercury has on the environment the positives of these bulbs outweigh the negatives. Although these bulbs contain a small amount of mercury the amount of electricity that they save greatly reduces the amount of mercury released by electrical plants. When using compact fluorescent bulbs take extra care not to break them and dispose of them carefully. Recycling of compact fluorescents has started in various parts of the US. If possible find a recycling center near you

Make the Most Out of Your Surge Protectors and Power Strips

Many appliances, including computer equipment, stereos, TV's and cell phone chargers all draw electrical energy even when turned off. If they sit plugged in all the time electricity is wasted. In order to avoid this waste purchase surge protector power strips for various areas and plug multiple items into the strips. Make sure the power strips are easy to reach and when printers, speakers, computers, radios, cell phone chargers, toasters, coffee makers, etc are not in use unplug the power strip and electricity will be conserved. This may seem like a simple tactic, but imagine if everyone became aware of this small electrical drain and took action. Our carbon footprint as a country would decrease dramatically. When it comes to energy conservation every lit bit counts.

The Best Ways to Heat Your Water

If you own your condo, apartment or home in the city one of the best ways to save energy and money is to purchase a tankless water heater. Energy efficient water heaters save thousands of dollars during the first three to five years. This kind of feature will also work as an excellent incentive for buyers if you sell in the future. If a new water heater is not in the budget considering turning off your water heater when you are out of town or purchase and install a timer. Most often even older water heaters maintain hot water for approximately 24-48 hours after they have been turned off. Why pay for hot water when you are not using it? Another simple idea is to lower the temperature on your existing water heater. Many older water heaters are set at a scaling 140 degrees. Lowering thermostat will conserve energy and it's totally free.

Low Flow Toilets and Tricks to Conserve Water

Leaky toilets and the water waste caused by older toilets is common in existing homes and commercial properties. Older toilets often use between 3 and 5 gallons per flush. To check and see if your toilet is leaking place food coloring in the back of the tank, after an hour without flushing if the bowl turns color you have found a leak. If you have the money a low flow toilet is your best bet. Made specifically for energy efficiency, low flow toilets are another excellent selling point. If you have a small budget or no budget consider this well-known trick. Take any weighed, solid object, like a glass jar, and place it in your toilet tank. This object will take up space so your tank fills with less water than usual. Instead of 3 to 5 gallons each flush you will now use less.

Stay tuned for “Green in the City Part 2” for more great green tips on how to conserve energy and save money.

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