The purpose of this blog is to share with you ways in which you can make changes to your home, neighborhood and lifestyle to ready yourself for life on a warming planet.

How to Achieve a Carbon Neutral Home

How to Achieve a Carbon Neutral Home

Denver’s 80X50 Climate Action Plan calls for an 80% reduction of emissions in single family residential buildings by 2050 from a 2005 baseline. This has begun with a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Sadly, this falls short of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendation but it’s at least a starting point. This 80% reduction will be achieved by individual homeowners taking steps to reduce their household emissions in some of the following ways: changing light bulbs to LEDs, installing Energy Star appliances, switching from gas to electric stoves, swapping furnaces and A/C units for heat pumps, and the installation of solar power systems wherever possible.  

 

If you’re aiming for living carbon neutral (which IS the recommendation by the IPCC) in a sustainably or regeneratively built home you’ll have a much better chance building one yourself or buying new. Retrofitting an existing home will cost you 20% more than a new building, or one built with GREEN code requirements like solar readiness, tighter building envelopes, EV charging readiness, and more. However, 95% of the housing inventory is existing homes, most of which are around fifty years old. That means the majority of Denver homeowners reading this have an older home. So, does that mean they should scrape and build new?

 

From a materials or waste-conscious standpoint, the greenest building is the one that is already built. Older homes in Denver have managed to survive countless snow and wind storms, thrive in our expansive soils and remain solid despite the huge temperature swings we see in Denver on an average day. Many were built with locally made brick and have desirable qualities characteristic of the era in which they were built: crown molding, hardwood floors, stained glass and built-ins. Older homes also tend to be located in our city-close neighborhoods with sustainable features like mature trees, greater walk scores, and larger lots with kitchen gardens.  

 

But, if you’re looking to make drastic changes to more sufficiently reach your climate goals another option is choosing something in the middle. Through deconstruction, or the process of dismantling a building rather than the complete demolition of it, you may be able to find a happy medium. Perks Deconstruction, a local woman-owned deconstruction company cites that 40% of our landfills in Colorado are full of construction and demolition materials. A deconstruction company works to carefully and methodically take apart a structure to salvage materials for reuse and recycling which can also equal tax deductions for the homeowner. 


Every home is different and there are many variables that should be taken into account when considering retrofitting vs starting anew. While retrofitting an entire home may be more expensive, the ability to make changes over time makes energy efficiency within reach to more homeowners. The state and federal government are trying to make these climate goals more reachable through state and federal tax credits for homeowners. There are also a number of rebates and discounts available from Xcel and low interest energy loans (RENU) up to $50,000 to help homeowners do their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Solar Energy in 2022

Solar Power in 2022

I spend a lot of time on the road, driving to showings, listing appointments and open houses. With my gasoline powered car I was certainly contributing the average American’s annual passenger vehicle emissions of 4.6 metric tons of CO2 to our warming planet. To give you an idea, 50 trees must grow for one full year in order to capture 1 metric ton of CO2 emissions. That’s 230 trees growing for a year to offset the average person’s annual vehicle emissions. 

 

According to the EPA, 29% of Greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from transportation and another 25% comes from electricity. So, if you buy an electric car but charge it at a charging station that uses fossil fuels you’re doing great but there’s room for improvement. Our best opportunity to lessen our impact and help save the planet may be installing solar panels on our homes. 

 

Additional pros of going solar:

  1. The current federal solar investment tax credit provides a 26% credit for systems installed through the end of 2022. State incentives can be added on top of this for even more savings. 

  2. Homes with solar panels sell for approximately 4% higher on average than homes without solar energy. 80% of buyers look for solar panels and other energy efficiency upgrades when they hunt for houses.

  3. Xcel energy is planning to increase residential customer’s bills by an average of $9.46 a month, or 12.83% in 2022. Going solar can help you keep costs low. When new owners buy the house, they will also benefit from the savings.

  4. Installing a solar battery can help you further reduce your dependence on the power grid. New technologies are emerging that allow the battery in your electric vehicle to act as a backup battery for your home in times of a power grid failure. 

Things to consider before installing solar power:

  1. Owning the solar panels on your home is the most expensive option up front but provides the greatest savings over time and is more attractive to buyers. If your system is leased, a buyer may not be enthusiastic about being locked into your solar contract.  

  2. Pick a locally based solar company with a long track record who will provide a warranty for the equipment and also the labor. This way if you need to replace your roof or experience any problems with the system you’ll have a company that is around to help. I used and would highly recommend Ecology Solar

  3. If you do sell your home with purchased or leased solar panels be sure to keep track of all of your documentation. Not all systems are the same and this can cause confusion and major delays when you go to sell your home.

  4. If you do decide to sell your home with solar, be sure to use a GREEN certified Realtor (me) who is qualified with specialized knowledge, tools and training to ensure that the appraiser, buyer and buyer’s agent know the increase in your home’s value that solar panels provide.

Sun over aspens

Wishing You an Abundant and Resilient 2022

Wishing You an Abundant and Resilient 2020

At the end of 2020 I was reflecting back on a tumultuous year. The Covid-19 pandemic had forced us all to change our lives, physically isolate ourselves from each other and adapt to new ways of working and being in the world. I was troubled by the scarcity mindset that I saw all around me – people hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, businesses rushing to get PPP loans that they may not have truly needed, and buyers promising sellers $100k+ over the list price for a home in order to beat out the competition.

I was also seeing this scarcity thinking manifesting in land and resource management. Climate fatigue led many to abandon their pre-pandemic climate resilience goals and instead get excited by the prospects of a billionaire flying a rocket into space as if to say “this planet is doomed, let’s get another.”

Heading into 2021 I made it my goal to resist this scarcity thinking and instead live with an abundance mindset. With tremendous gratitude for this place in which we live I wrote a mission statement for my real estate business, committed to donating a sizable portion of my commission to local non-profit organizations and began educating others on land ethics and ways in which we can become climate resilient. I knew it wouldn’t be for everyone, but I wasn’t afraid because I believe the best hope for our collective future is to adapt to our changing planet with compassion, participation and justice. In 2021 I was able to donate nearly $9,000 to local nonprofits. I helped clients buy and sell homes, create gardens, wildlife habitat, and compost bins. I made deeper connections, gained greater knowledge, and was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.

Due to the recent Marshall Fire our community now has nearly a thousand new climate refugees. Families and individuals are struggling to find immediate housing while grieving lost pets, homes and heirlooms. In times like these it is perhaps more important to keep that abundance mindset and be grateful for what remains and how we can help one another. Please consider ways you can give back, either monetarily or by sharing your knowledge, resources and experience. Together we can make 2022 a better year for all.

 

"the state or condition of having a copious quantity of something; plentifulness of the good things in life; prosperity, health and love. "

Abundance

"an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change"