How house greeninghelps us all



Fromaspecialvantage point on the far side of a narrow, mid-town Toronto street, Catherine Orfalstared in disbelief at the roof of her house. « Oh myGod,’’ shesaid. The roof sagged in the middle by about a foot and a half.

« If it collapses,’’ Grant HoggfromGreen$averwassaying, « itcouldmean $15,000 in repairs.’’ Shestoodtransfixed, the tips of herfingers over hermouth, a small, delicatewoman, an artistlikeherhusbandSteev Morgan.’’

« I’drecommendthatyougetsomeone to look in the attic right away.” Hoggsaid. « If you catch itnowyoumightgetawaywithrepairs of $500 to $1,500.’’ He is in hismid-twenties, a part-time MBA student and one of 13 assessorsemployed by Green$aver in its free « home visit’’ program.

Assessorsofferhouseholdersadvice on how to reducewaste, increase home comfort, save money on utility bills, solvemoistureproblems and generallyimprovehouseholdenvironmental performance. Green$averdelivers services on behalf of the three Green Communityenvironmentalorganizationslocated in Toronto’seast, north and westregions.

In the Ontario budget brought down before Christmas, all Green Communityfundingwaseliminated effective the end of thismonth. HoweverGreen$averexpects to survive because of partnership alliances withorganizationssuch as ConsumersGas, Lever, Petro Partners, Local 27 of the Carpenters and AlliedWorkers, Canada Trust, Metro area Credit Unions, the Toronto-Dominion Bank, Toronto Hydro, Ontario Hydro, the City of Toronto, Metro Toronto, and a variety of Toronto area environmentalorganizations.

Green$averis unique to Toronto. There are Green Communtyorganizationsin 22 othermunicipalities in Ontario, but theydelivertheirown programs. It isquestionable how many of themcan survive, and how many new organizationscanstart up,  withzerofundingfrom the province.

Even in Toronto, with all itswealth, Green$averneeded help to getstarted. In its first yearitreceivedhalf of itsfundingfrom the province.

Catherine Orfalwent to Green$aver for advicebecause Toronto Hydro hadmailed a Green$aver brochure with one of itselectricity bills. Shewanted to know how shemightsave money. It’s the mostcommonreason for calling, says Kathy Allan, Green$aver’sexecutivedirector.

Whatshehopesisthat once people discoverthatsaving money and supporting the environment are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, canbecomplimentary, theywillincreasinglysee how the economy, the enviromyent and humanwellbeing are connected.

Mary Pickering, marketing manager for Green$aver, putsitanotherway. « We’retalking about incremental change that leads to behavioural change,’’ shesays. That leads to personal insights, and that leads to adeepeningawareness of sustainability and a change in how decisions are made. In effect, sheistalking about people reorderingtheir values. Sheistalking about broadening the criteriaused in reachingdecisions.

Catherine Orfalneedslittle encouragement. She and herhusbandalready have energy efficient appliances in their home; they have installedlow-flow showerheads; and they have put dams in theirtoilet tank thatcut water use by a third. Theythink about environmental and social impacts.

Grant Hoggsaystheycangetsmallcostsavings by wrappingtheirelectric water heater in a specialblanket to reduceheatloss and by installinga thermostat thatautomaticallylowerstemperatures at night.

But whathefinds on examiningtheirmodest home isthatpoorinsulation, decaying bricks at a corner of the house and a lack of proper ventilation in the bathroom and kitchen are causing not onlyheatloss but moisture condensation thatisattackingwindow frames and probablyisrotting supports in the roof.

He suggestsshielding the decaying bricks with a plastic sheetuntiltheycanberepairednextsummer. The cost? About $1,500. That couldraise the cost of major repairsin 1996 to $3,000.

According to Kathy Allan, people spend an average of $1,500 in the yearafter an assessment. So far, Green$aver has completed 2,500 home visits. If the averageholds, itmeans $3.5 million isbeinginjectedinto the economy, a perfectexample of how benefits to people, the environment and the economycanbecoordinated.

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