Posts Tagged ‘envirodiva’

Just what is meant by the term “Eco-friendly” and “Sustainability”?  We’ve all heard of them and in fact, have probably all seen them or even used them at one time or another.  However, what do they really mean?  Keep reading to find out.


The term “eco-friendly” literally means earth-friendly or not harmful to the environment. This term most commonly refers to products that contribute to green living or practices that help conserve resources like water and energy. Eco-friendly products also prevent contributions to air, water and land pollution.

Making a truly eco-friendly product keeps both environmental and human safety in mind. At a minimum, the product is non-toxic. Other eco-friendly attributes include the use of sustainably grown or raised ingredients, produced in ways that do not deplete the ecosystem. Organic ingredients or materials are grown without toxic pesticides or herbicides. Products with “made from recycled materials” contain glass, wood, metal or plastic reclaimed from waste products and made into something new. Biodegradable products break down through natural decomposition, which is less taxing on landfills and the ecosystem as a whole.


Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.

All definitions of sustainable development require that we see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time. world in hands

When you think of the world as a system over space, you grow to understand that air pollution from North America affects air quality in Asia, and that pesticides sprayed in Argentina could harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia.

And when you think of the world as a system over time, you start to realize that the decisions our grandparents made about how to farm the land continue to affect agricultural practice today; and the economic policies we endorse today will have an impact on urban poverty when our children are adults.

Kind of gives you goose bumps when you consider it doesn’t it?  And I hope it makes you more aware of how we hold the fate of the world in our hands.


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Energy Efficiency is also sometimes called efficient energy use, which simply said, is using less energy to provide the same level of performance, comfort, and convenience.  In general, efficient energy use is achieved by using more efficient technology or processes rather than by changing human behavior.  An energy efficient home is one that uses less energy and is more comfortable and healthier than before.  With today’s technologies and professional services, just about every home’s energy use can be improved in an affordable way. If you are familiar with the term energy efficient or energy efficiency you have also probably heard of a HERS score or rating, Energy Star, and Water Sense.  If not, we are going to discuss each of those now.


  • The HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index was established in 2006 by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), a California-based national association of home energy raters and energy-efficiency mortgage lenders. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more efficient the home.
  • The HERS Index accounts for on-site energy production, if any, and energy used for lighting and appliances.  To calculate a home’s HERS Index, a rater uses a computer program to compare the home being rated to a “reference home”.  The imaginary reference home is assigned a HERS Index of 100.  If a rated home gets a HERS index of 100, it can be expected to use the same amount of energy as a code-minimum home of the same size — a home equipped with “typical” lighting and appliances that are operated according to average American usage patterns.  If a rated home gets a score below 100, it will use less energy than a code-minimum home. A score of 0 corresponds to a net-zero-energy home.  Each 1 point decrease in the HERS Index corresponds to a 1% reduction in energy consumption compared to the imaginary HERS Reference Home.   So, a home with a HERS Index of 70 uses 30% less energy than a code-minimum home of the same size and shape.
  • Although this method of defining the reference house rewards the use of electrically efficient appliances, it does not give full credit to those adopting a simpler way of life.  It does not reward conservation; it rewards efficiency.  In addition, while the HERS Index is a useful metric; it doesn’t tell you how much energy a home will use. Of course, it’s a good sign if a home has a low HERS Index — but just because your house has a low HERS Index doesn’t mean that your energy bills will be low. Researchers who study residential energy use have long known that occupant behavior explains much of the variation in energy use from one house to another.

Energy Star:

  • Energy Star distinguishes energy efficient products which, although they may cost more to purchase than standard models, will pay you back in lower energy bills within a reasonable amount of time. energy s
  • Energy Star originated in 1992 as a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.  In 2007, the European Union adapted Energy Star, including related standards, for all of its members.  Australia and New Zealand has already adopted the program. As a result, the Energy Star symbol has become the international symbol for energy efficiency.  Any building or product that has received an Energy Star rating carries this blue logo.
  • Energy Star is a government-backed labeling program that helps people and organizations save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by identifying factories, office equipment, home appliances and electronics that have superior energy efficiency.  In recent years, Energy Star ratings have been extended to some new homes as well as commercial and industrial facilities.
  • Energy Star is a voluntary labeling system, though most manufacturers find it commercially desirable to display the logo if their products qualify. The standards themselves, however, are set by governmental agencies. Energy Star labels, for instance, are only awarded to homes that have been independently verified to be at least 15% more efficient than the standard mandated by the relevant state or local energy codes in a given area.
  • An Energy Star rating, also referred to as an “EPA rating” or “the Rating”, has become an important component of buying decisions for both consumers and businesses.  This rating system is a seamless, standardized national benchmark that helps architects and building owners assess energy use relative to similar buildings.
  • EPA’s energy performance rating is based on a scale of 1 to 100—with 100 being the most energy efficient—which provides a quick comparison of a building’s estimated or actual energy use to that of similar buildings throughout the United States.  Energy Star provides online assessment tools that allow businesses and consumers to rate the efficiency of homes and industrial facilities.  The EPA energy performance rating is used to establish and validate goals for industry groups as well as Federal, State, and local governments.  More efficient buildings, appliances and hardware mean significant savings over time on heating or power costs.
  • Tax credits: there used to be significant tax credit advantages to purchasing and using Energy Star qualified products; however, in 2012 the only Energy Star products eligible for tax credits are: Geothermal Heat Pumps, Small Wind Turbines (Residential); and Solar Energy Systems.  These qualify for a Tax Credit of 30% of cost with no upper limit.  It expires December 31, 2016.  Existing homes & new construction qualify.  Both principal residences and second homes qualify. Rentals do not.  Also covered are Fuel Cells (Residential Fuel Cell and Micro Turbine System).  These qualify for a tax credit of 30% of the cost, up to $500 per 0.5 kW of power capacity, expire on December 31, 2016 but are only eligible on your principal residence.  Existing homes, new construction, second homes, and rentals do not qualify.

WaterSense labelWaterSense

  • What Energy Star is for appliances, WaterSense is for products that have low water consumption such as toilets and shower heads.
  • Identifies a water-efficient product that has been independently tested and certified to meet EPA WaterSense criteria for efficiency and performance.  The product(s):
        • Perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts.
        • Are 20% more water efficient than average products in that category.
        • Realize water savings on a national level.
        • Provide measurable water savings results.
        • Achieve water efficiency through several technology options.
        • Are effectively differentiated by the WaterSense label.

So now you know more about what it takes to have Energy Efficient products.  How many of the products in your home are Energy Efficient?

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As people become more environmentally conscious, all kinds of buzz words,start being thrown around, words like “green”, “energy efficiency”; “ecofriendly”; and sustainability. But what do they really mean? In each of the next several blogs I will take the time to clarify these concepts for you. In this blog we will start with the most obvious – “GREEN“.

Generally, when people refer to a “green” home, they are referring to the practice of increasing the efficiency with which homes and the land around them use and harvest energy, water and materials. Such homes are typically built in a way that reduces the impact on human health and the environment, with those efforts undertaken through improved site selection, design, operation, maintenance, and construction.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, a green home is healthy, durable, efficient, and sustainable and has the least impact on the environment. Being green actually requires a whole-building approach to sustainability in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, has developed a green rating system to score buildings constructed using these five areas. LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in those five areas of sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. LEED points are awarded on a 100-point scale, and credits are weighted to reflect their potential environmental impacts. Additionally, 10 bonus credits are available, four of which address regionally specific environmental issues. A project must satisfy all prerequisites and earn a minimum number of points to be certified. In addition, there are four levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. LEED has rating systems for new construction; operation and maintenance of existing buildings; commercial interiors; core and shell; schools; retail; healthcare; homes; and neighborhood development. Points are broken down like this:

LEED Rating System
Total Possible Points** 110*

Sustainable Sites 21
Water Efficiency 11
Energy & Atmosphere 37
Material & Resources 14
Indoor Environmental Quality 17

* Out of a possible 100 points + 10 bonus points
** Bronze 40+ points, Silver 50+ points, Gold 60+ points, Platinum 80+ points

Innovation in Design 6
Regional Priority 4

Let’s take a minute and clarify what each of the key evaluation areas refers to:

a. Sustainable Sites: This category discourages development on previously undeveloped land; seeks to minimize a building’s impact on ecosystems and waterways; encourages regionally appropriate landscaping; rewards smart transportation choices, controls storm water runoff; and promotes reduction of erosion, light pollution, heat island effect and construction-related pollution.

b. Water Efficiency: The goal of this category is to encourage smarter use of water, inside and out. Water reduction can be achieved through more efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings inside and water-conscious landscaping outside.

c. Energy & Atmosphere: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use 39% of the energy and 74% of the electricity produced each year in the US. The Energy and Atmosphere category encourages a wide variety of energy-wise strategies including, but not limited to: energy use monitoring; efficient design and construction; efficient appliances, systems and lighting; the use of renewable and clean sources of energy, generated on-site or off-site.

d. Materials & Resources: During construction and operations phases, buildings generate a lot of waste and use large quantities of materials and resources. This category encourages the selection of sustainably grown, harvested, produced and transported products and materials. It promotes waste reduction as well as reuse and recycling, and it particularly rewards the reduction of waste at a product’s source.

e. Indoor Environmental Quality: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans spend about 90% of their day indoors, where air quality can be significantly worse than outside. The Indoor Environmental Quality category promotes strategies that improve indoor air as well as those that provide access to natural daylight and views and improve acoustics.

Besides these five keys areas, LEED also looks at Locations and Linkages, Awareness & Education, Innovation in Design, and Regional Priority.

a. Locations & Linkages: The LEED rating system recognizes that much of a building’s impact on the environment comes from where it is located and how it fits into its community. This evaluation encourages building on previously developed or infill sites and away from environmentally sensitive areas. Credits reward homes and other buildings that are built near already-existing infrastructure, community resources and transit – in locations that promote access to open space for walking, physical activity and time outdoors.

b. Awareness and Education: A building is considered to be truly green only if the people who live in it use its green features to maximum effect. Builders and real estate professionals are encouraged to provide homeowners, tenants and building managers with education and tools they need to understand what makes their home green and how to make the most of those features.

c. Innovation in Design: Here a building gets bonus points for projects that use innovative technologies to improve a building’s performance well beyond what is required by other LEED credits.

d. Regional Priority: USGBC’s regional councils, chapters and affiliates have identified the most important environmental concerns in their areas, and six LEED Credits addressing these local priorities have been selected for each region of the country.

The overall process of certification includes:

• Contacting a LEED certified Green Rater (a trained, independent, third party person trained to evaluate homes based on LEED requirements) for the type of construction you are doing. Green Raters verify that the building or community is designed and built to the rigorous requirements of LEED within its Rating System through on-site verification. Green Raters are involved with the project from the design phase and throughout the construction process.

• Confirm with your chosen Green Rater that your project is suitable for LEED within your category.

• Upon receiving approval from a Green Rater, register your project with USGBC on their website. Your registration is complete when USGBC receives payment of the registration fee.

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Well, it has been quite some time since I posted fresh information on this blog. The reason: I was busy writing a new course to teach to Realtors in Florida!
It’s title: Making Green by Selling “Green” and its subtitle is: Educating Your Customers to Embrace a Green Lifestyle. Long and tedious but it covers a lot of ground. Specifically, in this course the attendees learn to distinguish between topics associated with being more “Green” so they can teach their customers how they can live an “eco-conscious” lifestyle within any budget. I touch on some new construction components but concentrate predominantly on remodeling and improving existing homes. This course provides “green renovation options” such as xeriscaping, Energy Star appliances, and solar products. We will go over practical things anyone can do to make their homes more energy efficient and sustainable; things that are inexpensive to implement but could result in significant savings. This course will gives suggestions on how to market and sell “eco-friendly” homes successfully and effectively. In addition, by the end of the course attendees will be able to recognize many of these home improvements and use them as marketing tools for a Seller and as selling points for a Buyer.

However, you don’t have to be a realtor or live in Florida to gain valuable information from the content of the course. The course teaches everyone how to be more energy conscious and efficient, outlining practical things that anyone can do regardless of who you are and what you do. Over the next several blogs I will share some of this information. Below is a link to my website, which contains a short video summarizing the course and the other course that I teach. http://youtu.be/Ua-2Oyet-Pg

If you are a Realtor and would like me to teach this class at your board please contact your Education Director/Professional Development Committee and request that they consider offering this course.

Stay tuned for all of the helpful, practical new information on the way. And thank you for reading my blog!

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In my first blog about mangroves I promised to provide you with more information about what mangroves you can trim and how you can trim them.  This blog outlines the regulations, who is allowed to do the trimming, and what level of trimming you can do without a permit.


The law regulating the trimming and alteration of mangroves (The Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act) was amended by the 1996 Florida Legislature and became effective July 1, 1996, replacing all previous state regulations regarding the trimming and alteration of mangroves. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been given the responsibility of implementing this law.

No herbicide or other chemical may be used for the purpose of removing leaves of a mangrove.

The following are definitions for terms used in this law:

1. Alter – anything other than trimming of mangroves.

2. Trim – to cut mangrove branches, twigs, limbs, and foliage but does not mean to remove, defoliate, or destroy the mangroves.

3. Riparian mangrove fringe – mangroves growing along the shoreline on private property, property owned by a governmental entity, or sovereign submerged land (submerged state-owned land), that do not extend more than 50 feet waterward, as measured from the trunk of the most landward mangrove tree, in a direction perpendicular to the shoreline to the trunk of the most waterward mangrove. Riparian mangrove fringe does not include mangroves on uninhabited islands, or public lands that have been set aside for conservation or preservation, or mangroves on any lands that have been set aside as mitigation, unless provisions for trimming are provided in the instrument that established the mitigation.

4. Professional mangrove trimmer – the following persons are qualified as professional mangrove trimmers:

  • Certified Arborists, certified by the International Society of Arboriculture;
  • Professional wetland scientists, certified by the Society of Wetland Scientists;
  • Certified environmental professionals, certified by the Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals;
  • Certified ecologists, certified by the Ecological Society of America;
  • Licensed Landscape Architects; and
  • Persons that have been granted professional mangrove trimmer status by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

5. Delegated local government – a county or municipality that has received delegation of authority, from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, to regulate the trimming and alteration of mangroves within the jurisdictional boundaries of the delegated local government.

EXEMPTIONS: (mangrove trimming activities that do not require a permit from the department or delegated local government)

  • No permit is required for a property owner, or someone the property owner supervises, to trim mangroves located in a riparian mangrove fringe on property they own or control or on sovereign submerged lands (see next paragraph), if the current height of the trees do not exceed 10 feet in height (measured from the soil to the tallest point of the tree). These trees may be trimmed down to a height of no less than 6 feet (measured from the soil to the top of the trimmed tree) by the property owner or someone they supervise. If the mangrove trees are taller than 10 feet, the property owner must use a professional mangrove trimmer to trim the trees. Trees must not be trimmed below a height of six feet. If the shoreline along the riparian owner’s property exceeds 150 feet in length, no more than 65% of the mangroves along the shoreline may be trimmed.
  • Trimming of mangroves in a riparian mangrove fringe area that exceeds 10 feet in pre-trimmed height, must be supervised or conducted exclusively by a professional mangrove trimmer. The mangroves must be located on lands owned or controlled by the professional mangrove trimmer, or the person contracting with the professional mangrove trimmer or on sovereign submerged lands (state-owned submerged lands) immediately waterward and perpendicular to such lands. Mangroves that are taller than 24 feet cannot be trimmed and no mangrove may be trimmed below a height of 6 feet under this exemption. Mangroves that are 16 to 24 feet in height must be trimmed in stages so that no more than 25% of their foliage is removed within a one year period. If red mangroves are being trimmed for the first time under this exemption, the professional mangrove trimmer must notify the department or delegated local government, in writing, at least 10 days before the trimming activities begin. If the shoreline along the riparian owner’s property exceeds 150 feet in length, no more than 65% of the mangroves along the shoreline may be trimmed.
  • No permit is required to trim mangroves, which are located in a riparian mangrove fringe, to reestablish or maintain a previous mangrove configuration so long as the trees do not exceed 24 feet in pre-trimmed height and the trees are not destroyed, defoliated or removed. If the trees are currently taller than 10 feet (measured from the soil to the tallest point of the tree) a professional mangrove trimmer must be used to conduct the trimming. Proof of the previous mangrove configuration must be available through an affidavit from someone with personal knowledge of the previous configuration, current or past permits, or photographs. If red mangroves are being trimmed for the first time, the department or delegated local government must be notified in writing at least 10 days before the trimming occurs.
  • Mangroves trimmed under an exemption or government authorization can be maintained without a permit so long as the specifications of the exemption or government authorization are not exceeded (e.g., height, configuration). Trimming under this exemption is not limited to trees located in a riparian mangrove fringe.
  • Various exemptions are provided for mangrove trimming by surveyors, and governmental entities.


Persons wishing to conduct mangrove trimming activities that do not qualify for one of the exemptions described above, and the mangroves proposed to be trimmed are located in a fringe that is 500 feet in width or less and not located within the jurisdictional boundaries of a delegated local government, must apply for a general permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Persons wishing to conduct mangrove alteration or trimming activities that do not qualify for one of the exemptions or general permits, must apply for an individual permit to alter or trim mangroves from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or a delegated local government.

I hope you have found this information valuable and, as always, remember KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

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Mangroves are tropical plants that are adapted to loose, wet soils, salt water, and being periodically submerged by tides.  Four major factors appear to limit the distribution of mangroves: climate, salt water, tidal fluctuation and soil type.

There are more than 50 species of mangroves found throughout the world. Three species of mangroves are native to Florida: Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and White mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa).  The buttonwood, (Conocarpus erectus) is often considered a fourth mangrove species, however, it is classified as a mangrove associate because it lacks any morphological specialization common in true mangrove species, and because it generally inhabits the upland fringe of many mangrove communities.

Red mangroves dominant the shoreline from the upper subtidal to the lower intertidal zones and are distinguished from other mangroves by networks of prop roots that originate in the trunk of the tree and grow downward towards the substratum.  Red mangroves may attain heights of 82 feet and have leaves that are glossy, bright green on the upper surface with somewhat more pale undersides.

Black mangroves typically are found growing immediately inland of red mangroves and may reach 65 feet in height.  They are characterized by their conspicuous pneumatophores, vertical branches that may extend upward in excess of 8 inches from cable roots lying below the soil.  Pneumatophores develop into extensive networks of fingerlike projections that surround the bases of black mangroves to provide them with proper aeration.  The leaves of black mangroves tend to be somewhat narrower than those of red mangroves and are often found encrusted with salt.

White mangroves are more prominent in high marsh areas, typically growing upland of both red and black mangroves.  White mangroves are significantly shorter than red or black mangroves, generally reaching about 50 feet in height.  Their leaves are oval in shape, and somewhat flattened.  Trees produce small propagules which measure only 3/10 of an inch.

Mangroves occur in dense, brackish swamps along coastal and tidally influenced, low energy shorelines.  In Florida, mangrove forests extend from the Florida Keys to St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast, and Cedar Key on the Gulf coast.  Factors such as climate, salt tolerance, water level fluctuation, nutrient runoff, and wave energy influence the composition, distribution, and extent of mangrove communities.  Temperature also plays a major role in mangrove distribution.  Typically, mangroves occur in areas where mean annual temperatures do not drop below 66°F.  Mangroves are damaged under conditions where temperatures fluctuate more than 10°F within short periods of time, or when they are subject to freezing conditions for even a few hours.


  • Mangroves trap and cycle various organic materials, chemical elements, and important nutrients in the coastal ecosystem.
  • Mangroves provide one of the basic food chain resources for marine organisms.
  • Mangroves provide physical habitat and nursery grounds for a wide variety of marine organisms, many of which have important recreational or commercial value.
  • Mangroves serve as roosting and nesting sites for many of our birds.
  • Mangroves serve as storm buffers by reducing wind and wave action in shallow shoreline areas.
  • Mangroves assist in protecting water quality and clarity by filtering runoff and trapping sediments and debris from adjacent uplands.

Through a combination of the above functions, mangroves contribute significantly to the economy of many coastal counties of Florida and the State of Florida.

Now you know a little about mangroves.  In my next blog I will review regulations regarding trimming of the mangroves and what you can and can’t do if they are on your property and blocking your view.

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In this last part of the sinkhole series I will provide you with engineering methods for detecting sinkholes, temporal events that can trigger a sinkhole, and WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A SINKHOLE FORM ON YOUR PROPERTY.

Engineering Methods for Detecting Sinkholes:

Soil borings or other direct testing – Borings can be reduced by “reconnaissance scannings” using the following methods:

  • Electromagnetics (EM) and DC Resistivity: detect variations in subsurface electrical properties related to anomalously thick or wet soils (electrical conductivity highs similar to our use of moisture meters in homes), or voids in the electrically conductive clay soil mantle (electrical conductivity lows)
  •  Spontaneous Potential (SP): detects naturally-occurring minute electrical currents or potentials commonly associated with concentrated vertical water infiltration (Streaming potentials)
  •  Micro-gravity: detects minute variation in gravity (subsurface voids create missing mass and lower gravity)
  •  Seismic Refraction: profiles the top-of-rock which may display conical depressions of a type associated with subsidence sinks or deep gouges or cutters which represent sinkhole-prone lineaments.
  •  Ground-penetrating radar

Temporal Sinkhole Triggers

  • Following a period of heavy or prolonged rain (washing-in supporting soils)
  • Following a period of drought (lowering the water tables, leaving cavities)
  • Following a period of housing development (adding pressure on supporting soils)
  • Over pumping existing water supply wells, or drilling of additional wells in an area (lowering the aquifer)
  • Diverting surface water from a large area and concentrating it in a single point
  • Artificially creating ponds of surface water

So now you think you might have a sinkhole or what do you do if a sinkhole develops on your property?

  • Notify your local Water Management District
  • Fence or rope the hole off
  • Keep children away!
  • Protect the area from garbage and waste
  • Contact your homeowners insurance company

Well, that concludes the three part series on sinkholes.  I hope that it has been informative, and as always, remember KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

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