Meg White is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.
As we mentioned in the introduction to this product guide, one of the best ways to ensure eco-friendly processes in your business is to stay local. This guide to green products is intended to provide a launch point for you to incorporate environmentally friendly companies into your affiliate list. And remember: Another way to practice green (while saving green at the same time) is to avoid purchasing new products you and your clients don’t really need. So, before you recycle, make sure you’re reusing and reducing — purchasing and using less — when possible.
Check out GreenMoversUSA to find someone nearby to whom you can refer your environmentally conscious clients. The site has a clear rating system that denotes commitments as small as cardboard recycling to as significant as carbon offset programs and biodiesel trucks.
In This Guide:
A somewhat new trend popping up across the country is companies providing reusable packing crates instead of cardboard boxes for movers. There are a number of local and regional box rental companies around the country, but Rentacrate is one of the few commercial-friendly, nationwide options. They also offer shredding, electronic recycling, and the opportunity to earn points toward LEED certification.
Here are some more localized options:
Serving Multiple Markets:
If your clients really want to use cardboard, help them find sources of used moving boxes. BoxCycle.com is a clearinghouse for used boxes, and can be utilized to buy or sell used boxes nationwide.
Gift baskets featuring organic treats are available from a variety of national chains, such as Harry and David. But you might consider something local, since shorter shipping distances will reduce the carbon footprint of your gift twice over (once on its way to the gift basket aggregator, and again on its way to your customer). Try googling “[your location] organic gift basket” or contact local food, beverage, and candy stores to see if they have a gift basket program.
If you can’t find something locally, America’s Best Organics Inc. is a good alternative. A certified B Corporation based in Boulder, Colo., they curate products from brands that offer organic, fair trade, non-GMO products.
Giving plants as a closing gift is a tradition older than the green movement itself. Again, it’s best to stay local; your neighborhood greenhouse should be able to recommend native plants that are easy to care for. Find Native Plants is an excellent resource for identifying easy-to-grow and environmentally beneficial plants specifically for your area of the country. The site also links users with local nurseries where you can purchase the plants in question.
If you’re looking for a national plant-supply option, Seeds of Life will take into account your local area. The company grows tree saplings in house and matches recipients according to their growing region, with products available that are native to all growing regions throughout America. The trees are packaged in a 100 percent natural jute bag and accented with a silk ribbon, personalized card, and engraved tag. The gifts also include an individual watering tool and care directions.
For clients who are greener in their hearts than they are in their thumbs, consider having a tree planted in their name in one of the national forests. The National Forest Foundation allows individuals to give one-time gifts in honor of others, but they also have business partnerships available to companies that are interested in ongoing philanthropic projects. The organization sends cards (electronic or regular mail, depending upon how much you give) to the recipients, announcing your gift. The organization will plant a tree for every dollar you give to their tree-planting programs, so even smaller amounts of money can go a long way.
If a tree seems too big and abstract, you can also consider purchasing air-cleaning plants mentioned in the "working with sellers" portion of this guide.
Perhaps the most practical gift you can give clients is a basket of eco-friendly cleaning supplies. While many brands make claims about being green these days, there’s no consensus on what that means. Below, we collected a list of household cleaning products that have earned an “A” rating from the Environmental Working Group, which means the product has few or no known or suspected hazards to health or the environment, as well as a thorough ingredient disclosure. This is just a sampling of the research and advocacy organization’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
When you’re marketing yourself as an eco-friendly real estate professional, make sure you’re aware of the Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides,” designed to help marketers avoid making misleading environmental claims. These guides, updated in October 2012, can help you identify the types of businesses you want to partner with, and can help you market yourself as green in a more transparent way.
Also, as mentioned elsewhere in this guide, you may want to consider pursuing NAR’s Green designation as a way to distinguish yourself from the pack.
You may want to reconsider your print marketing to focus more on online outreach and avoid using so much paper to get the word out about your business. But one paper product that technology hasn’t managed to render obsolete is the business card, an eco-friendly version of which is provided by the folks at MOO. They use 100 percent recycled, 100 percent recyclable paper that’s manufactured in a factory powered by wind turbines. It’s free from chlorine and acid, and it’s Green-e certified and Green Seal certified.
If you’re still into printing your logo on marketing items, make sure the products you choose are made in a sustainable way — extra points if your product can help potential clients minimize waste in their own lives, as is the case with reusable bags. Be sure to choose a reusable bag company that adheres to environmental standards, such as Eco-Bags. For around $10 a tote, you can have your own design silk-screened onto a small order of bags made from organic fabric or recycled, sustainably harvested cotton (bulk pricing available). Eco-Bags is also a B Corporation that works to ensure fair wages for those producing their bags.