Green Light

2009 could be the turning point for eco-friendly trends

December 28, 2008|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,

Look for the 2008 eco-friendly trend to explode in 2009.

"I think the whole green thing is absolutely here to stay. We are hearing that people are willing to pay for it, as much as they are willing to pay for anything these days," said Ed Hord, a principal with Hord Coplan Macht, a Baltimore architecture and design firm.

Green works on several levels, market trend-spotters say. It blends concerns for health, the planet and, in these economically challenged times, the wallet. Increasingly, consumers want to see the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) seal on wood products.

Downsizing is not only the mantra of baby boomers whose offspring have flown the coop. It has become a stylish way to show a sustainable lifestyle.

"It's a psychological shift," said Jean Dimeo, editor in chief of Hanley Wood's industry publication EcoHome.

Products and builders doing eco-friendly are faring better, even in the ailing economy.

"Once we come out of the recession, we believe green building is going to take off," Dimeo said.

A recent McGraw-Hill Construction report predicts all green building construction starts in the country could triple by 2013 to reach as much as $140 million.

Now that green has hit the mainstream, big-box stores and supermarket chains are featuring eco-friendly lines of improved products; green goods, mercifully, have become pretty, colorful and comfy - and easy to use.

Take the Mount Washington household of Violaine Melancon, Seth Knopp and their two sons.

Their recent adventures include installing water-saving features to their plumbing, adding a programmable thermostat kept in the 60s in the winter, hanging LED Christmas lights, using eco-friendly personal and home care products, composting and replacing their collapsing porch with a straw-bale insulated addition with a green roof.

"We are getting used to living in the climate of the season. In the winter, if it's colder in the house, it's OK," Melancon said. How cold? About 64 during the day, a little lower at night or when nobody's home. "I didn't do this for money, but I saw really remarkable savings for energy consumption."

And these days, their bathrooms are more eco-friendly: They've switched to dual-flush toilets and green cleaning products.

Every housing-related niche - actually nook, cranny and water closet - now has eco-trends. Many are readily combined. We've selected 10 of them for 2009:


Built-in savings :

"Anything that controls the price of operating a home is going to be very strong," said John Kortecamp, executive vice president of the Homebuilders Association of Maryland.

That will make EnergyStar appliances practically standard, he said, and other built-in energy efficiencies highly desirable.

If national standards for a certified green builder program are unveiled next month by the National Association of Homebuilders as anticipated, HBAM is likely to have them tweaked for Maryland by midyear, Kortecamp said. They will compete with the U.S. Green Building Council's increasingly popular Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification program.

"One of the trends is going to be earning the LEED label. We have seen considerable growth despite the downturn in the market," said Douglas King, a technical consultant for residential marketing for the council.


Low-energy lighting:

"LED? We can barely keep them in stock," said Jason Holstine, the owner of Amicus Green Building Center in Kensington. Light emitting diodes are imperfect: Complaints have been that the beam is better suited to task lighting than a general, diffuse use and that the color is harsh. But newer bulbs cast a softer light.

LEDs use about 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and emit barely any heat. Unlike compact fluorescents, they contain no mercury; an LED bulb can last a whopping 60,000 hours. It might be in the house longer than you are.

A standard use LED bulb can be an up-front investment - it can run $16 and up. But for less than $5, you can have an automatic LED night light that will last 11 years and operate for pennies a year.


Power-saving strips:

If your electronics operate by remote or are otherwise on when they're not in use, you're paying for phantom electricity. Among the hottest trends in reducing the electricity bill are the newer power strips that really hit the off switch.

They're best for electronics that are hooked together, like the computer tied to the printer, the TV tied to the game box and the DVD player, or components of an elaborate music system. Turn off the TV - which is really napping because it is always ready to respond to the remote unit - and the other devices connected to it shut down. But don't totally turn off anything that will lose significant programming if it gets zero power.


Green clean :

Merchants say no- and low-chemical cleaning products are selling well and going mainstream; interest is on the rise, and they expect it to continue.

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