What’s Trending for “Goin’ Green in 2015″?

What’s the best news about Green Trends in 2015?

Nearly every industry seems to be trending toward environmental responsibility, more companies than ever are setting up or adding to their in-house “greenprints” and most consumers are demanding green products and services at home and in their communities.

Here’s the “Top 6″ of what’s most trending for “Goin’ Green” in 2015:

DSC_00351.  Urban farming. In response to the swelling demand for fresh, local food, expect to see integrated gardening projects becoming commonplace. People are beginning to reject the idea that farming is necessarily a rural pursuit. Community gardens are cropping up in the ever-increasing vacant city lots from abandoned home teardowns. Backyard chickens and goats are taking up residence as a result of eased-up city ordinances. Food forests are taking root from increased funding and resources from community foundations and non-profits.

In Akron, look for increased use of vacant lots in Summit Lake, West Hill and North Hill and around the Zoo for accelerated urban farming practices.

ms-julies-kitchen-9109562.  Increased sustainability in dining. The National Restaurant Association has identified sustainability measures as one of 2015’s hottest industry trends. Watch for more sustainable fish and seafood options, more responsibly-raised and free range meat and poultry served and more locally-grown ingredients added to major entrees. More restaurateurs will be partnering with local food advocacy groups to decrease food waste through composting, and conserving energy, water and other resources.

In Akron, look for increase in food waste partnerships between locally-owned restaurants and coffeehouses and composters.  

alpaca sweaters3.  Demand for natural and non-toxic materials. Already trendy, especially when locally- sourced and increasingly health-conscious.  Think zero-VOC paints, low-VOC carpeting and natural fiber insulation. Materials such as limestone, alpaca wool and local pine lumber are increasing in demand. More and more options for sustainably produced, socially responsible clothing and furnishings are all around us. We’ll see green lines from both high-end designers as well as moderate retailers like Target’s Tom’s collection and BeGood.

In Akron, look for alpaca insulation available for home energy retrofits and increased consignment stores identifying natural materials and locally-made  goods in their mix.

filtrexx living wall4.  Living roofs and walls. These “lively” roofs and walls are becoming increasingly popular not only as green home features, but also cropping up as strip mall/commercial office building adornments. Besides conveying energy efficiency benefits and helping regulate surface water runoff, they protect a building’s interior from electromagnetic radiation. Green walls and roofs not only improve aesthetics, but also moderate temperatures around buildings.

In Akron, look for a new terracing systems on hillside community gardens and living walls and green roofs on new and renovated commercial buildings.

passive haus5.  Investment in greener homes. Smaller footprints and greener features ranked at the top of the trends list among NAHB survey respondents with 74 percent saying their next homes are smaller; and 68 percent saying their homes will get greener in 2015—far surpassing the other trends on the survey. According to Green Home Builder magazine, homeowners are ready and willing to live in greener homes even for extra money. Builders are rising to the occasion with more energy-efficient new construction and water-conserving plumbing without premium pricing. Net zero, water smart and passive houses are increasing in demand.  With the increasing affordability of solar power (and even geothermal and wind) for individual consumers, this type of home is likely to explode in popularity over the next year.

In Akron, look for a new Passive House to be built by new home developer and more efforts in solar panel and wind (in the form of windpod) installations.  

Bike blog : cycle freight : Outspoken delivery6.  Cargo and e-bikes. There’s a revolution rolling down our city’s streets, and its symbol is cargo bicycles and e-bicycles (aka electric bicycle using batteries–many solar-powered). E-bikes utilize electric–even solar– batteries to offer a boost when needed for pedaling up hills. These two new-wave bicycle types are the #1 health trend identified for families in ParentMap.  Okay, the cargo bike is slow and heavy, but it transports several bodies on one vehicle and over-sized goods that once was the sole transport option belonging to the automobile. More than any development in the past few decades, these two bicycle transformations fulfill the promise of integrating bicycling into our daily lives.

In Akron, look for bicycle grocery delivery service to be offered by non-traditional grocer and more bicycle commuters mounting e-motors on their rear racks.

Sources:

Recyclebank: The List: Green Trends to Watch For in 2015

ParentMap: #1 health trend for families  

National Association of Homebuilders

Green Homebuilder magazine

National Restaurant Association

Design-Build magazine COVER STORY: 2014 Trends for Home & Garden

Design Build Trends Word CloudI had the privilege of providing the cover story again for October 2013’s Design-Build magazine.  It’s all about “Bold & Balanced,” Rise of the Millennials and Incredible Edibles.  What a great year for home and garden in 2014.  READ ON:

Colors are vivid, edibles are erupting, men and millennials are influencing designs, and balance is more important than ever.
By Tom Crain

Few landscapers can argue the fact that one of the most important things they can do for their businesses to ensure long-term health is to keep up on trends in their areas of expertise, fields and industries. Only by doing so can they prepare themselves for changes and ensure they have the proper resources and skilled operators in demand in a constantly changing work environment.

“In this current economy in general – and landscaping, in particular – you have to know how to connect the dots, understand your customer, drive consumer sales and build your brand,” says Suzi McCoy, owner of Garden Media Group, Philadelphia. She is also author of the annual Garden Trends Report, one of the most published garden studies in trade and consumer news.

Canete Landscape Design & Construction in northern New Jersey has an essential need to keep up with the trends. “We have large commercial clients who ask us to change the landscape look of their properties every few years,” says owner Tom Canete. To hold onto these accounts, Canete needs to know what the most cutting-edge, contemporary look is during new installation periods.

Turf DesignBuild delves into the major trends that will heavily influence 2014 landscapes.

Location, Location, Location

Current landscaping trends tend to reflect more on regional economic and practical needs, and less on the happy-go-lucky across-the-board whims and desires of the past. Much of it is due to landscaping’s new social and economic-minded demographic taking the helm.

“Landscape design trends tend to be regionally based most of the time,” explains Stacy Zimmerman, communications director of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), Harrisburg, Penn. “What works in the Northeast usually is not the trend in the Southwest.”

In north Texas, Chris Lee, president of Dallas-based Earthworks, says the biggest trend is moving toward more sustainable landscapes and efficient water use. “We are doing a ton of designs and installations based on native plantings and xeriscape concepts, primarily due to the ever-increasing water restrictions and shortages.”

That’s the typical story in the South where landscapers are dealing with rising drought issues while a rapidly increasing population places extreme pressures on local water resources. “While some areas of the South have been dealing with this for years, it’s relatively new to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, believe it or not,” adds Lee.

Lee says his customers are looking for native and sustainable planting options beyond succulents and rocks. “If you can bring native plants into the landscape that extend beyond what people normally consider xeriscape and show them that sustainable can be beautiful, you will have great success in this market.”

In the Northeast, landscape designers are dealing with a completely opposite climate scenario: flooding. Most Northeast-based landscapers agree the recent bout of extreme weather will dictate more sobering trends in the industry for years to come. “The only thing I have to say about trends in the next few years is that it’s all about drainage corrections, garden renovations and tree replacements after Hurricane Sandy,” explains Susan Olinger, Sterling Horticultural Services, Flanders, N.J., and immediate past president of APLD.

Most landscapers agree the trend crossing all regions is the increasing concern for handling stormwater runoff. More and more municipalities are instituting stricter ordinances, and water fees are rising along with the creekbeds after a downpour. As a result, ecological concerns for the pollution of groundwater, rivers, lakes and bays are climbing higher and higher in clients’ consciousness.

“I’m being asked more and more to come up with design approaches that incorporate the handling of stormwater runoff with native plantings and natural stone,” says Terri Long, an Asheville, N.C.-based landscape designer in the Blue Ridge Mountains where many creekbeds wind through high-end properties. “Rather than collecting water in catch basins and piping it away in drains, resulting in a generic, sterile look, the use of the dry creek bed becomes not only a beautifying, natural-looking feature with a functional purpose, but also a green solution.”

millennials at homeMillennials Rule

It’s not only regional considerations driving current trends, but also the shifting demographics of those who are now purchasing homes and making the landscaping decisions. What used to be the realm of the Baby Boomers and DINKS (dual income earners no kids a.k.a. Yuppies) is now relegated to the Gen Y/Millennial WINKS (single women income earners with no kids) and DACKS (dads at home caring for kids).

“Millennial women are a larger buying demographic than female boomers; they are now 20 percent of all home buyers and representing one-third of the growth in home ownership since 1994,” says McCoy. “In addition, millennial men are taking an equal role as the homemakers in domestic duties and raising the children.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past decade due to the growing numbers of female breadwinners, men out of work, and the shift in men’s lifestyle and career choices.

Now that young women are paying for landscaping projects and young dads are having more say about design, what does this mean for trends moving forward?

mancaveMasculinity Reigns Supreme

“It’s a masculine and feminine balancing act in work, home and life,” explains McCoy. And that applies to landscaping installations. Homes, as well as outdoor living environments, are celebrating the masculine influence as the workplace did with women in previous decades. That means strong, bold statements, more simplicity, outdoor barbecue setups and man caves with techno entertainment options.

“Waterproof roof structures over the top of an outdoor patio space work great for this,” says Matt Corrion, president and landscape architect with Denver-based Outdoor Design Group. Corrion lists roofed patios, which blend indoor and outdoor living spaces, as one of the leading trends in home design. “Outdoor amenities can be protected by the weather. Flat-screen televisions, ceiling fans, outdoor kitchens, bar areas, speakers and lighting can all be incorporated into this outdoor space. Overhead roof structures also create a more intimate feeling space, creating an outdoor room at a much lower cost than adding a fully-enclosed indoor room to a dwelling.”

tulipsPastels Are Out; Contemporary Colors Are In

Stay-at-home dads are also influencing plant colors and combinations. Princess pinks, butter-soft yellows and lipstick reds are in retreat. Both Benjamin Paints, which trends paint color interiors, and Pantone, which trends fashion color choices, give a thumbs-up to bold blues, periwinkle purples and celosia oranges. “There has been a push to find new ‘orange’ options for the landscape lately, and I see that continuing,” attests Lee.

It makes perfect sense then that according to Garden Media, blue pansies and purple violas are the rage; and red geraniums and yellow marigolds are passè. Also popular are colorful edibles, including blueberries, grapes, orange peppers and purple eggplant.

Blacks, whites and grays continue to surge. These color trends align with contemporary landscape planting choices. McCoy says mono color and pairings of black and white in the garden will continue their popularity. HGTV selects white as the trendiest color for its bright light influence and enhancement of other colors.

Interesting geometrics are taking a leap, too. McCoy says “umbelliferous” shapes – those plants that carry flowers on the end of spoke-like stems – are popular. Circular plantings are back, and wildly-overgrown amorphous and perfectly-sculpted geometric are being fused together.

GAINSSustainability Continues

The landscaping trend continuing its full-steam boil across all demographics, particularly with millennials, is sustainability. Just ask any landscaper from the mainstream to the highly green circles about how difficult it is to operate a business without sustainable considerations.

“Across the board, it’s all about low-maintenance landscapes, drought-tolerant turfs such as meadows, highly-efficient irrigation systems, perennial planting designs inspired by nature, plant “communities” (as opposed to monoculture) and adding edibles,” says Zimmerman.

Brad Blaeser, president of Milwaukee-based The Green Team is hopping with requests for natives, water retention/bio-filtration/green roof-type projects and edibles since he opened his then “out-of-the-mainstream” deep green landscaping door in 2006. In addition, Blaeser is increasing his services in compost-type pickups, and for the first time he’s seeing a surge in demand for natural playscapes and outdoor learning classrooms in his hardscape side of the business.

Sabrena Schweyer of Salsbury-Schweyer, Akron, Ohio, agrees. “Edibles, not only as vegetable gardening but also edible landscapes and permaculture plantings like food forests, are growing in demand,” she says. Schweyer also sees a new intertwining of resiliency, sustainability and placemaking in urban landscapes, as evidenced in the wildly popular new public spaces including New York’s High Line and Houston’s Discovery Green.

How To: Keeping Up With the Trends

“The majority of gardening information still comes from family and friends (a.k.a. word-of-mouth), but websites, gardening blogs, Twitter and Youtube are gaining considerable ground” as places landscape designers and architects use to keep up with the latest landscape trends, says Suzi McCoy, owner of Garden Media Group, Philadelphia.

To educate his employees about landscaping trends, Tom Canete, owner of Canete Landscape Design & Construction in northern New Jersey, is constantly reading trade magazines and networking with his peers.

Chris Lee, president of Dallas-based Earthworks, finds it easy to keep up with the trends in Dallas. As he explains, “since our market is just a little behind, we can look at the residential trends in other markets to incorporate here later.”

Homesteading Is Here To Stay

Both Zimmerman and McCoy can’t say enough about the current homesteading trend, with 80 percent of Americans concerned about the health of the environment around them. The focus is on zen and happiness in the garden, emulating a mini slice of the hobby farmer. That means heirloom varieties, plants that attract the “B” critters (birds, bees and butterflies), chickens, overgrown and oversized hanging baskets, windowsill herb garden planters, and, of course, sensory, fragrant and community gardens.

And for the “New Age” millennial men seeking their true inner happiness, fermentation gardens for homemade beer and wine are trending high.

tomatoesIncredible Edibles

On a recent visit to London’s Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Tracy DiSabato-Aust couldn’t help but realize that worldwide, gardeners are salivating for edibles.

“When the Kew’s iconic Palm House has stalks of corn growing in front of it, you know there is some kind of shift going on,” she says. DiSabato-Aust is an Ohio-based Euro-trained landscape designer who is also a well-known author, TV personality and triathlete.

DiSabato-Aust also experienced the “IncrEdibles” fall program at the Kew. “Incorporating decorative vegetables into the garden alongside herbs and cut flowers is really cutting-edge.” Popular for DiSabato-Aust’s clients lately is to mix festive vegetable plants like ornamental kale, heirloom tomatoes and multiple colors of peppers with traditional varieties of sunflowers, dahlias and zinnias for cuttings.

Blaeser agrees with DiSabato-Aust on American gardeners’ appetites for edibles. “We continue to sell existing clients with traditional plantings and the concept of swapping some elements out with edibles, including herbs, hot peppers and salad greens, to accompany some traditional annuals or even nontraditional perennials that can later be repurposed within their landscape or back into our yard production,” he says.

Corrion sees the urban gardening trend for edibles jiving perfectly with the “natural lawn” trend, replacing traditional bluegrass with alternative turfgrasses, xeriscape plantings, monocultures of spreading shrubs or perennials, native plants, natural meadows or a combination of these elements.

“Both can work well together,” Corrion explains. “Placing decorative paths between beds and installing attractive raised planters to keep the space looking a little more organized are both great additions.”

Akron Community Garden Tour, September 2013

garden tour

Akron Community Garden Tour on Youtube

Look for Goin’ Green Guy (at 2:50 min point, 2nd guest speaker) commenting on the merits of participating in a community garden.

My community garden planting a few miracles…growing a new community

(as seen in this month’s Akron Eutopia Report: )

 

“Gardening is cheaper than therapy… and I might even get tomatoes.”

“Gardening requires lots of water…most of it in the form of perspiration.”

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden here this summer?”

These are just a few of the things I heard in my community garden over opening weekend.  It told me a lot about the people involved and the expectations of what the new Glendale Community Garden means to this community.

Glendale Community Garden

Bringing all Kinds of People Together

Jan Green, Karen Edwards, Karen Starr and I spent a couple of cold, and blustery early spring afternoons canvassing the lower part of our West Hill neighborhood with flyers.

Jan Green is a new resident of West Hill, and a retired nurse who grew up farming.

Karen Edwards is a mom who owns some rental property near the garden and is a Farm-to-School teacher at a nearby Akron public school.

Karen Starr is  a mom, singer and local business owner of Hazeltree Interiors providing high quality home decor, interior design services and custom picture framing.

Glendale Community Garden

Connecting with the Neighborhood

“It’s about time we see something like this happening here,” said one of a few folks in the neighborhood who actually answered our knocks at their door. “It’s a longtime coming miracle for this forgotten area, that’s for sure.”

The Glendale Community Garden includes18 family plots, a berry patch, herbal spiral, twin compost bins, a trio of rain barrels, ornamental Zen zone and more.

So far it’s proven to be a miracle of sorts for the neighborhood.  It’s raising eyebrows, connecting area businesses and changing strangers into neighbors.

Where else can retired grandmothers, girl scouts, I.T. nerds, firemen, soccer moms, hipsters, Gen-Xers, rappers and bohemians share a few laughs and get down and dirty together?

What was once a cut-across vacant lot and occasional parking lot full of scraggly grass and gravel on Walnut Street next to the famous historic Glendale Steps (an abandoned WPA project from the depression era) is now a green urban oasis where pedestrians stop to relax, observe and smile a little.

Glendale Community Garden

Getting Started

It all started a few months ago with permission granted from the vacant lot’s landowner, and seed money from NeighborFoods, a newly-formed organization overseeing the new crop of community gardens popping up by the dozens around Akron.

A Facebook page went up, attracting local gardening participants, and initial planning meetings were held at Pure Intentions: The Wheatgrass Growers, hosted by owner Kathy Evans.

Landscaper and neighborhood resident Jeff Copley worked the sod cutter prepping the 18 plots.

Glendale Community Garden

Opening Weekend

Then, it was time for the garden’s Opening Weekend, May 9-11th.  It started with the arrival of the Keep Akron Beautiful Community Pride Trailer laden with garden tools and equipment.

Canton Road Garden Center followed by dumping more than 200 donated bags of Pro-Mix soil additive. Then, chilling rains blew in, postponing the tilling until the next day.

When the sun came out the next morning, more than 20 volunteers gathered to take on the dirty work, removing countless rolls of sod, tilling and cultivating the 18 -10’ x 15’plots and adding Pro-Mix and compost.

Pat Arnold, the Pro-Mix soil rep, was on hand to instruct the gardeners on how to work Pro-Mix into the soil in addition to offering other valuable gardening tips.

That afternoon, firemen from Fire Station #3 arrived with rain barrels, turned on their water hoses to fill the barrels, and helped heave the sod rolls into the haul-away truck.

Glendale Community Garden

Everyone Chips In

The owners of the 512 Fire Grill food truck who live across the street, fed hungry volunteers an authentic Puerto Rican-style lunch of empanadillas and alcapurrias, and provided lots of ice water.

Urban farmer Alex Miller put up a twin pair of compost bins and Lisa Nunn, Director of Let’s Grow Akron, offered moral support, gardening guidance, got the nearby fire hydrant tapped and leant a colorful sign to welcome visitors and gardeners alike.

Mary Dee from Asian Services in Action, arrived just in time to welcome three new immigrant families from Nepal who came with mustard seeds to plant. By the end of the day, all 18 plots were tilled, claimed and some even got planted.

In the coming days, the Girl Scouts prepped the berry patch, bricks were laid for a community herb spiral, a group squash and melon field was started and ornamental flowerbeds guarded the entrance.

It was all good!

Glendale Community Garden

Just the Beginning…

Soon, St. Vincent-St. Mary’s 3rd and 4th graders will “grow a row for the hungry” by donating their produce to the Akron Regional Food Bank. Come harvest time, the Salvation Army will open their kitchen and meeting space for food prep and preservation classes.

The Glendale Community Garden is a grand new experiment for this long neglected neighborhood. In a few short weeks it’s already becoming a neighborhood miracle, joining a growing movement of over 5,000 community gardens in the U.S., according to the American Community Garden Association.

“A garden can be more than just a place to stop and smell the roses,” says Steve Brooks, co-author of Green Guerillas: Revitalizing New York’s Urban Neighborhoods with Community Gardens, “All it takes is a small group of gardeners, who at the right place at the right time, motivated by ‘green’, will set a whole bunch of stuff in motion. Its spin-off effects can tip a neighborhood and bring an entire blighted area out of a cycle of indifference and decay.”

Created out of organized chaos and tended by a lot of love and kinship, I have to believe our new Glendale Community Garden will do just that.

Green marketing or greenwashing? Handle it with care.

SUV plant a tree cartoonI was extremely honored to be the featured speaker at this month’s meeting of the Stark County Green Business Roundtable held at the North Canton Chamber of Commerce. My topic was all about the effectiveness of green marketing. The Roundtable is in its second year with its overall membership and current players’ enthusiasm growing. I was impressed with all the efforts that each member of the group is putting forward in the name of increased sustainability measures for their representative companies and organizations.

To begin my presentation, I couldn’t help but share the findings of Joel Makower. A San Franciso-based entrepreneur, writer (about a dozen books on the green economy and online news with GreenBiz) and strategist on sustainable business, clean technology, and green marketing, Malkower is an overall skeptic when it comes to green marketing, but he also offers silver lining solutions to his “downer” points.

Here is the true-to-form “Bad News” that Malkower has to offer the green marketer: (1) Sales of green products represent well under 1% of any given category and (2) Consumers don’t want to change in the name of Mother Earth or the greater good.

But, Malkower does offer a couple bits of good news about green marketing: (1) Green services (reduce, re-use, co-op, sharing) is the only category working fairly okay as opposed to green products; and B2B (as opposed to B2C) green marketing is effective.

Here are the B2B benefits that companies tend to recognize:

  • Enhanced brand & increase competitive advantage
  • Increased productivity & reduced costs
  • Improved financial& investment opportunity
  • Minimized carbon risk & improve energy efficiency
  • Increased employee retention and recruitment

And finally, here are a few of  the most effective green marketing tactics used today:

1) Be genuine Do what you claim to be doing in your green marketing campaign and
 business policies; NEVER, EVER GREENWASH –as tempting as it may be; (2) Educate your customers: Let them know why it matters to support green products and services. Tell them what the benefit are beyond “saving the planet” (also known as ROE—Return on Environment); and finally, (3) Give your customers an opportunity to participate by personalizing the benefits of positive environmental action for themselves.

 Greenwashing cartoon

Rainy Days and Mondays…ain’t it swale?

yard fairy recycling-rain350It’s a March Monday in Akron and of course it’s soggy out there. Rain, hail, sleet, ice glaze, snow…a potpourri of delightful precipitation that never seems to end.  It’s only apropos that I launch into a discussion on stormwater runoff.
I was recently appointed by Turf magazine to write about bioswales and rain gardens for one of their upcoming issues.  Greenscaping (i.e. rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavers, xeriscaping, composting, green roofs) is finally becoming a “hot, hot, hot” opportunity for landscapers.  It’s about time!
As I put together the research and interview of four experts in sustainable landscaping, I was in disbelief about the enormous problem of stormwater runoff throughout the country.  So glad I have a blog to share some of the amazing facts about the problem of stormwater runoff that I didn’t have room to include in the article, but needed to splash around as much as possible in other ways.
When it rains, it pours…here’s just a few factoids to soak in, many contributed by my new “swimming” buddy Tom Barrett of Greenwater Infrastructure, Indianapolis:
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now considers pollution from all diffuse sources, including urban stormwater pollution, to be the most important source of contamination in our nation’s waters
  • The EPA ranks urban runoff and storm-sewer discharges as the second most prevalent source of water quality impairment in our nation’s estuaries, and the fourth most prevalent source of impairment of our lakes
  • As of May 1999, states and the EPA have issued more than 260 permits affecting some 850 operators, including larger cities operating separate storm sewer hickory rain gardensystems, which requires them to develop stormwater management plans.
  • To grasp the magnitude of the stormwater runoff problem, consider that there are 500 million surface parking lots in the U.S. alone. In some cities, parking lots take up one-third of all land area, “becoming the single most salient landscape feature of our built environment,” Ben-Joseph writes.
  • Fifty years ago, 90 percent of rainwater stayed locally, soaking into the ground. Today, 70 percent of the rainwater gets flushed into our sewer systems.
  •  Separating the overflow of the rainwater has become the largest infrastructure project in the history of all its cities
  • The single largest polluter is stormwater runoff. According to the EPA, its the number two source of pollution on their five year plan.
  •  In the last 40 years in the US, we have increased impermeable surfaces by 40 percent. The regulations to provide adequate parking spaces for big box retail establishments and the ever-increasing lanes of traffic are a few examples of just how we are experiencing the paving over of America.
Right here in Akron, one of the 180 communities fingered by the EPA for stormwater runoff ruination, it’s great to see a comprehensive clean-up plan and sewer separation plan from Summit County Countywide Storm Water Management Program (SWMP).
A wonderful county agency, Summit Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD)  is doing a great job promoting rain gardens and bioswales for Akron area businesses and residents.
Here’s a departing Trivia Question:
Q:  Who designed the first rain gardens?  A:  The Mayans on the Yucatan Peninsula…and they also did a better job of managing stormwater than us so far…
maya garden

ROI: The key to turning customers on to green

ImageIt doesn’t matter if my clients are steeped in green or stepping into green, the challenge of providing clear and concise Return on Investment (ROI) for their customers seems an exercise in “blood, sweat and tears.”

The green industry does a fine job in spouting the “Save the Planet!” message for customers, which is a good thing, but when it comes to the message of “How Does Green Save Me Money?” — it’s often muddy or missing.

Take home remodeling.  According to the latest Professional Remodeler green research, energy-efficient products continue to grow in popularity while other green improvements are lagging.  In Housingzone.com’s recent special report on green remodeling, 45 percent of remodelers believe that green features help them sell remodeling projects. While up 33 percent from 2007, it remains flat from a year ago.  Take energy retrofits.  For some time, homeowners have been sold on the fact that they are good for the environment and save them money on utility bills; however, a recent article in CNNMoney.com points out that appraisers don’t recognize these features one iota when conducting their home appraisals.

Years back, Cleveland-based Buildings magazine stated that “thanks to programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s landmark LEED rating system for buildings, green facilities have crept into the mainstream.” I have to also mention a new  up-and-coming program, Green Globes, a viable alternative to LEED.  But, the article went on to say that “despite the growing recognition of sustainable practices, green products, and high-performance technologies in building design and construction, concern within the facilities industry continues due to lack of accurate, thorough, and quantifiable information about the financial and economic impacts of high-performance buildings.”

These indicators tell me that this industry, among many others, is not doing its job in conveying the green ROI to its customers.

How can we develop this key green ROI message for customers?  It takes time and an investment. Here are some of the ways:

  • Be persistent with your suppliers and manufacturers to pull ROI information out of them any way you can.
  • Set up a monitoring system with your past customers who have invested in your green products to get ROI stats first-hand.
  • Invest in a third party—university research department, local marketing firm—to assist in getting the information for you.
  • Comb the Internet for helpful product ROI information such as greenandsave.com and thedailygreen.com.
  • Develop your own ROI formulas and tables by using compound interest calculators.

It can be done. It’s well worth the time and investment to develop the ROI formula for your customers.  This will put the “green”  in your pocket as well as help save the planet.

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