By Angelo Surmelis
The idea of living green seems to be all around us, and the movement is getting stronger every day. With awareness comes the question of how much is enough – or is it ever enough?
Is it OK to bring your canvas bag to the grocery store in a non-hybrid car? What if buying local organic produce is the only effort we make to live greener? I think the answer is quite simple: Everything we do informs all our actions and there’s no such thing as too small an effort. Ultimately, it is about incorporating green elements into our lifestyle in ways that make sense.
Not all of your clients are going to want a green home. Also, those that want to own a green home may not be able to find a place that fits all of their other needs. Therefore, as a Realtor, you should be aware of ways to encourage your clients to live green, even if their home isn’t LEED certified. Some clients may resist the idea of living green as change is never easy. Just make sure your clients understand that the rewards can be tremendous. Beyond personal satisfaction and enjoyment, greening a home can be great for resale.
10 Paths to a Green Home
1. Force of Nature. Encourage your clients to find ways to bring eco-friendliness to their home in a manner that doesn’t feel forced, that way they’ll be more apt to see the change as part of their lifestyle.
2. Paint By Numbers. When painting inside a home, your clients should choose a low or zero volatile organic compounds (VOC) paint. The higher the VOC – the more toxic.
3. All Hands on Deck. If your client wants to rebuild or build a new deck to enjoy the outdoors, have the homeowner look into using reclaimed lumber.
4. Leaf It to Me. Clients planning on landscaping? Encourage them to use local plants that work well in the Chicagoland climate and find plants that do not need a lot of extra water.
5. Let There Be Light! Design is all about good lighting. Point out compact bulbs and other eco-friendly products to your client. These offer the same, or better, quality of light and less harm to the environment, not to mention their energy bill.
6. Underfoot. For a kitchen or bath remodel, your client should look into bamboo, cork or recycled rubber flooring. Reclaimed hardwoods are wonderful, too.
7. Counter Attack. Consider a countertop made of paper – you heard right! PaperStone makes a durable, green and beautiful product.
8. On the Waterfront. Don’t let them forget energy saving appliances and low-flow toilets. This can help your clients conserve water and money.
9. A Real Character. Have your clients try slipping into a thrift store or perusing through a flea market. Antique stores are also great to find furniture and décor that will bring character to any room.
10. Material Possessions. Salvage yards are a great place to look for raw materials that your clients can use in construction projects, such as vintage windows and doors or natural stone countertops that can be re-fabricated for bathrooms or kitchens. Also, homeowners can find salvaged architectural details like mantels, columns and decorative sconces that can add personality and character to an ordinary room. This is also a great way to reuse existing materials and create a new home, literally.
Perhaps your clients aren’t ready to start a landscaping job or dig through the salvage yard? Don’t worry, there are simple ways to incorporate green into any home, including your own.
Many retailers are now offering furniture and accessories in green options. From bamboo fiber bedding, pillows and rugs (it feels like soft, luxurious cotton, while some of the higher quality throws and pillows feel like cashmere), to non-bleached, no glue, sustainable wood-framed sofas and chairs. These options come in at various price points, as they are available at small boutiques with custom-made furniture, as well as big box retailers like Target, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel.
Change always starts with a single step. While you’re suggesting all these options to your clients, go ahead and incorporate them into your own home as well. You do not have to be overwhelmed by trying to overhaul your lifestyle with one big sweep. Start small, and with commitment, watch as you and your clients transform your lives and the world around you.
Angelo Surmelis is one of the country’s most respected and sought-after designers. His diverse client list includes celebrities, entertainment executives, events and television/film projects. While working as an actor, Angelo continued to design and created Swell Space, a design firm in Los Angeles. Surmelis launched TLC’s “Clean Sweep” and Lifetime’s “Merge,” before hosting “24 Hour Design” on hgtv. His new show, “Rate My Space with Angelo Surmelis,” debuted in June. For more information, visit swell-space.com.
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