Editor’s Note: Embracing the Earth—All Year Long

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorEarth Day is now Earth Week. News about climate change and the green movement—and what everyone is doing to advocate against one and promote the other—is everywhere this week. Last weekend, for example, The Tower Cos. held a “Recycling Day Festival@The Blairs,”—a 1,400-unit community in Silver Spring, Md.—collecting donations of clothing, electronics and furniture with participating sponsors. And Archstone is hosting a “Green Leasing Expo,” a four-day event in the West Region designed to encourage residents and prospects to conserve natural resources—and at the same time is offering a “Go Green and Get Green” savings of up to $500 in rent with the signing of a new lease.On a larger scale, the Environmental Protection Agency took its first step toward regulating pollution last week when it declared CO2 and other heat-trapping gases as pollutants that threaten the public heath and welfare of individuals.To some of you in the industry, all of this may not seem so—excuse the pun—earth-shattering. I keep talking to industry experts who insist green building is no longer just a trend or a movement; it is here to stay. (And with the recently approved National Green Building Standard, green building has become even more expected, to some extent.)So what is the new norm? As an industry, have our expectations surpassed those of the average consumer?The National Association of Home Builders recently announced that over 2,700 industry professionals have achieved its Certified Green Professional designation. And the Green Building Certification Institute  (GBCI), the organization that administers LEED AP certification, just last week announced that over 101,000 professionals have earned their LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) AP credential.As we keep one eye on the environment and the other on the economy, this number is only expected to rise. According to GBCI, the number of LEED APs doubled in the last year, outpacing the organization’s projections, as the economy took a turn for the worse and industry professionals recognized the competitive edge this certification would provide for them.Perhaps, then, the government should look to the built environment for examples of best practices for cutting energy costs. As an industry, we have seen some truly innovative—as well as seemingly ordinary—measures to reduce greenhouse gases and improve residents’ quality of life—not to mention that many, if not all, of these initiatives end up positively affecting the bottom line in the long run.A New York Times magazine article this weekend discusses how some evidence seems to suggest that, at least for now, homeowners are making more environmentally sound decisions. Though the author notes this may be a sign of the economic times, certainly we are all becoming more aware of the health and financial benefits of greening our homes.And it’s not just homeowners. According to a recent Apartments.com study, renters are becoming more conscious of the environmentally friendly measures they can take in their apartments. The survey found that 65 percent of renters emphasize the need for an environmentally friendly lifestyle and that 60 percent of renters claim to search for apartments based on their sustainable offerings (Click here to read MHN’s coverage of the study).It’s not as if we are just now waking up and realizing that we all must take part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to help the environment and preserve whatever future our children may have. Our industry, which is certainly one that has a tremendous impact on carbon emissions—buildings are responsible for 70 percent of electricity use and 40 percent of carbon emissions, after all—has quite clearly taken a stance on the importance of sustainability. Share your thoughts, as well as what you doing to celebrate Earth Day, or rather, Week. Email me at Erika.Schnitzer@nielsen.com.