Each time Earth Day approaches and we prepare our social posts and gather our thoughts on sustainability and how we can practice it in our lives, I am left with the lingering feeling that more can be done (and must be done) to minimize our environmental footprint and preserve the beautiful Earth we have the honor of inhabiting.
While each worthy cause deserves a day in its honor, the day should not exist in isolation, and “Earth Week” should not be the only time we practice environmentally-friendly actions or remind others to do so. There are many opportunities to make sustainable swaps in real estate and construction. Every day we are here on Earth should be a day that we honor the privilege to live here, to build, to restore, to create communities that can thrive with the Earth in mind.
One of the core values at Real Estate Relief is to restore communities. I believe one way we can do so is to establish environmentally-conscious habits that scale. Maybe you see your neighbor reusing and recycling materials and decide to try it out. Before you know it, the whole neighborhood is exchanging and repurposing materials. Maybe there’s a community garden on your block with youth programs teaching young people how to garden and cultivate their own food. This will have intergenerational impact. You can start small, with something like wrapping a gift in a recycled cloth, instead of purchasing wrapping paper (this practice, known as Furoshiki, is the ancient Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts in cloth, as well as the name of the fabric used).
In a field like real estate, especially if you are doing flips and significant remodeling or construction, you can have even more of an impact due to the sheer volume of resources being used. This is an amazing opportunity to educate yourself on new eco-conscious solutions and stay ahead of the curve.
On a recent episode of our Coffee with Contractors podcast, I spoke with Patrick Robertson, of Momentous Building and we discussed the importance of building something that lasts. It was an absolute pleasure to chat with Patrick about his general contracting journey and the values and habits that help him successfully execute his vision day after day. Listen on your favorite streaming platform or check out the YouTube video here
From construction materials to energy consumption, real estate has a significant impact on our planet. If you’re in an industry where sustainable choices can be made, I believe it is our duty to do so and use our position to make a difference. Be it reflected in design, how materials are sourced, where they’re sourced, the kind of methods and approaches being practiced, and more.
Below is a list of a few real estate-specific opportunities for implementing eco-conscious solutions:
Sustainable Building Materials
There are a growing number of sustainable building materials available that are made from renewable resources, such as bamboo, cork, and recycled materials. Using these materials in construction can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a building without sacrificing on style. In fact, there are many stunning reclaimed and reused designs that bring incredible personality and a unique touch to a modern space.
This can include features such as passive solar heating, energy-efficient appliances, and LED lighting. Many home appliances are available in energy-efficient versions, including washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, water heaters, and air conditioners. Including ceiling fans is another way to improve air circulation without the energy usage of AC.
Efficient and well-sealed doors and windows can reduce heating and cooling costs. Additionally, smart home technology can help homeowners monitor and control their energy usage, further reducing their impact on the environment. Smart thermostats will make it easier to control the temperature in your home year-round as well as remotely, so you’ll be easily able to alter setting even when you can’t be on-site.
Water usage is another component of energy efficient design. To lower usage and save money, think about replacing plumbing fixtures with low-flow options, including low-flow toilets, shower heads and sink faucets.
Renewable Energy Sources
Utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines is an extremely impactful change. The great news is these energy sources can be incorporated into the design of a building or added after construction is complete and can significantly reduce or even eliminate the need for non-renewable energy sources. Some states offer incentives for homeowners who use solar energy, so be sure to look up what kind of incentives may be available to you!
Creating green spaces, such as community gardens, rooftop gardens, or parks, is another way to promote sustainability in real estate. Opt for drought-tolerant plants, especially in dry regions that don’t get much rain. Some examples of drought-tolerant plants include lavender, rosemary, aloe and geraniums.
These spaces not only provide a pleasant environment for residents, but they also help to mitigate the impact of urban development on the environment. Green spaces can also help to reduce energy costs by providing shade and reducing the need for air conditioning.
Green Certification Programs
Finally, there are a growing number of green certification programs that can help promote environmentally friendly real estate. These programs, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), provide guidelines for sustainable building practices and offer certification to buildings that meet their standards. This can incentivize builders and developers to prioritize sustainability in their projects.
There are a wide range of environmentally friendly solutions available in the real estate space, from sustainable building materials to renewable energy sources and green spaces. These solutions not only reduce the impact of real estate development on the environment, but also provide benefits for residents, such as lower energy costs and a healthier living environment.
As we celebrate Earth Day 2023, I urge you to consider how we can continue to promote sustainability and reduce our impact on the planet not just today or this week, but in a consistent, intentional way over our lifetime.
I’d love to learn how you are implementing sustainable practices in what you do (whether in real estate or otherwise)! Feel free to contact me at email@example.com. As a real estate investor with a general contracting background, I am passionate about sustainable practices and the Real Estate Relief team is always curious about new solutions to help us live more sustainably. My dream is to see eco-conscious communities that thrive and spread their vision so that it can multiply.