Eco-Op
is a dedicated group of the top environmentally focused professionals servicing the DC Metro area. Founded on principles of ethics and sustainability, Eco-Op's members are committed to sustainable business practices in their own operations, with many also offering sustainability services to their clients. Eco-Op members exhibit the utmost respect and professionalism, generating repeat businesses through referrals and word of mouth. Our established and accomplished members have specific industry accreditation and experience which make them a preferred service provider in their respective industries.

February 5, 2014

Victoria Webster: A Baltimore Case Study of Walking the Green Carpet

The following is a description of a first-time homebuyer’s search for the house of their dreams in Baltimore. Based upon a true story –the identity of the party is real – it underscores the importance of working with a green team of real estate professionals in order to reduce the energy cost of homeownership.  In this case, the homebuyer received over $5,500 from a variety of sources to make energy improvements to a quaint but otherwise energy inefficient home.  The result – she will save $500 every year on her utility bill for the next thirty years.

             Victoria Webster and her mother began their search for a home in 2013. Looking for something in the low $100,000 range, their choices were limited to houses built in the 1920s and 30s that had not been renovated – typical of much or the housing stock in Baltimore.  In order to become more familiar with real estate jargon, they completed first-time homebuyer counseling at a local nonprofit. The all day class covered credit worthiness, mortgage types (FHA, conventional, and Veterans Administration), and budgeting. A real estate agent guest lecturer talked about the general housing market in Baltimore.  There was no mention of Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEM) or utility company rebates.    

Consequently, Victoria, like most homebuyers would have purchased a home without regard to the energy costs associated with that home had it not been for her eco-minded realtor and lender.

Fortunately, Victoria engaged the services of realtor Cathy Allen, the “Green Ambassador,” with Foundation Realty. Cathy talked to Victoria about the benefits of an Energy Efficient Mortgage and had loan officer Kofi Ofori pre-qualify her. Kofi first determined Victoria’s maximum loan amount based upon her debt to income ratio. Then he determined that she could qualify for more money – over and above her maximum loan amount  – that could be used to make energy improvements in the home.  The energy improvement funds would be placed in escrow at the time of settlement and paid to the contractor.



With pre-qualification letter in hand, Victoria began her search.  Cathy showed her seventeen homes before she found the one she decided to purchase. Along the way she came across a house on Ramblewood Road.  Her first impression was that it satisfied all the requirements on her check list. The price was right; it had three bedrooms , two full baths, a finished basement and it was an end unit. A contract was drawn up, but before submitting it to the seller she visited the house a second time. This time Cathy took Victoria on a tour of the attic. As it turned out there was no roof insulation. In fact, there was a hole in the wall big enough to look out on the street. This combined with no heat in the basement, outdated baseboard heating and windows in need of repair forced Victoria to conclude that her heating bill during the cold winter would have been astronomical.  

The next house – the one she decided to buy – also lacked roof insulation, but it had radiator heat throughout the house and the windows were in better shape.  Victoria engaged the services of an energy rater who conducted a blower test. The results showed that the annual energy cost of the house in its “as is” condition was $2,237.  The rater recommended steps that would reduce that figure by $500.  Here a chart from the rater’s HERS report:

Recommended Improvement
Cost
Annual Savings
Life of Improvement
Number of years to pay for itself
High efficiency light bulbs
$120
$326
9 years
 .37
Air seal and insulate attic
$1,046
$58
30 years
17.97
Air leakage reduction
$2,600
$117
30 years
22.27
Total
$3,766
$500



The chart shows that by using energy efficient light bulbs, insulating the attic and reducing air leakage Victoria could reduce her annual energy costs by $500.. The $3766 cost of the improvements would be rolled into her purchase mortgage. The chart also shows that the life of  each component of  the improvements and the length of time is would take for each component to pay for itself (e.g. .37 years to recover the cost of high efficiency lights).

The energy rater also compared the net present value of saving $500 annually for thirty years with the cost of the improvements. After all, $500 stretched out over thirty years is not the same as receiving that amount ($15,000) in a  lump sum.  Using a discount factor the net present value of $500 paid annually was determined to be $8,302 which was more than double the $3,766 cost of improvement. 

From a lender’s standpoint, these figures justified lending Victoria an extra $3,766 over and above her maximum loan amount. The rationale was that by enabling Victoria to reduce her energy costs, she would have more disposable income to apply to her mortgage.

Rather than take a chance on any contractor Victoria relied upon Eli Allen of Retrofit Baltimore to recommend a fully vetted and screened contractor.  Retrofit Baltimore is a nonprofit dedicated to making it easy and affordable for homeowners to increase the energy efficiency of their homes.  In addition to finding a contractor, Eli identified $1,883 in additional energy rebate funds bringing the total to $5,649 in the amount of energy incentives that  were paid to Victoria. 

The pictures show the contractors applying insulation to prevent air leakage. Cathy  Allen, the  Green Ambassador, pushed things  over the top by adding another $10,000.  The house that  Victoria purchased had been  vacant for a  year  and qualified for a special  down payment program.   In summary, the Green Team  helped Victoria  walk the  Green Carpet and take advantage  of opportunities that significantly reduced her out of pocket expense by $10,000 and increased her annual  cash flow by $500 for thirty years.



If you or anyone you know are interested in walking the Green Carpet and saving money call any one of the members on our team at:

Kofi Ofori, Supreme Lending: (202) 529-4415 kofi.ofori@supremelending.com
Cathy Allen, Foundation Realty (Tel: (443) 863-8366) cathy.allen@ecofoundationrealty.com
Eli Allen, Retrofit Baltimore (410) 929-6135 eallen@retrofitbaltimore.org

Healthy Winter Skin Care Tips


Baby, it’s cold outside! Dry, itchy winter skin is still in full effect. With less moisture in the air, there is less moisture in our skin, and indoor heat can be just as dehydrating. Common winter skin problems may be: scaly skin, a dull complexion, or ragged cuticles. Winter does a number on our skin. The below tips should help you feel moisturized and soothed during the cold season.

For the face: Look for gentle cleansers that do not contain sulfates. Sulfates are foaming agents that create the lather you get from most detergents. Proper names you might recognize include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) and ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES). They’re popular cleansing agents that unfortunately strip skin of the lipid (top) layer, causing irritation. Look for moisturizers that promote the retention of water in the skin using plant based oils, and avoid mineral oil because it does not absorb into your skin or heal.

For the body: To soften stubborn dry patches on rough elbows and knees, opt for a rich, hydrating scrub. “I use a simple mix of honey and sugar,” says Ford makeup artist Lisa Trunda. Studies show that humectant honey reduces inflammation, and sugar (applied topically) increases circulation in skin.

“This can be especially helpful in winter when blood flow is typically diverted from the skin to keep your core warm,” says Miami dermatologist Jeremy Green, M.D.

Look for body lotions that are plant based using avocado oil, primrose oil, sesame oil, borage oil, or almond oil.  These oils will absorb well into your skin and help heal from the inside out.  “A long, hot bath or shower might seem tempting when you’ve been out in the cold, but it will strip your skin of moisture,” says Green. “If you like warmer showers — and who doesn’t? — keep them to no more than 10 minutes, and not more than once a day.”

For the hands: Since washing hands can be drying, keep a moisturizing hand lotion next to every sink to replenish your skin’s natural oils. For super parched hands, slip on cotton gloves over lotion to help the lotion absorb in and heal your hands. Even wearing them for an hour can really soften up your skin.

From the inside out:  Be sure to drink water throughout the day. When it is cold out, we don’t feel as thirsty, but our skin still needs the nourishment from the inside as well.  Drinking water also helps keep our digestive system functioning, which can help keep skin hydrated and looking clear.

Marina Ospina  is an independent consultant for Arbonne International, a vegan, botanically based skin care and wellness company. http://www.facebook.com/arbonne.MarinaOspina

September 4, 2013

Ways to be More Productive

You've probably heard these before, but it's nice to be reminded. 
The more you repeat these, they will become a "habit."

Diet

• Become a morning person by getting up a half an hour earlier every day until it becomes natural. 
If you wake up naturally, do it. If you decide to sleep in longer, you're at risk of falling back into 
a REM sleep cycle, which could make you more tired and even ruin your day!

• Quick, easy breakfast — You'll burn out if you don't have something to start your day. 
If you're anything like me, I'm lazy and want something very quick. 
I suggest a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and a bannana, or add your favorite 
super food / protein powder to add in extra minerals and vitamins.

• Hydrate — Start your day off, even before breakfast, with a glass of water. 
Your body has basically been fasting for the last 6-8 hours of sleep and you'll need to re-hydrate. 
This will boost mood and energy!

• Switch your coffee with an herbal coffee like Teccinno. Coffee tends to have a high level of acidity 
(think acid reflex, most people don't know they have it), so switching to an herbal coffee will still offer the 
taste and lower acidity. Or try a tea, like ordering a London Fog with honey, most coffee shops should know 
what this is (early grey tea with steamed milk). If you need to add a sugar substitute for a boost, try the 
lesser evils: Sugar in the raw or Coconut Sugar vs adding processed sugar or those scary sweeteners.


Planning & Consolidation

• Plan in advance — plan your week on Sby mapping out 
your daily goals so you aren't scrambling to keep up.

• Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, tri-monthly (30, 60, 90) 
— Map out your goals based on priority, even down to the hour.

• Automate your social media — Try Woobox

• Do 3 things before lunch that will bring you more money and exposure
Examples include: email follow-ups; social media posts; email blasts with tips; create a new 
network at a local coffee shop; find ways to leave your information out in the open for others to see 
that are tangible; send something tangible to clients who can hire and buy your service!



Brain Brakes

• Be smart and take brakes every 20-30 minutes if you can. 
Sometimes briefly stopping in the middle of a project will help you re-focus on 
what the end goal is and even allow for more creative thinking.


Thanks,
Allie

April 17, 2013

And the Nominees are.... 2013 Arlington Green Patriot Awards


What a humbling and thrilling experience it has been to get the announcement that Eco-Op was nominated as a collective group for their dedication to sustainability in business and beyond! Not only was the Founder, Genevieve Concannon personally nominated as an EcoBroker agent and Arlington Community member seeking to better the environment, both through civic and environmental action, but her group and several of her members and their organizations!  
Combined, we have apparently dominated this wonderful award nomination, and look forward to hearing who wins on Sunday at the ceremony with Genevieve Concannon, EcoBroker and Realtor, who is also Eco-Op's founder being nominated, Eco-Op as a collective group of sustainable business professionals, Yuck Old Paint, a paint recycling program and member of Eco-Op and our proud supporter, Elenor Hodges who is also nominated and works closely with Eco-Op member Barbara Englehart of Englehart Consulting. 
Thank you so much to all of you who have made this nomination possible.Eco-Op is absolutely thrilled to be a part of this wonderful Northern Virginia community, educating people about living healthier, more energy efficient and sustainable lifestyles through business and civic action. 

This was the lovely note nominees received.... we wanted to share it with you and hope to see you at the event!

You have been nominated as a 2013 Arlington Green Patriot. This year's nominees include:

  • Andrew Moore at Arlington Designer Homes, Inc.
  • Arlington Science Focus School Grounds Committee (Claudia Harvey and Dee Doyle, Co-chairs),
  • Eco-Op
  • Elenor Hodges
  • Genevieve Concannon
  • Inga Werner Middleton
  • Main Event Caterers
  • Miriam Gennari
  • Nottingham Elementary Planet Partners
  • Paul Snodgrass
  • Scott Sklar
  • Yuck Old Paint
In its second year, the Arlington Green Patriot Award recognizes "an individual, business or organization that exemplifiessustainability in more than one aspect of their recent life or operations in order to better civic life in Arlington, Virginia." TheArlington Green Patriot Award is sponsored by George Mason University-Arlington Campus in partnership with the Arlington Chamber of Commerce's Green Business CommitteeArlingtonians for a Clean Environment and the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services' Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management.
Nominees will be publicly recognized, then the Award presented at the Arlington Earth Week Community Fair at George Mason University's Arlington campus on Earth Day - Sunday, April 21, 2013. (Nominees: To be recognized on site and on time, please join us in the Founders Hall Auditorium no later than 3:30pm.)
The family-friendly community fair starts at noon - rain (inside) or shine (on the plaza) - with lots of environmental activities, another round of Operation Rain Barrel, and lots of fun!

April 3, 2013

First Impressions Can be Everything, Just Like Meeting a Person for the First Time.


The instant you pull up to a house, from the way that the front door is situated to the color of the lawn and everything in between, curb appeal is what draws you in, and the rest of the house is what you make of it. Have you ever done a pivet turn from walking up to start a conversation with someone and when you get close enough, you notice, that maybe they smell as if they haven't bathed in six weeks, if not ever... Maybe you took a step back because they ate what seems to be an entire onion and didn't bother to pop in a piece of double-mint? Do you linger on and persist in the conversation? Chances are the answer is no. If someone or something gives you the emotional or sensational- get out of here, or this isn't for me vibe... you are more than likely going to be making a move away from it, instead of trying to linger a little longer.
The same thing goes for a house when you are looking to buy. Upon your first encounter with a home, the house is dingy, unkempt and event  smelly... you, as the buyer are going to head for the hills- also known as the house down the block that has the more appealing draw. It might sound superficial, but the statistics are out there. Even in a sustainably built home, people are innately going to be drawn to a home that has more clean and appealing well, appeal. We can discuss energy efficiency and the cost benefits of these things all day long, but if the home doesn't give the best first impression... well, your first opportunity is lost on that particular buyer.  Homes that are prepared for the market, for example, have had the landscaping lovingly maintained, and the interior of the property de-cluttered  sell in less than 30 days 94.6% of the time when staged professionally, that is a pretty powerful statement. People want to feel like they are going to live "that way" in their new home, be it minimalistic, stylishly or just plain organized, often time, the eco-side of things just comes as a lovely bonus.
Sellers, be aware: homes that are not well taken care of, or aren't prepared for the market tend to have longer days on market and even fetch less cash from the buyer because the feeling from the buyer is that if the home looks like this now, how has the seller been taking care of it the whole time?

My top picks to get you started preparing your home for sale:

  1. Prepare the exterior of the home. Get on the fresh coat of paint, spruce up the landscaping and stay ahead of that inspector.
  2. De-clutter. Minimize your stuff- pack what you can, and keep your home tidy-tidy-tidy.
  3. Stage your home. If you have to use your own furniture that is fine, but hiring a stager will help you optimize your space and even a fresh coat of paint indoors if you can is optimal.
  4. Eliminate any household odors.If you had pets or a smoker in the home, get rid of any indication of these things by professionally cleaning and abating odors. This is a huge factor that some sellers forget about, but buyers don't.
  5. Prepare yourself emotionally. Selling your home is an emotional process; know that comments and remarks about the home are not a reflection of you, but what potential buyers say can be taken as feedback to bring you top dollar.
Once you have everything ready by prepping your home for sale, then the marketing time should come. Never put your home on the market until it is ready, or you are just setting yourself up for failure and really asking to lose valuable time on market and dollars in your pocket. Let's talk about the next steps and what I can do to set your home apart on the market!
-Genevieve Concannon | Realtor | EcoBroker
Office 703.536.5547 | Cell 512.767.3002 | eFax 703.563.7411
875 N. Randolph St. Suite C Arlington, VA 22203

HomesByGen.com | ArbourRealty.com | Facebook
            
 Helping You Plant Roots.

February 13, 2013

Food Food! – Posting from the Green Gobbler


Farm to Market in the Off Season

In the Spring, it is so easy to just slap on your light jacket and decide that you’re going to take a leisurely stroll to your favorite Farmer’s Market. What about now while the weather is still cold and the ground hog says an early Spring- but can we really count on a little pontificating rodent? I certainly don't.  Whether it is the hustle and bustle of the community center and gathering that brings you there, or if it is indeed the produce and idea that local farmers have worked hard to bring you organic, free-range this that or the other thing, buying locally produced foods that are organic just feels good.



And the Season comes to an end

The thing about it is, Farmer’s markets are typically seasonal. In Northern Virginia, most of the Farmer’s Markets run from May or June until the last weekend in October, so if you crave that lovely fresh baked bread from your favorite local artisan baker, you best learn how to do it yourself, my friend, because over the late Fall and Winter, you’ll be out of luck with a Farmer’s Market purchase.

The Farmer’s Market game changer

So, what do you do for getting the same Farmer’s Market foods and items like honey and what-have-you? Recently, I met a cat named Brent Ling with Relay Foods, and guess what? His company freakin’ delivers Farmer’s Market quality foods to your house! It is kind of awesome. If you were the person who loved the communal gathering nature of the Farmer’s Market center, you may miss out on that aspect of the experience; however, the amazing thing is that you can pick what community sponsored agriculture or CSA style foods you would like delivered straight to your home on a weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly basis for a membership. The program is quite simple, for a nominal membership fee, you sign up and on a specified day, a delivery will be dropped on your doorstep of the foods you choose!

How to make this happen

You can go onto their totally user-friendly website and shop and then just wait for them to bring you farm-fresh, locally produced foods. The concept is simple, honest and it so sustainable is just makes sense. So, your leisurely stroll may not be through a bustling Farmer’s Market scene, but you can take it elsewhere, and maybe with a parka and mittens because it is getting cold outside and you have better things to do now that it is getting cold outside, like collecting fire-wood and making cocoa. So, check out Relay Foods and their concept on how to get Farmer’s Market quality locally produced foods in the off season, and beyond.

February 6, 2013

Real Estate in Virginia


What does the Real Estate Market Look like in Northern Virginia

Comparatively, as realtors, I say that we live in a very blessed area being in the Northern Virginia, DC Metro area. Home prices have been on an upswing across the country not only on the sales side, but across the rental market as well. This is a fantastic big bit of news as we head into the first full week of the New Year. Mortgage rates remain at all time lows, consumer confidence on pricing remains on that same kick-started upswing and well, inventory is low. This means that buyers have less to choose from and it is driving prices up even further. Tara Steele of Agent Genius notes in her market report based on the Trulia Price Monitor that housing is improving across the nation.

Housing Market is Improving

"According to the December 2012 Trulia Price Monitor and Trulia Rent Monitor released today, asking prices for homes increased 5.1 percent for the year in December, while rents rose 5.2 percent in the same period. Trulia points out that these asking price numbers make up the 4.3 percent decline in prices during 2011, calling the numbers 'a huge turnaround.'"

Northern Virginia's Real Estate Market is On Upswing

The Trulia Price Monitor and Rent Monitor were discussions of the National outlook, and the hyper-local outlook for Northern Virginia. Construction pace is up more than we have seen since 2008! Northern Virginia's economy has one of the lowest regional unemployment rates in the Nation, which is fantastic and continues to show signs of improvement. We have a very low inventory level, the lowest inventory level we have seen in a decade! This in influencing the time on market and the rates. Seller participation in the market is historically low, many buyers will more than likely wait until more inventory comes on the market to start the buying process for this year.

Northern Virginia's Real Estate Trends Seeing Green

One of the biggest issues that buyers are actually interested in these days besides a lovely open concept is the energy efficiency of the home. From the appliances to the insulation, having a home that is more efficient will save the home owner money while they live in the home and will bring them top dollar when they are selling. Homes that are more "green" typically fetch higher asking prices than their standard counterparts. Other trending real estate items remain the great room, outdoor living spaces and gray paint as the new neutral. Remember, if you want to go green, there are professionals who can help you attain this as a standard and answer questions for you.
As more inventory is prepared for the Spring-Summer Real Estate Selling Season of 2013, it is exciting to see what is in store for the buyers in this Northern Virginia real estate market. It is especially interesting to see what happens as more people decide to put energy efficiency on the forefront of their home-buying check list.