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Green Business Owners: Don’t Buy Into Your Own Press

August 3rd, 2010 · Uncategorized

This was the opening line of an article that I read this morning on GreenBiz regarding 7 reasons why going green is hard to do.  The article opens discussing how 1 in 4 Americans wants to make good environmental decisions and how we need to get the other 75% involved.  Now, this is not a new problem.  In fact, that exact reason is why I started Turning Houston Green.  To educate.  Honestly, I was quite disturbed about several items noted throughout this article.

Honestly, the tidbit on ‘going green’ is not difficult.  The problem with not getting the other 75% to go ‘green’ is because that percentage really does believe that it is difficult.  In reality, it is easy.  The difficult part is having to somewhat change our thinking from instant gratification to considering long term benefits.  The truth of the matter is that we have become a disposable society.  To an extent we have become used to being able to purchase a cheap, for example, washer and dryer.  It may only last a few years, but it gives me money to go out to eat, or buy my child clothing.

We have been told through marketing how we should buy.  Marketing companies have mastered being able to strategically place a commercial on Nickelodeon about how they have added Fiber to their cereal with bright colors and cool animated characters, yet the news of how many chemicals are in the box and how they are not even regulated by FDA goes unnoticed.

I suppose what I am getting at is that we, as a society, do not necessarily *not* want to ‘buy’ in to the Environmental movement, many just do not understand it.  This exact topic I have written about on my site more than once.   Most often everything is equal to tons of CO2.  This is not the only benefit and consumers WILL NOT buy what they DO NOT understand.  The article on GreenBiz mentions Seventh Generation and how they have done well.  That is because they explained their benefit.  Energy Efficiency has done quite well in the arena of Greening up America but that is because people understand ‘Change lightbulb, Save money’.

From here, I am going to point out what I disagree with and why.

  1. Socio-Economic rise of women:  This is nothing new.  Women make appx. 80% of the buying decisions in the household and it is suggested in the article that with delayed marriage, etc. this is unsustainable due to the desire for convenience goods.  I assure you this does not have to do with delayed marriage and women working.  This is our society.  Last year I went to a picnic at my son’s school and out of 12 parents, only 2 of us actually packed a picnic.  The rest brought either Lunchables, Chick Fil A or other fast food choices.   To an extent I agree that interruption marketing is the root cause of this.  Instead of blaming it on that though, I again relate it to a changing society.  Even the landscape of family picnic has changed.  The problem that marketing departments face on sustainability is not Women being the buying power, it is explaining benefits.  Cause and Effect, and how we need to get back to our roots.
  2. Conservation is Anti-Ethical to a Consumer based society:  WHAT?!  Coming from a ‘green’ site I was absolutely amazed at this statement.  What does recycling have to do with consumerism?  It creates jobs.  What does organic have to do with it?  It creates jobs.  Even reusing items such as swapping clothes on Thredup for kids helps out the economy by using USPS AND reduces the amount of textiles in the landfill.
  3. Don’t Divide, Multiply:  This was supposed to be a positive in the article.  It is saying that marketers should not target a narrow market.  I agree, but only if you want to take the fast track to bankruptcy.   Everyone has something that they are passionate about.  Someone looking for energy efficiency and saving money is not exactly the person that you want to market your organic, specialty clothing line to.  Those with sensitivities? Probably.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Ditch the term green and use real words such as healthy, energy efficient, etc.

Items that I did agree with:

  1. Habits are hard to break:  This was a negative but the single most important thing that we should keep in mind while trying to reach either the green consumer or the others in between.  Maybe I am naive but I believe that most understand their buying decisions, whether it be the microwavable lasagna they buy for dinner or a cheap light bulb, is wrong.  We need to maximize on that.  Instead of telling people how hard it is to go green, SHOW them it isn’t.  It does not take anymore time to put a plastic bottle in to a recycling bin than it does a trash can.  If you are going to microwave a lasagna for 45 minutes, try cooking real food in 20.
  2. Individuals are a catalyst for change:  Absolutely.  This is why buying local is a huge part of the environmental movement.  Every time you purchase something you are making a decision.  Try out the GoLocalHouston program.  Buy from a local farmer or small business.  Support your local economy and not so much those that ship in products from overseas.   The environmental benefits are endless if you do this.

So my message to green business owners, don’t buy in to the hype.  Do you want to know how to attract customers?  Don’t look at other green companies.  Watch a Zoloft commercial or read the Sunday Coupons.  Heck, even watch your kids’ favorite television channel with them and watch them go nuts over wanting to go to Chuck E Cheese for their birthday party.  That is how you attract potential customers.  SHOW them the benefit, either physically or emotionally, tangible or not.  Don’t tell them.

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Furnished Healthy Home For Lease in Houston, Tx

July 14th, 2010 · Uncategorized


Healthy Home for Lease in Houston



Overview
Maps
Photos
Features
Description

Photos

Market Stats

$2,800
Single Family Home
For Sale
Main Features
4 Bedrooms
2 Bathrooms
Interior: 2298 sqft
Lot: 8,086 sqft
Location
6911 Blandford Ln
Houston, TX 77055
To get updates on open home dates and other property events, please click the “Like” button below:


Stephanie Edwards-Musa

Stephanie Edwards-Musa

Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors
(281) 635-9444
steph@turninghoustongreen.com
http://www.turninghoustongreen.com

Listed by: Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors

See more Houston, TX real estate for sale

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Can Houston Increase Their Recycling Rate by 200%

March 8th, 2010 · Green Houston Events, Green Houston Topics, Green Service Providers

In case you missed it, over 600 trees and a 2 acre native garden were planted in our great City of Houston this weekend as part of Keep Houston Beautiful and the Great American Cleanup.  There were six sites across town that participated in the KHB event with various objectives.   I had the opportunity to go and check out the Esplanade Project at Weiss Park near The Houstonian Hotel which was proudly sponsored by Greenstar Recycling.  If you are heading towards the Galleria on 610 from 290 - Look towards the right before Woodway and you should be able to see site.

When I arrived around 10 am, there had to be over 100 people already there and hard at work planting trees and other plants.  Greenstar employees, community members of all ages combined with families were all joining for the same cause.  What an amazing sight.

In the middle of all the action was the CEO of Greenstar Recycling Mike Simmons with a shovel in hand and hard at work.  I was able to pull him to the side for a moment and ask a few questions.  My initial question to you at the beginning of the post was ‘Can Houston Increase the Recycling Rate by 200%?‘ – I’m now convinced that if we do, Greenstar will have a huge part in the effort. 

First, Greenstar Recycling is a leading single stream recycler in the State of Texas and their offices are based out of Houston.  As you will find in a minute when I talk about my conversation with Mr. Simmons, single stream recycling brings convenience to homeowners and businesses by allowing you to place all recyclables in one container as opposed to separating in to different bins – And for those of you that follow my blog, you know how I feel about our ‘Society of Convenience’.  This seems like a natural solution to our recycling needs and to help it go mainstream.  Greenstar currently handles appx. 2 million tons of recyclables per year and is only focused on sustainability.  Recycling is all they do.  They have no interest in landfills except for reducing how much solid waste is dumped in them.

When I asked Mr. Simmons regarding their involvement with Keep Houston Beautiful and the Esplanade Project he responded “We are a key sponsor for both Keep Houston Beautiful and Keep Texas Beautiful because we believe that global problems can be solved at a local level.”  He was excited that so many community members and families had shown up in support to plant trees and help make Houstonians proud of their City. 

The next question I had was regarding the significance of single stream recycling.  Did you know that by converting to single stream:

  • San Antonio increased recycling by 200%
  • Dallas by 300%
  • Austin by 60%

The competitor in me says that Houston can do better.  Right?  Mr. Simmons stated that  “People want to do the right thing… When recycling is made easy, people do it”  so Greenstar works closely with Municipalities to help make recycling convenient for residents.  They believe that Texas can be a National leader in Recycling and that single stream recycling is the answer for Houston.

For the readers that chimed in on Facebook, I did indeed ask if they were working to provide recycling options in Galveston, Montgomery County and in the Unincorporated parts of Harris County.  The answer is yes.  They are doing what they can in speaking with communities and municipalities.  But something tells me like anything else, we need to demand it to make it happen quicker.  Let your areas know that we WANT recycling options.  

Do you think that single stream recycling is the answer to Houston’s recycling needs? 

Thank you to Mike Simmons and everyone else from Greenstar that helped in getting these questions answered.  I’m excited to see how Greenstar can help change the recycling landscape in Houston and surrounding areas.

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Do You Have ‘Green’ Cosmetics?

February 25th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Over the past couple of weeks I have personally experienced some interesting sensitivities to different chemicals and have tied it back to shortly after a new cleaner that was used for the bathrooms. It’s been really annoying – skin irritations, eye irritations, etc.

So, this has me on the look out for new products to use. I’ll be heading down to New Living to pick up some cleaning supplies but I’m also on the look out for Makeup, shampoo, soaps, etc.

Do you have a product that I should try? I’m thinking about doing a series on Turning Houston Green about it if the products can be purchased locally.

What do you recommend? I would like for a full list of ingredients prior to using it though.

Try me at Steph@TurningHoustonGreen.com or just leave a comment. Interested in hearing what kind of alternatives are out there for beauty products in Houston!!

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Everything Is Green Or Greenwashing

February 17th, 2010 · Green Products, Green Service Providers

Everything is green or so it seems by reading advertisements, new start up businesses and products that are coming out on to the market.

I am even getting some really interesting requests to be added to the Business Directory on my site.  Quite honestly I find it scary, sickening, exciting and fantastic all at the same time.

Venturing out to various networking groups I meet some really interesting people doing fascinating things around town – and then I meet some that are just dumping more in to the Greenwashing that is becoming ever so common.  This was also discussed in a ‘Green Lifestyle’ class that I taught at Lone Star College at Cy Fair.  There were some absolutely great questions that arose out of that and so I thought I would address them here as well.  I wanted to put out some guidelines that you should consider when wanting to make some energy efficient, healthy or otherwise green changes within the home.

Certification of some kind -

Over the past year I have seen a tremendous increase in companies around Houston that advertise doing Energy Audits.  The costs range from $99 up to over $1000 – They range from doing a visual check to blower door and thermal scans of the property.  First and foremost the thing to consider is that there is a TRUE science between energy efficiency and indoor air quality.  One change can negatively affect the other.

If you are going to have an Energy Audit done at your property request one that is Certified to do so.  Check out Natresnet to find one near you.  A ‘visual’ exam that you pay through the nose for may disappoint you in the end.  Make sure you get a professional.

Visual exams are GREAT as long as they are done by the right professional that has been properly trained.

Claims of Saving you Money -

True Green industry professionals can save you money with changes that you make – But the really good ones will tell you if you are wasting your time or need to make other changes first.  Ask for documentation on savings for your particular home.  Ask if they have a guarantee and make sure that if they are selling you a product that claims to be cheaper than another ask for documentation from the manufacturer stating that the PERFORMANCE is equal.

Often times even though the products are identical in their purpose, it may be apples to oranges in performance.  A perfect example here would be new HVAC equipment or windows.

Certification of Products -

This is the interesting one lately.  All kinds of ‘self’ or ‘company’ certifications seem to be popping up.  Some will give you a hot water heater blanket, a couple dimmer switches and a tube of caulk and call your home green.

This is so not the case my friends.  Do your research to make sure you are getting what you really think you are.  Here is a good wiki explaining some of the hidden trade offs.

Testing -

If someone is wanting to sell you a product or service, ask what kind of testing is involved.  HVAC equipment is another good example of this.  You want to make sure that the product will actually work for your home and properly sized.

If someone wants to sell you renewable energy such as solar panels, find out how to prepare your home to save you money in the long run.  This is documentation.  

Otherwise Green Contract Work around the home -

If you are building or remodeling, get the background of who you want to do the work.  What has been their experience?  Do they have a clearly defined scope of work with the above documentation?  Are they willing to tell you that what you want is not necessarily what you need?

Ask for references and find out what they know about the labels or products you are considering and most importantly ask WHAT MAKES IT GREEN.

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To What Point Do Consumers Want Realtor(R) Designations?

February 9th, 2010 · Uncategorized

This is probably one of the most long argued questions in the Real Estate Industry.  Real Estate Professionals sometimes flock to get the latest and greatest alphabet soup after their name in hopes to get some knowledge or even to set themselves apart from the next.

However, the past year or two I have been curious to know exactly to what extent people really care if their Real Estate Professional even has a Designation.

As of March, I will have had the Certified EcoBroker designation/certification for 4 years.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t really care if I have it anymore.  In the beginning I wanted to take the courses to learn more about Green Building.  Since then I have also taken other courses and even a builder designation (CGP) to learn more than the average Real Estate Course will allow you to learn. 

My question and ‘poll’ that I would like to pose – To what point do home buyers and sellers really care about designations and would you choose your Real Estate Professional solely on designation?


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Traditional Neighborhood Developments – The Local Side of Green

January 17th, 2010 · Green Houston Communities, Green Houston Topics

Over the past two years the term ‘Green’ has become mainstream.  The popular debate is regarding Climate Change, Carbon Emissions and Energy Efficiency.  However, when you consider truly what ‘Green’ is, it goes much deeper.

There is the healthier side of green and eating organic, there is the Stewardship side of ‘Green’ where we should do stuff because it’s just the right thing to do such as Recycle and keeping things out of the landfill.

But I think that we may be on the edge of the Local side of ‘Green’ getting some awareness as well.  In Houston specifically we are seeing an upswing in people supporting local businesses and Farmer’s Markets to not only help the local economy but it also helps to reduce Carbon Emissions from not shipping items from overseas or even from out of state.

There are other benefits to the Local side of green that sometimes I personally believe get swept under the rugHow about Jobs?

I have written before how Real Estate can make or break a local economy and can a major player in creating jobs and I don’t just mean by the actual construction of homes.  What would happen if we were to raise awareness, and grow the idea, of Traditional Neighborhood Developments?

Simply stating, the Community is where you will find everything.  You live there, can work there, walk to everything…but you use existing land and sometimes existing buildings to create the neighborhood. 

How could this help?  In many areas across the Nation there are certain communities that simply do not have jobs for people.  There are not enough businesses, not enough growth and so on.   Some people have the ability to commute to another area but that takes money because of transportation..It’s like Global Outsourcing on a Local Level.

Let’s consider a development that has all of it there.  The ability for this to help Hyper-Local economies meaning down to the Community itself is truly unbelievable.  Just take a look at how popular Master Planned Communities are around Houston such as The Woodlands, Kingwood and Cinco Ranch.  Shopping, pharmacies, groceries, medical facilities are all nearby and most have continued to thrive even in a down economy.

I’m wondering why we can’t do this on a much smaller scale in Houston.  Let’s take an area that could use the jobs, job training and local businesses and see how it could benefit:

  • Jobs for the community residents instead of ‘outsourcing’ the jobs from another community.  Keep it local if at all possible.
  • Revitalizing and Renewing areas that need updated homes for the actual residents of the Community – Not homes that out price the residents from staying within the Community
  • Job Training for those whose previous job is now obsolete
  • Grocery Store for example that could provide jobs, put some money in to the economy and be nearby for residents
  • The lots that the City of Houston often sells for $1 to developers could be donated and converted to a local garden – Excess could be sold in Farmers Markets as another source of income for the Community
  • Other retail stores such as Cell Phone, Cable, etc. to help create more jobs
  • Transit within the Community itself so people do not have to use Metro that can take hours to get from point A to Point B – or simply restructure Metro to support Hyper-Local areas
  • Maybe even transit for a neighboring area for residents with jobs in say…for example…the medical center
  • Recycling facilities – Money can be made on that as well

Now, I’m not talking about…let’s say…Rice Village.  People travel for miles to visit that shopping area.  I’m talking about a much smaller scale than that.  I’m talking about a living, breathing, local, small community

Well, that’s it for now.  Just thought I would share some of my random thoughts on this beautiful Sunday morning.   What are your thoughts?  Would something like this EVER work in Houston?

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Solar Hot Water Vs. Tankless

January 15th, 2010 · Green Products

There are several misconceptions out there regarding Solar and Tankless Hot Water when it comes down to people wanting to make Environmental and Energy Efficient choices when building and remodeling their homes.   I will address some of these here to help clear them up.

First of all, Tankless Hot Water Heaters have become, in just the past 2-3 years, very popular.  They are an excellent alternative to a Traditional Gas Water Heater.  The manufacturers of the equipment have rolled out fantastic marketing campaigns stating ‘Forever Hot Water’ or ‘Instant Hot Water’ and so on.  Let’s look at the two here:

Gas Tank Heater -

  • Constantly heats the water when it gets below the set temperature.  Even if you are not home or not using any Hot water or on vacation for a month
  • You only have as much Hot Water as the Tank can hold. Ex: 40 – 50 Gallons making it a nightmare when washing dishes and taking a shower at the same time
  • Do not always qualify for the Federal Tax Credit due to energy efficiency
  • You have to wait for the Hot Water to reach where ever you wanting to use it

Gas Tankless Water Heater -

  • Only heats the water when in use therefore saving the expense of heating the water throughout the day
  • The water heats as it goes over the Heating mechanism there by giving you more Hot Water for a longer period of time.  However, it can still only handle so much
  • Do qualify for the Federal Tax Credit – you will get 30% tax credit but there is a $1500 cap.  If you are also changing out your windows and hvac you will not see that credit.  You will be maxed out.
  • Is not quite ‘Instant Hot Water’ – It is instant at the point of heating but the water still has to get from Point A to Point B

The way around not having to wait for the water to get from point A to point B is to have a Point of Use Tankless Heater.  They are considerably smaller (and cheaper) but do the job say for example in the Master Bathroom on the complete opposite side of the home from where the water is being heated.

Now, there is the option of going from Electric Water Heater to Gas Tankless.  Keep in mind though that in areas prone to Electrical Outages the switch that starts the heat for the Tankless Gas Heater is run by Electricity.  With no power, there is still no Hot Water.

As for Solar Water Heating – I personally think that this is one area that we should all consider more often.  You can now get Solar Water Heating for as low approximately $3500 on some smaller homes.    Here are some of  the benefits:

  • Because it is using a Renewable Energy (key word) it qualifies for a different tax credit than the Tankless.  It would be 30% with NO CAP
  • No Electricity, No Problem.  Sort of.  There still has to be power for a pump to push the water but as opposed to paying for constant heating of the water by gas or electricity you are only using power to push the water
  • The Sun heats the water.  Again, no gas or electricity
  • There is the option for a Solar Backup/Tank combination – Allowing you to have hot water even during a power outage

You basically are not paying to heat your water again.  Which one is best for you?  That depends on your home.  My personal home does not have enough power coming to the house to start a Tankless Water Heater – So it would cost me appx. $1500 just to get more power from the Grid to use one.  If you are building, it depends on how the home is designed.  

Now, we can talk all day about which one is better or which would be better combinations.  In the end, it depends on what your specific needs and wants happen to be.

My recommendation, have some energy modeling done on the home prior to construction or remodeling and this will help to nail down the possible payback for what you are considering and weigh your options.    I have resources on companies that offer this service in my Business Directory.  A licensed HERS Rater can help with this.  Just be cautious of people that claim to do energy audits that are NOT licensed, they are popping up all over the place.  But, I’ll save that for another post in my rant section.

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A New Turning Houston Green

January 13th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Did you come to TurningHoustonGreen and think you were at the wrong site? Not to worry. It’s the same. I’m just making some changes to it and would love your feedback! In an effort to make it more user friendly it may change from time to time for a while.

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Wrapping Up 2009 – Green Homes In Houston

January 6th, 2010 · Green Market Reports

Truth be told, it can be hard to find a green home in Houston. When you go to buy a home there are so many items that we consider. Schools, shopping, size and price of home, proximity to work, energy efficiency, garden area, indoor air quality…The list continues almost endlessly.

2009 was a year where if the Green Homes that were ready to go did not fit within these categories, my clients became well informed on how choose a home that can be ‘greened’ up. When it comes down to it, the home has to work for the homeowner with floorplan and everything.

While many of the green developments do not get a lot of attention in the media, they are spread out through the City and zipping through the year it seemed as though there just was not a whole lot going on.

For about a week now I have been trying to figure out how to write a wrap up post for the year and today while having a conversation with someone it hit me – There really is quite a bit of GREEN in Houston when it comes to real estate.  As financing opens up a little bit I expect it to get even better.   If our giant City of Houston was not so spread out I think we would be looking at this all quite different.  After all, it was announced that Houston has the most Energy Star homes in the Nation and we don’t really feel that either.

While it would be an incredibly long post to list every green project that I’ve run across in the past year, I thought I would highlight some of them as a way to wrap up Green Homes in Houston for 2009:

~~~~~~~

Canyon Gate Communities continued to grow Lakes of Williams Ranch and Discovery at Spring Trails offering Solar Panels as a standard feature on all homes in the communities.

Parra Design Group continues to sell and are starting new LEED Certified townhomes in Upper West End.

I counted multiple Builders popping up various units inside the Loop that focused not only on Energy Efficiency but Indoor Air Quality as well.  They were not Certified under a program other than Energy Star, but they passed the Steph test.

There are a quite a few more Custom LEED Certified townhomes that went up last year including another one by GreenHaus Builders in Garden Oaks and EcoStar Custom Homes in Benders Landing.

Beazer Homes announces their E-Smart Green Homes and multiple other LARGE builders throughout the City announce that they are building to Environments for Living and a high level of it at that!

Low income housing goes solar in Houston last year!

ZK Homes goes all out with their green development in Sugarland – They had the first certified home in the City with the new NAHB program.

~~~~~~~

Taking it all in to consideration, there are a lot of Green options for Home Buyers in the City and around the Suburbs.  Let’s watch to see what happens in 2010!  Happy New Year to everyone!

For information on Green Communities or Homes in the City that may fit your needs just send me an email:  Steph@TurningHoustonGreen.com

If you have a Green Home or Development and would like a marketing plan that is out of this world, I would love to share mine with you.  Just give me a shout at the same email above.

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