Thursday, September 22, 2011

Does it make "cents" for businesses to go green?

Does it make sense for businesses to go green? It depends on who you ask and what you're talking about. I've posted before that going green seems to be synonymous with being expensive. People had to suck it up and take a hit financially in order to help protect the environment and practice sustainability. But the truth is, it will cost far more for future generations if we ignore the environment and continue with profit being our top priority.

It seems like the only option to help us move toward a greener future is to find solutions that both help the environment and save money. Lately the economy and job creation has become the main focus of the media. The "green collar jobs" that were supposed to be the darling of the economy ended up looking like more of a boon, since large solar companies that the government had invested in went bankrupt. But in reality, these companies that went under were only a few in a sea of many. Green jobs still have the potential to open new opportunities that create both a sustainable environment and a sustainable economy.

Our company, Green Future Construction, has a vision of this working in the future. Although only a small percentage of our clients are even interested in eco-friendly construction options, we try to educate them on what is available and how certain sustainable options may help save them money: now and over time. For example, using native plants may cost less and save you money on water usage over time, since they are built to survive in this environment without much maintenance.

For big businesses the results of small changes can add up fast. For example, reducing packaging saves companies money and reduces landfill waste at the same time. Little changes add up to big savings for large corporations.

In conclusion it is my belief that the future is making sustainable choices that also make sense economically. Without financial incentives many people and large businesses have no immediate reason to change their operating practices. By focusing on the environment we protect the earth for future generations without sacrificing profits today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Montgomery County Maryland Green Building Requirements

Just in case you didn't know, Montgomery County requires all new County funded buildings to acheive at least a LEED Silver rating. Here is a quote from their website:

"Montgomery County, Division of Building Design and Construction is committed to providing leadership which will foster conservation, protection and improvement of the environment by planning, designing, constructing and maintaining buildings that are energy efficient, environmentally friendly and resource-efficient.
In April 25, 2006 a bill was introduced, enacted Nov. 28, 2006 and become effective March 1, 2007 that requires the following for County built or funded buildings:
  • Achieve at least a LEED-certified rating, or the equivalent, if its design is initially funded in the capital budget in Fiscal Year 2008. If its design is initially funded in Fiscal Year 2009 or later, a County-built or -funded building must achieve a LEED-silver or equivalent rating.
  • If a County-built or -funded building is not included in the capital budget, the building must achieve a LEED-silver rating or the equivalent if its building permit application is filed on or after either one year after the Council approves the implementing regulations; or  September 1, 2008, whichever occurs first. 
  • To view the regulations, please visit the Department of Permitting Services.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System was developed by the United State Green Buildings Council (USGBC). It identifies criteria that positively impact the energy and environmental characteristics of a building, including sustainability of a site, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality."


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Savings

Ok, I know that at the beginning of summer you are probably thinking of your vacation not your taxes. But there are a lot of tax breaks available at the federal level to help you save money and go green at the same time. No is a great time to think about these tax benefits because it gives you enough time to plan and apply for the credits. Maybe you could use the extra green you save by spending a few extra days on the beach. Here are a few ways you can use these tax benefits to your advantage:

1. Start improving your home:
Energy saving air conditioning, insulation, new windows, can all qualify for a tax credit of up to $500, or 10% of the installation costs. There are a few stipulations, however, you can't claim the credit if you have claimed $500 or more in home energy credits in the past. The amount of credit the government offers has decreased over the years so make sure you take advantage of it before it is gone!
2. Electric Cars
Out with the hybrids in with the plug-ins! You can get a $7,500 tax credit if you purchase a new plug-in electric vehicle. The credit can only be used to reduce the taxes you pay and can not be refunded or carried forward.

3. Residential Charging Stations:
But how will you keep your new electric car ready to roll? You're in luck! There is a 2011 federal tax credit for installing a residential electric car charger. The credit is good for up to 30% off the installation costs up to $1000. This credit is only good until the end of 2011, so this is another one to take advantage of ASAP.

4.Car Conversion:
Not interested in buying a new car? Why not convert your gas-guzzler to a more efficient electric car. Install a conversion kit and you get a tax credit for 10% of the costs up to $4000. This is another credit set to expire at the end of 2011 so act fast.

5. Home Solar
Air conditioning on high blast making those electric bills soar? If you install solar panels, you get a tax credit of 30% off the total price. To make the deal even sweeter, the credit can be rolled over to apply to next years taxes if you can't use it all at once. The solar panel credit doesn't expire until 2016, but since installation is a long process, you might want to start thinking about it now.

I'd love to find more ways to go green, if you have some please share! 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tips for Hiring Landscape Contractors

Most home owners will hire a landscape contractor to perform work on their yard at some time or another. However, finding a trustworthy professional to do the work is important, since this person will have access to your property. Landscaping, especially patio, walkway and retaining wall construction can be costly, so it is important that the contractor you hire knows what they are doing and operates legally to avoid any potential problems. Still, many home owners do not know what to look for when hiring a contractor, so here is a list of key requirements home owners should keep in mind when hiring a landscape contractor:

1. Make sure the contractor is licensed. Any work over $300 is required to be done by a licensed contractor in the state of Maryland. Contractors should be able to provide you with their MHIC (Maryland Home Improvement Commission) license number. Tree service professionals in Maryland should have a Maryland Tree Expert license number. You can also look contractors up on the DLLR website and DNR website.

2. Insurance. Make sure your contractor carries liability and workers comp insurance when required. If any damages do occur, you want to make sure you are covered.
3. Check for complaints with the BBB. Search the BBB for complaints on a contractor, companies are given grades based on the number of complaints received. Only use companies with a grade of A- or better.

4. Get References. Landscape contractors should be able to provide you with a list of customer references that have had similar projects done. If a contractor is not willing to provide references, they either don't have experience, or don't have any satisfied customers.

5. Get a few quotes. Get a few quotes from different sources. Review the different policies and prices for the quotes. Remember, budget is important but it shouldn't be the only factor. You want a landscape contractor who is reliable and offers quality work as well. a good landscaper will be able to work within a budget. Also keep in mind that by law, contractors can only ask for a down payment of 1/3 the total price of the project.

6. Use a Contract. Contracts are their to protect you, the buyer, and the contractor. Make sure you have all the work to be performed written in a signed agreement. Review the details and ask questions about guarantees and customer satisfaction policies.

7. Follow Your Gut. If something seems fishy, it probably is. Don't get swayed by price cuts or fancy add-ons. You want to feel comfortable with the landscape contractor you are working with.

Remember, landscaping can be a large expense. In order to get the most bang for your buck, make sure that you hire a trusted professional.