Green Living

My "Walkable" New Year's Resolutions

New-Year-Greeting-PicturesI've gone through years of outlandish resolutions (lose 25 pounds by February, finish all the half-read books on my nightstand, eat kale at every meal), and I've greeted the New Year with no resolutions at all. But this year, I've thought about how I can take better advantage of this amazing community I live in -- and also how I can give back. Many of my resolutions this year are "walkable" in nature, and they feel absolutely right. It's a list that captures the things that are really important to me -- the perfect recipe for a Happy New Year!

o  If I'm buying only one bag of groceries, I will ride my bike to Acme     rather than take the car.

o  If it's not raining (or snowing!) I will walk to the train station for my trips into New York City.

o  Rather than drive to the YMCA for my usual 45 minutes on the treadmill, I will walk the 3-mile loop from Edgemont Park, up through Yogi Berra Way, across Highland and down through Anderson Park.

o  If it's above 20 degrees, my daughter will walk home from the high school rather than me picking her up. (However,   if she's annoying me, it will only have to be above 15 degrees!)

o  I will grow half the veggies my family consumes between the months of July and October.

o  Every month, I will give away or sell at least one un- or underused item from my garage attic or basement. (My favorite way to do this is on the Montclair Swap Meet Facebook page.)

o  Each month, I will make a donation of either time, food or supplies to the Montclair Animal Shelter.

If one of your resolutions is to move yourself or your family up, out or over and a walkable suburb seems like it might fit with what's important to you, too, please don't hesitate to call me. I'd love to show you all this area has to offer! 973.809.5277

A Short Post About Tiny Houses

Tiny houses seem to be all the rage right now. I'm intrigued by the idea of people living in a 200-250 square-foot house, although I can't imagine doing so myself. I recently came upon this video of tiny houses that are being built as apartment "units," which can be removed from the "apartment building" and moved anywhere.

My first thought was, Wow, this could put real estate agents right out of business. My second thought was, Hmmm, for a tiny house it sure can store a lot of wine.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who is fascinated by the emotional wherewithal of people who opt to live in suminimotives-tiny-house-9ch efficient quarters. This hilarious essay in Medium struck a chord with many of us who just don't get it.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to think I could live in a home where I could see everything I own just by craning my neck. But how would I host Thanksgiving? Where would I put the Christmas tree? For that matter, where would I store the Halloween candy? And would any trick-or-treaters even come?

Obviously, I'm not ready to make the big move to a tiny house. Not so for my son; he says he's going to build one in the back yard so I can't nag him about cleaning his room.

If you're ready for a move and are still in the market for a big people's house, I have inventory in all shapes and sizes. Give me a call and let me show you around! 973.809.5277

Glen Ridge is Hot, Hot, Hot!!!

I talk about Montclair here a lot because, well, I live here, and sometimes Glen Ridge - our lovely neighbor to the east - does not get its due.

The great thing about Glen Ridge is that it's small and quietly awesome. Close enough to Montclair (and Bloomfield) to benefit from all the restaurants, art offerings, park space and activities, but also a little haven unto itself, with its own country club, gas-lit streets and engaged community.

It doesn't surprise me at all that Glen Ridge ended up in Realtor Magazine's top 12 hottest zip codes in the entire country. It's magical. Some of my favorite things: First, the Freeman Gardens - a tucked away little rose sanctuary that is delightfully meditative; Fitgerald's pub, a great place for brunch or a beer; and finally (this is sort of a "thing" of mine), the way the town deals with refuse. I just recently found out that not only does Glen Ridge have a monthly designated day where residents can put bulky, unwanted items out on the curb for pick-up, they actually have an online register where you can list the items you're discarding, so people can come by and pick up stuff that might be useful to them. It's called the Glen Ridge Freecycle Program, and for inveterate yard sale junkies, it's nothing short of inspired.

So, yay for you 07028! I'm sorry I neglect you sometimes. You certainly don't deserve it.

*Photo from Glen Ridge town website.

I'm a Walkability Advocate!

IMG_5284 2I love this piece in Slate's design blog. It's the story of a guy who felt so strongly about the benefits of walking that he started his own guerrilla campaign to encourage people to walk more.

The Slate bloggers write, "Although 41 percent of all trips made in the United States are 1 mile or less, fewer than 10 percent of all trips are made by walking or biking."

They go on to say that the wayfinding signs that this guy developed - signs that tell people how many minutes it takes to walk or bike to popular local destinations - have become prototypes for pilot programs in other cities, used by community organizations, city planners and "walkability advocates."

Walkability Advocate! I didn't even realize there was a term for someone like me!

Yes, I can tell you how long it takes to walk from anywhere to anywhere else here in Montclair. Because that's why most of us come here... so we have the choice of leaving our cars behind.

But you don't need me with you when you're out and about. Montclair installed its own award-winning pedestrian  wayfinding system downtown a couple of years ago.

Don't worry, we won't look at homes together on foot - there's too much to see. But I promise you, I'll always make sure you have a full grasp of the wonderful walkability that awaits you here.

 

Sign Language

street3 I recently saw a street sign that perfectly sums up Montclair. This sign is on the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and North Willow Street and is part of the new "way-finding" project that the town has recently implemented. It has arrows directing which way to go in order to get to various destinations in town, but what makes the sign so cool is that instead of using miles, it measures distance by "minute walk." For example, the post office is a five minute walk from the corner, while the Bay Street train station is a 12 minute walk. Glenfield Park is a whopping 13 minute walk, and Lackawanna Plaza is literally three minutes away.

To me, this sign is evidence of why the Montclair real estate market is rebounding better than many other markets. Like many suburbs, Montclair has parks, shopping and rail service to New York. But here, unlike in many suburbs, you don't always need a car to access them. Obviously, I'm not saying that no one ever drives here. But as a Montclair Realtor, I can say that all signs point to a different kind of suburb -- one concerned with issues of walkabilty, affordability and the environment.

 

Living Green with Gray

gray_russell_01_5x71Yet another reason why I love Montclair: Gray Russell, our Environmental Affairs Coordinator (how many towns even have an Environmental Affairs Coordinator?), was recently honored as New Jersey's "greenest" public official. According to an article on Baristanet.com, Russell received his Garden State Green Award on May 18 at Kean University. The award is also known as a Boggie, a reference to the bog turtle, once abundant in New Jersey and now endangered.

At the awards ceremony, Russell said, "We've come a long way in our efforts toward lowering our carbon footprint, but there's much more that we can do," which really resonated with me. I love that, with its bike lanes and EV charging stations, Montclair is trying to move away from fossil fuel-dependent cars.

Another factor in our becoming known as a green community is our layout. Unlike newer towns, where residential and commercial areas are often separated by highways, Montclair has always integrated the two. Many of my clients have told me how much they enjoy being able to walk to restaurants, shops, even a movie theater. While we wait to see what new initiatives Russell is planning, this Montclair Realtor will be reducing her own carbon footprint just by using her feet.

 

 

My Must-See TV - Designing Healthy Communities

I don't generally have a lot of time to watch television; being a New Jersey Realtor means being "on call" day and night. I am determined to make time for Designing Healthy Communities, though. This is a four-part series airing soon on WLIW  (and other public television stations) which looks at the links between our built environment (urban sprawl, concrete jungles) and public health issues like obesity and asthma. I'm especially interested in the first episode, called "Retrofitting Suburbia."  In this episode, Dr. Richard Jackson, the series host, looks at communities in Colorado and Georgia that have taken steps to encourage mass transit and bicycling as legitimate forms of transportation. The series runs on February 2 and 3;  it should make for valuable, and fascinating, viewing.

And the Survey Says...

As a New Jersey Realtor, I am a member of the National Association of Realtors, and I regularly read its publications. Recently I came across one that I found interesting and worth sharing.

In March of this year, the National Association of Realtors commissioned a market research firm to conduct a survey regarding Americans' housing and community preferences.  Over 2,000  randomly selected adults took part in this updating of a 2004 survey. In both cases, a significant portion of adults indicated that living in a community where they could walk to shops was either "important" or "very important."

The economy  has seen big ups and downs over the past seven years, and people's housing priorities have changed in certain areas. I was interested to see that 66% (two-thirds) of the adults  polled this year said that being within an easy walk to places in their community was important to them.

Clearly, walkable suburbs are still seen as very desirable places to live. I'd love to show you some of New Jersey's finest.

Solar Panels on my Montclair Home

I've always liked the idea of solar energy: it's non-polluting, infinitely renewable, and available domestically. Now, thanks to a 30 % federal tax credit  and the ability to sell SRECs (solar renewable energy certificates) to power companies, it's also financially feasible. So I am having solar energy panels installed on my roof.

As part of the solar panel system, I also needed to install 3 inverters in my home. Inverters convert the solar energy produced into usable voltages; Call me weird, but I really enjoy going down to my basement to watch them count up the kilowatts of energy being generated.

The panels are just about done; once I have the final approvals in place, they will generate around 1/3 of the electricity I need to run my house. This project has not been cheap, but I expect to recoup the cost in around four years. After that,  it will provide me with an annual cash flow of several thousand dollars. Putting solar panels up is a win-win situation: I will ultimately save money while I do my small part to save our planet. It's something that anyone with a south facing roof can do - There are even free options if you don't have the cash to pay for the panels.  If you'd like to know more about it email me or read more on the piece from Baristanet.

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    Got Certification?

    As a New Jersey Realtor,  I could theoretically help a client buy or sell a home anywhere in the state. Practically speaking, though, this would be, well, impractical. I don't know a whole lot about the South Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia, for instance. I do know a lot about Essex County real estate, however.  And one thing that really impresses me about Essex County is how many of its towns have received certificates of sustainability.

    Sustainable Jersey is an organization founded in 2006 that helps communities foster environmental awareness and responsible economic growth, which lead to a higher quality of life in the long term. Communities interested in becoming certified are required to take steps such as ensuring environmental justice in planning and zoning. Once they have earned their certification, they can apply for cash grants: Wal-Mart has since 2009 partnered with Sustainable Jersey in awarding grants to towns for sustainability projects. Last year, for instance, Montclair was awarded $25,000 to install charging stations for electric cars, while West Orange received $10,000 for water conservation education initiatives.

    Other local communities that have received certification include Bloomfield, Glen Ridge and Maplewood. It's probably not a coincidence that these are also very walkable suburbs; walkability has a lot to do with sustainability.