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What is Greenwashing?

Don't be Mislead by Deceptive Green Home Advertising

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Solar Panels Make Homes Green

Solar Panels on Green Home

© Big Stock Photo
By David Syring, Founder of Listed Green
Guest Contributor to Home Buying

As creator of an Internet platform for green, energy-efficient and sustainable homes, I often come across creative verbiage used by some home sellers and real estate agents. It's generally deceptive green marketing geared toward making consumers believe a home is green when it is not. In the environmental business we call this practice greenwashing.

Greenwashing Terminology

You may ask how you can prevent greenwashing from clouding your buying decisions and wonder how you can figure out if a home is truly green. First, pay attention to the words used to describe the home. Read between the lines of such green terminology terms as:

  • Solar
  • Stewardship
  • Eco-Friendly
  • Environmental
  • Healthful Environment

Question the meaning of those words. For example, I’ve seen ads that call a home "solar," when the factor in the seller's mind that qualified the home as green was a wall that faced south. Why south? Because southern exposure tends to get the most sun during the day. But a south-facing wall doesn't make a home green. Besides, all homes have a south-facing wall.

Or maybe the home had CFL’s (compact florescent lighting) and nothing else green in the home. An energy-efficient light bulb does not turn a not-so-green home into a green home. Although these improvements help in a small way, you can find green homes for sale that are making heads turn and ideas flourish in a BIG way, beyond a single light bulb.

Everyone Can Help to Create a Green Home Environment

Like most who care about our environment, I believe in and promote innovative building technologies that will make a fast impact and change in the environment, regarding the way we live, the homes we live in and the way we build them. As humans, our everyday actions have a direct impact on global warming:

  • The toilets we daily flush
  • The indoor air we breathe
  • The utility bills we pay

We, as consumers, affect the environment and, as a result, we shoulder the responsibility for our own overall health and well-being. We can use many new technologies in green, sustainable home building that will make a huge impact right now, not years from now.

Truthful Green Home Terminology

Here are words to look for in advertising that more accurately represent green homes:

  • System efficiency and energy-efficient components
  • Recycled materials from eco-friendly sources
  • Solar-generated power (or "off-the-grid")
  • Wind-generated power
  • Thermal solar hot water
  • Power generated by wind turbines
  • Water-saving devices
  • Recycled and innovative insulating products and materials
  • No-VOC paints, stains and floor coverings

Look for certification of green building programs such as LEED®, Built Green®, Green Built, EarthAdvantage®, GreenPoint-Rated EnergyStar®.

Ways We Can Make Our Homes Green

  • Heating most of our water with thermal solar -- not the black stuff you see on roofs -- by installing glass tubes that absorb UV rays year-round.

  • Recycling our gray water (from sinks and showers) and redirecting that water to flush our toilets.

  • Designing buildings that use orientation to take advantage of natural heating and cooling effects in our environment.

  • Constructing living environments by using innovative building materials originating from recycled or renewable resources, which may also offer a tremendous R-factor. This is a one-two punch that not only saves our limited building material resources, but makes us less dependent on fossil fuels to heat and cool our homes.

I believe we can make a difference in our environment by supporting green homes and creating a world that is safer and healthier for generations to come.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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