Green housing developments on the rise

Assumptions about the housing market may lead some to believe that home shoppers shy away from green housing thinking that it will require either too much of adjustment or too large of an investment. While historically those suppositions may have been accurate, new data indicates that there has been an exponential growth of green homeowners, a trend that is expected to continue well into the next decade.

At the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) International Builders' Show in Orlando, Florida McGraw-Hill Construction revealed results from their Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study, which showed that green homes made up 17 percent of the overall residential construction market in 2011.

"This study demonstrates phenomenal growth in green building and indicates that we can expect even larger increases in the coming years," NAHB chairman Barry Rutenberg said in a press release. "In a sample of NAHB builder and remodeler members, nearly 90 percent reported building green at some level. This is a powerful testament to the importance of green home building – and transforms the way we think of homes overall."

Based on the results of the study, researchers estimated that green residential home construction should comprise between 29 and 38 percent of the market by 2016. Using those figures, they are predicting a growth in the green housing development market from $17 billion in 2011 to upwards of $114 billion in 2016.

While the American housing market has declined in recent years, Harvey Bernstein, the vice president of McGraw-Hill Construction, explained in the statement that the importance of going green has trumped the impact of a weakened U.S. economy.

The NAHB indicated that consumers are realizing that environmentally friendly homes generate lower bills and a valuable long-term savings.

An eco-friendly Super Bowl: Throwing a green party

Super Bowl Sunday has almost become an American holiday, and in recent years, the popularity of the game has soared to record heights. According to research by Neilsen Co., four of the five most watched television events ever have been the last four Super Bowls.

If the trend continues, and it should considering the teams that are playing, this year could be the biggest televised event ever. If you plan to host or even just attend a viewing party this weekend, you should follow the lead of the New England Patriots, the New York Giants and the National Football League (NFL), and make Super Bowl XLVI the greenest one yet. With these tips from Eco-Friendly Party LLC, you can do just that.

♦ Avoid paper and plastic. It's best to serve food to your guests on reusable tableware, but if you're worried about "that" friend of yours breaking an expensive dish, don't just buy any disposable plates. Opt for biodegradable utensils and dishes instead.

♦ Buy a keg of local brews. For a lot of people, beer and the Super Bowl go hand-in-hand, but there are more environmentally friendly products out there than the name brands. Locally brewed beer doesn't require excess energy consumption from being shipped across the globe, and chances are, it'll taste much better. Unlike cans and bottles that get thrown in the trash, kegs can be returned to their original source for reuse.

♦ Designate drivers. Of course, if your party does offer alcohol, make sure guests drink responsibly and get home safely. Having a designated driver bring home groups of people can both keep the roads safe and reduce carbon emissions.

♦ Make snacks with organic or local food. There are a lot of staple snacks at Super Bowl parties that can be easily replaced by fresher, greener food. Some eco-friendly munchies can be anything from homemade guacamole with avocados bought at the farmers market to organic chips from the grocery store.

Keep your electronics out of the trash

If you received new electronics this holiday season and are still holding onto your old products, it may be time for you to clean out your basement. By now, most people know that they shouldn't be throwing old televisions and other electronics into the trash. But, how many actually know what to do with them instead? Properly disposing electronics may be as atypical as it is because many people don't understand how important it can be.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be prevented by recycling 1 million desktop computers is equal to the yearly emissions from 16,000 cars. In addition, roughly 7,500 pounds of gold can be recovered from 100 million cell phones and reused in other products. If that amount of gold wasn't mined from the earth, that means 12 billion pounds of soil, sand and rock wouldn't need to be shifted, mined and processed.

Considering that they aren't exactly the most environmentally friendly products, what should you actually do with your old devices once it's time to get rid of them?

While your four-year-old Macbook may seem like an ancient artifact to you, it could save someone else a lot of money. The EPA says that schools, nonprofits and low-income families may be more than willing to take your old laptop or television off your hands. If it's not working completely, don't hesitate to offer it anyway. Some places have the ability to repair certain electronics, but make sure you are upfront about its issues if they can't fix it.

If it's beyond refurbishment or it's not a particularly useful device, recycle it. Some areas have electronic recycling drop-off centers, but stores that sell that particular device, repair it or manufacture it, will likely take it off your hands and make good use of it.

To find out where you can recycle or donate your old electronics, visit the EPA's website here.

U.S. consuming more energy from renewable sources than nuclear electricity

For the first time since 1997, the amount of U.S. energy consumed through renewable sources could be higher than the energy used through nuclear power. While the U.S. Energy Information Administration's latest issue of its Monthly Energy Review only has data updated through September 2011, the numbers show a significant difference between the use of each energy source.

In the first nine months of 2011, the U.S. consumed 6.878 quadrillion BTU of power from hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind and biomass power sources, all of which are renewable. In the same time frame, there was just 6.173 quadrillion BTU of power consumed from nuclear electric energy. And to put it all in perspective, fossil fuels accounted for 60.417 quadrillion BTU of U.S. energy consumption in that span.

The amount of energy consumed from renewable resources from January through September 2011 indicates a record pace. If the U.S. continued to consume renewable energy at the same rate, it would end the year with 9.171 quadrillion BTU from those sources, by far the most of any year included in the EIA's data.

So you may be wondering, how can you jump on the bandwagon if you haven't already? The EIA laid out a few simple ways to take advantage of renewable energy.
♦ Buy clean energy. The EIA says that at least 50 percent of electrical customers have the option to purchase renewable energy from their current supplier.
♦ Heat your home with wood or biobased pellets. Heating and cooling is directly responsible for 56 percent of your home's energy consumption, according to the EIA. Using a wood stove could cut your electric bill in half.
♦ Opt for products that were created from biomass. The same process used to make biofuels can be used to make plastics, antifreeze, glue and toothpaste.

Who’s greener – suburban or urban households? (Hint: It’s not what you think)

A study by Jonathon Rose Companies found that, believe it or not, suburban households in the U.S. consume almost twice as much energy than the average American urban household.

The study considered factors such as running lights and computers (household uses) and commuting to work (transportation uses). According to the data, the average 2,000 square foot suburban home consumes 240 million BTU (British thermal units) each year, while the average urban home consumes 143 MBTU annually.

The large discrepancy is solely thanks to the shorter and greener commute of those who live in the city. While both average suburban homes and average urban homes consume 115 MBTU of energy in their physical residence in a year, suburbans consume an extra of 97 MBTU in transportation on average. Even those suburban households that try to keep their homes environmentally friendly scored 21 MBTU higher than an average urban home.

The most efficient type of home, according to the data, is urban multifamily housing that combines resources while being environmentally conscious at just 62 MBTU per year.

Those looking for a home in suburbia should opt for a condo or apartment if possible, and do their best to live close to work or school to make their commute shorter, and therefore, more eco-friendly.

If you currently live in a suburban household and don't plan on going anywhere, here are some ways to cut back on your energy consumption:
♦ Buy a programmable thermostat that will automatically lower the temperature when you aren't home or are sleeping.
♦ Carpool to school/work. Less cars on the road equals less energy consumed.
♦ Replace old windows with better and more efficient models that keep heat in your home.
♦ Stop drafts from seeping in under your doors. There are lots of different products that you can slip beneath your doors that prevent cool air from sneaking in.
♦ Turn off electronics when you aren't using them.
♦ Upgrade your old appliances to ones that are Energy Star qualified.

Green housing market set to expand, report indicates

On November 23, Pike Research released a report detailing the state of the market for energy efficient buildings, as well as related services and equipment. According to the market research and consulting firm's data, the total global market for green housing and energy efficient buildings is expected to exceed $100 billion annually by 2017.

If this increase were to happen as expected, it would mark a more than 50 percent increase from the industry's current market value, which is just under $68 billion, according to the company. Overall, energy service companies represented the largest growth segment in the market. Revenues in this sector are expected to exceed $66 billion by 2017.

Driving this growth will also be the sale of related energy efficient products, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment and lighting upgrades, especially in the commercial sector. Still, despite the overall growth, individuals who are looking to make an impact by getting into business in the green building field may want to take a closer look at the data.

"The structure of energy-efficient building markets varies considerably from one country or region to another," research analyst Eric Bloom noted in a statement.

Due to this fact, Bloom suggests that service providers need to remain up-to-date on the changing dynamics in their chosen markets in order to truly benefit from the growth. As a result, those considering green jobs may want to take a closer look at certifications that can allow them to attain lucrative careers or investment opportunities in this burgeoning economic sector.

Even those who don't want to enter an exciting new career can draw conclusions from the study. For example, homeowners who want their real estate to be more appealing may want to make upgrades that can help them increase their energy use in the short-term, and the resale value of their investment long-term.

Renewable energy capacity to double by 2020, report indicates

While the debate over the world's long-term energy policy is in question a week before a new round of United Nations talks are to begin in South Africa, new reports show the annual value of the world's renewable energy capacity is expected to experience a significant period of growth of the next decade.

According to a recent publication by Bloomberg New Energy Finance – called the Global Renewable Energy Market Outlook – the world's renewable energy capacity will increase to $395 billion in 2020, and to as much as $460 billion in 2030. These figures – if achieved – would double current estimates of the world's renewable energy production. In 2010, the world generated $195 billion worth of these alternative fuels.

"These results indicate that last year's record renewable energy investment was no one-off despite the recent economic gloom," said Guy Turner, a director of commodity market research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in a press release.

China and Europe will remain two of the biggest markets for investments in renewable energy for the first half of the next decade, the report indicates, however, developing nations may soon catch up. The researchers indicate that Africa, the Middle East and Latin America will see annual renewable energy investment growth rates of 10 to 18 percent through 2020.

Despite the fact that solar power, offshore wind and bioenergy will see increased consumption during the next decade, the United States is still struggling to implement policies that would reduce its emissions. This development follows promises made by President Barack Obama at a similar conference two years ago, where he stated that the country would take a leadership role on the issue.

However, individuals who want to join the fight for pushing this type of legislation may help change the course of the country by electing candidates with strong environmental records.