What is Sustainable?

What is sustainable/sustainability?

We hear the words ‘sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’ almost every day. But I find many people have questions about those terms. Is it about people and culture, our environment, or jobs and money? Is it about green homes, smart cities and energy planning? Is it about patronage to local business owners that care about and invest in your community? Is it about you and me or is it something for other people to worry about?

Sustainability is actually about all of these things and more. Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, permitting fulfilling the social and economic needs of present and future generations.

It’s a big idea to get your head around. It’s really about thinking about where your food, clothes, energy and all of your products and service comes from and deciding whether you should buy and consume these things. For example, you can buy timber imported from anywhere in the world. But do you know enough about the laws of foreign countries about the prevention of animal harm during the lumbering process? Do you have information about whether the local indigenous people support the harvesting, how much they get paid, or if their process depletes the soil so much that future harvesting will be impossible?

If an activity is said to be sustainable, it should be able to continue forever. It can be applied to almost anything from how we eat to how we create products and services. For example, a food company that creates food that is harmful to their consumers will eventually lose its consumers through sickness or the lack of income due to the lost productivity of sick consumers. The production of harmful food is not sustainable as a sound business model. However, if the case is that all consumers are completely in the dark, then there is a high rate of replacing those consumers indefinitely.

Some people say it is easy to recognize activities that are unsustainable because we know it when we see it. Think of the extinction of some species of animals, often due to the activities of humans. Or salinity (salt quantity) in our rivers due to changed land management practices. And at home, the amount of packaging you put in the trash that has to go into our overfilled landfills. Another example of unsustainable practices is real estate development that does not meet the needs of local populations. Eventually, people will vote with their pocketbooks and it will not be economically feasible for developers to make profits on homes and condos that don’t reflect a sustainable mindset; these properties are not energy efficient, they are too expensive to maintain, or their materials and designs do not contribute to the healthy lifestyles and social interactions that many consumers want today.

The Green Living area of the EPA website has more on this topic and you can drill down to your specific community here: Visit the Green Living area of the EPA website.

To meet others interested in sustainability join our Sustainable Social Club.

Resources: www.landlearnnsw.org.au/sustainability/what-is-sustainability; http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/basicinfo.htm

House Inspection Checklist

Smart homeowners learn how to examine their homes. Houses should be inspected on a quarterly basis so that minor problems are detected before they become major projects. It is a good idea to get your entire family involved, especially your kids. Children will enjoy learning to see the details of a home and how the various parts contribute to the integrity of the whole house. Kids can also help take pictures of your home each season and note the changes over time. Walk through and check these areas every three months:

  • Check for water penetration, cracks, and leaks in these areas:
    • Roof
    • Chimney
    • Attic
    • Water valves
    • Pipes
    • Dishwasher & ice maker water lines
    • Crawl space
    • Leaky faucets
    • Washers
  • Check for proper water drainage in these areas:
    • Grading alongside exterior walls
    • Exterior drains
    • Sump pumps
    • Gutters
    • Downspouts
    • Driveway
  • Ensure adequate ventilation and clean debris from these areas:
    • Attic vents
    • Air vents
    • Forced air ducts
    • Crawl spaces
  • Inspect these areas for deterioration, signs of termites, or water penetration:
    • Exterior siding
    • Exterior trim
    • Exterior caulking
    • Windows
    • Window trim
    • Deck
    • Fences
  • Ensure these areas of your home are in proper operation:
    • Automatic garage door
    • Heating & cooling system
    • Water shutoff valves
    • Fire extinguishers
    • Smoke & carbon monoxide detectors
    • Electric outlet covers
    • Water purification and softener filters
    • Water heater pressure and temperature relief valves
    • Air conditioning filter
    • Steam system safety valve
  • Perform a thorough cleaning of the following:
    • Range hood filter
    • Range burners
    • Wall-mounted heat pump filters
    • Clothes dryer lint screen
    • Air intakes
    • Garbage disposal with vinegar ice cubes
    • Appliances
  • Add or replace gutter leaf guards if necessary
  • Keep gable vents open if you don’t have ridge vents
  • Leave chimney dampers open if your home is not air-conditioned
  • Seal drafty doors and windows
  • Prune shrubs near house siding and AC units
  • Make note of any deteriorating or insecure wiring and call a professional to address the issue (do not touch or attempt to fix any wiring on your own)

Home Maintenance Checklist for Spring

Have fun with Spring chores by getting the whole family involved. The following landscapers can help you as well:

Marcos Landscaping (203) 219-8657, nufiomarco@yahoo.com
Sebastian Landscaping and Snow Removal (914) 433-1735
Peter Pali Mansonry and Landscapes (203) 274-5332, www.peter-pali-masonry-landscapes.com


  • Do your interior spring cleaning and remember to reuse, repurpose, and recycle
  • Vacuum ceilings and interior baseboards, moldings, doorways, trim, garages, and closets
  • Clean the wall hangings and frames
  • Pressure wash the deck, patio, and driveways
  • Clean and condition your outdoor grill
  • Wash exterior windows & screens
  • Put caddies & trashcans through the dishwasher
  • Schedule for an electrician to inspect and fix any wiring and other electrical issues. Do not attempt to fix anything yourself if you are not licensed
  • Prune branches and transplant dormant plants


  • Have your home inspected for termites and other structural pests
  • Open pool and clean patio furniture
  • Fertilize lawn and make sure to use an organic fertilizer


  • Perform your quarterly home inspection (see my House Inspection Checklist blog)
  • Vacuum refrigerator condenser coils
  • Plant annuals

Before you Hire a Contractor, Ask the Right Questions

Selecting the right contractor to work on your home is an important decision. Before you make the hiring decision, you should make sure the company can do the work proposed, will take care of your home in the process, and will maintain an adequate level of attention to your project. This checklist has been created to help you make the contractor decision that’s right for you and your family.

1. Get three estimates to ensure that you get a well-rounded view of project issues and costs.
2. Make a selection based on overall value and not just cost. Spending a little less to get an end product that you are not pleased with or will deteriorate quickly is no bargain.
3. Understand at the onset that your building project will probably cost a little more than you initially think and that it will probably take a little longer than you think. Going in prepared will help you keep your peace of mind.
4. Ask each contractor for proof of insurance, licensing, and local references.

o Make sure the contractor is a licensed and registered contractor in The State of Connecticut.
o Check that the contractor has the appropriate insurance coverage to protect your interests.
o Create estimates and contracts that detail exactly what will be built, specific materials used and cost.
o Make sure that each contractor is bidding on the exact same set of specifications and plans.
o Make sure you understand the plans and specifications that the contractor gives you as part of the contract.
o Check to be sure the contractor is not running too many other jobs concurrently with yours.
o Make sure the contractor has obtained any necessary building or zoning permits.
o Always ask for and check out the contractor’s local references.
o See some work that the contractor has done that is similar to your project.
o Develop an open channel of communication right from the start.
o The contractor has a change management process that is logical and easy to understand.
o The contractor listens to your concerns, has a pleasant business manner, and you can communicate effectively.

These tips were provided by Patricia Rattray and Ben Velishka, Founder Dayton Builders. You can reach Dayton Builders at (203) 667-6266 http://www.daytonbuilders.net/

Land Use in CT and a Great Resource for Information

I recently attended a class on Land Use in Fairfield County. Here are a few takeaways that I think are helpful for home buyers, investors and real estate agents.

  • A useful survey is less than 10 years old. If zoning regulations have changed, setbacks and coverage limits can become obsolete.
  • A GIS map is not a survey. A GIS map is a geographic information system paid for by a municipality. It is an aerial mapping. All measurements are approximate and it is not a survey. A survey is drawn to scale, has the property address and tax ID, and is signed and sealed by a licensed surveyor. Surveys also have references to older surveys and land records.
  • A good survey has an easily convertible scale such as 1″ to 20′ or 1’’ to 30’.
  • There are several types of agencies that impact land use in CT: Inland Wetlands & Watercourse Agency (IWWA), Conservation Commission, Planning and Zoning (P&Z), Coastal Area Management (CAM), Planning & Zoning Board of Appeals (PZBA), and the Health Department. There are 169 different sets of land use regulations in the state of CT.
  • Low Impact Developments (LID’s) treat storm water at the source rather than at the “end of the pipe” as an afterthought. LID’s minimize impervious areas that don’t allow for good drainage, disconnect impervious areas, infiltrate run-off, and conserve buffers and forested areas. Pervious driveways, such as Flexi-pave, and rain gardens are good ways for homeowners to help improve water drainage.

If you’d like to know more about land use and flood management in Fairfield County, go to www.frangione.net

Tips for Lowering Homeowner’s Insurance Costs

  1. Review the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report on the property you’re interested in buying. CLUE reports detail the property’s claims history for the most recent five years, which insurers may use to deny coverage. Make the sale contingent on a home inspection to ensure that problems identified in the CLUE report have been repaired.
  2. Seek insurance coverage as soon as your offer is approved. You must obtain insurance to buy. And you don’t want to be told at closing that the insurer has denied your coverage.
  3. Maintain good credit. Insurers often use credit-based insurance scores to determine premiums.
  4. Buy your home owners and auto policies from the same company and you’ll usually qualify for savings. But make sure the discount really yields the lowest price.
  5. Raise your deductible. If you can afford to pay more toward a loss that occurs, your premiums will be lower. Avoid making claims under $1,000.
  6. Ask about other discounts. For example, retirees who tend to be home more than full-time workers may qualify for a discount on theft insurance. You also may be able to obtain discounts for having smoke detectors, a burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks.
  7. Seek group discounts. If you belong to any groups, such as associations or alumni organizations, they may have deals on insurance coverage.
  8. Review your policy limits and the value of your home and possessions annually. Some items depreciate and may not need as much coverage.
  9. Investigate a government-backed insurance plan. In some high-risk areas, federal or state government may back plans to lower rates. Ask your agent.
  10. Be sure you insure your house for the correct amount. Remember, you’re covering replacement cost, not market value.

Source:  http://realtormag.realtor.org/sales-and-marketing/handouts-for-customers/for-buyers/tips-for-lowering-homeowners-insurance-costs

Prepare Your Home For Sale With This Checklist

Check attic vents for blockage by bird nests, etc.
Clean window wells, dry wells and storage areas of debris.
Have heating and central air systems checked by service person and replace filters where necessary.
Exterior paint:  touch-up minor areas, repaint/paint shutters and front door
Check humidifier for proper operation.
Roofing:  secure any loose shingles, replace damaged areas Have service person check water softener for proper operation.
Chimney:  repair loose bricks, clean flue, repair chimney cap.
Check sump pump for proper operation and that cover is securely in place.
Gutters:  clean and repair gutters, replace leaders and gutters where necessary.
If appliances will remain, make sure they are in good working condition and owner’s manuals are available.
Pruning:  prune large trees and shrubbery, remove dead foliage.
Check all faucets for worn washers and pipes for leaks; repair where necessary.
Mason or stucco cracks:  repair with caulking compound.
Re-caulk tub and shower enclosures.
Locks:  lubricate, repair or replace locks, have keys made for main entry ways.
Have entry area brightly lit and clutter-free.
Keep lawn mowed, leaves raked, driveway and sidewalks clear depending on season.
Paint hallways and rooms off-white where necessary.
Area around front door should be neat.
Check front door bell, light fixtures and mail box. Plants or flowers will perk up the entrance.
Repair settling cracks and water marks.
Wash windows.
Repair loose wallpaper.
Make sure house number if visible.
Shampoo carpets and wax floors.
Replace outside lights with higher wattage bulbs.
Wash windows.
Remove stored items around house, pool and garage.
Clean kitchen closet and cabinets.
Check all windows, screens and storm doors; repair or replace broken items.
Clean hallway, bedroom closets, storage and basement areas.
Remove insects and bird nests from eaves.
Store excess furniture and possessions in attic or basement.
Clean garage
Make sure pets’ litter boxes, cages and bedding are clean and order-free.
Provide records on wells, septic, furniture and central air systems (who serviced them and when last serviced).
Leave lights on in dark rooms if there are no wall switches; leave shades up and allow as much light as possible to penetrate home.
If available, provide land survey; define easements, neighborhood assessments or covenants on land. Increase wattage in light fixtures.
Determine what kind of insulation you have.
If your property has had termites or carpenter ants, check your warranty.
Do your own inspection and fix everything broken.