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The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Eco-Friendly Home: Part 1

September 15, 2020

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Conceptual image of the earth laying in the tall green grass.  Shallow depth of field.  Earth image courtesy of NASA.

It’s not surprising that more and more homeowners are going green in their everyday lives. The benefits of creating an eco-friendly home are far-reaching, but many Santa Barbara and Montecito homeowners concerned about minimizing their impact on our fragile ecosystem don’t know where to begin. This guide will help you find your own path to a greener, eco-friendly living at home.

20 Ways to Start Your Green Journey:

1. Replace old appliances 
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that if just 10 homeowners replaced their older appliances with EnergyStar®-qualified ones, it would be equal to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees. Also, try and use your heat-generating appliances in the cool evenings.
2. Create a Passive Home 
The coveted green home credential of today is the deceptively named passive house standard. A passive house minimizes heating and cooling needs. It is as easy as installing a programmable thermostat and using the automatic function. Maintaining a certain temperature when creating an eco-friendly home is one of the many ways you can help save the planet (and some $$$). There are many other smart home devices on the market today, including smart water monitors and more, that will help you as you’re going green.

Fruits and vegetables at a local farmer's market with the sign locally grown

3. Support your local economy and shop at your farmer’s market

That’s easy for those of us who live in Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Markets offer some of the freshest produce on the West Coast. Yum!

4. Clean your air filters monthly

Remembering to clean your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) air filters monthly can make a big difference in the Earth’s carbon footprint.

5. Install Solar Panels

As I explained in a previous blog post, California is one of the best places in the nation to go solar. In fact, going solar is so important that California passed a law requiring all newly-built homes be equipped with a solar power system. The California solar mandate is part of an initiative by the California Energy Commission to have at least 50% of the state’s energy produced from clean energy sources by 2030. For an instant estimate to see if solar panels are right for your house, enter your address into Google’s Project Sunroof. In a matter of seconds, you can see how many hours of usable sunlight your home gets per year, the square feet available for solar panels, and the amount of money you could save based on that information.

6. Install dual-pane energy-efficient windows

If you haven’t already, replace your windows with dual-pane energy-efficient ones, focusing on those that receive the most intense sun exposure first.

7. Install aerators on faucets 

Especially here in California, drought country, creating an eco-friendly home should begin by installing aerators on your faucets, toilets, and shower heads can cut your annual water consumption by more than half. Aerators can be simply screwed onto the faucet head, creating a non-splashing stream and often delivering a mixture of water and air.

8. Make sure your toilet is a low-flow model

Do you know that toilets installed 15 years ago use more than twice the amount of water than the newer low-flow models?9. Replace your light bulbs

Using the EnergyStar®-rated compact fluorescent light bulbs all over your house can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one trillion pounds. 

Compost bucket in the kitchen is a great way to start going green at home.

10. Compost

Buy a compost bin and use your kitchen waste to fertilize your garden or yard.

11. Go native…

…with your landscaping. Replacing a traditional lawn with native grasses will require 50% to 70% less water and save you approximately 60 hours per year in maintenance, for a savings of up to $3,500 in thirsty climates like ours. And don’t forget to plant shade. Focus on the east and west-facing areas of your home and plant shady trees there to prevent the most brutal heat intrusion during summer months.

12. Stop using disposable bags

One of the most important tips for going green: Invest in reusable bags. Plastic bags tend to disrupt the environment in serious ways. They get into the soil and oceans and slowly release toxic chemicals. They eventually break down, with the unfortunate result being that animals eat them and often choke and die.

13. Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot

Warm water needs to be heated and heat requires energy. Roughly 75% of the energy required to do a load of laundry goes into heating the water. Using cold water saves energy, putting less pressure on electricity grids. Plus, cold water can help your clothes last longer.

14. Turn off lights when you leave the room

Just install one of the many smart home motion sensing light switches that automatically turn off when you leave a room. Smart home lighting allows you to turn off lights, radios, or just about anything you plug into the wall from anywhere in the world using your smartphone

15. Put a stop to unsolicited mail

Sign up to opt-out of pre-screened credit card offers.  While you’re at it, go ahead and make sure you’re on the “do not call” list, just to make life better.

16. Conduct a home energy audit

Creating an eco-friendly home isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, and a certified energy auditor can suggest upgrades that will lower your energy costs. Check the Residential Energy Services Network’s easy-to-search directory of certified energy auditors in each state. Look for an auditor certified to give a Home Energy Rating System index rating, which is a score of your home’s energy efficiency. Lowering the HERS index score will likely raise the resale value of your eco-friendly home when the time comes to sell.

17. Support local restaurants

It’s good for the environment. Local food doesn’t have to travel as far to arrive on your plate. It benefits the local economy, including supporting local farmers and other producers. It encourages sustainable agriculture.

18. Unplug unused chargers and appliances

Today’s digital versions of coffee makers, microwaves, and food processors are constantly sucking down energy. Chargers for phones, laptops, toothbrushes, and more add to your electric bill every minute they’re not actually in-use.

19. Drive the speed limit

The reason is painfully obvious: This is a time for conservation and moderation. Our nonrenewable fossil fuels, like those used in gasoline, are dwindling at an alarming rate. As far as energy consumption is concerned, the optimum speed for cars is 35 to 45 mph. Even better, walk or ride a bike for errands two miles or closer.

20. Pay your bills online

Not only is it greener, but it’s also a sanity saver. Refusing to bring waste like paper bills into our homes is a lot better use of our time than trying to reuse or recycle it.

Remember to come back for Part 2 of my “Ultimate Guide to Creating an Eco-friendly Home,” I’ll blog about building a green home from the ground up and moving green. If you’re interested in creating a new eco-friendly home in Santa Barbara, Hope Ranch, Montecito, or any of the other surrounding upscale Santa Barbara area communities, give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at With more than 3 decades in the industry, I have the experience and knowledge to sell your existing property and find you the perfect green home!

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch