Caryn Thompson and Jason Charters are putting a lot of thought and personal energy into making their east-end home environmentally friendly.

“I think we are trying to do something that is reasonable for the average person,” says Thompson. “We don’t have a lot of resources but we try to make good choices along the way.”

The couple are renovating their 90-year-old, three-bedroom home near Woodbine and Danforth Avenues. Whenever possible, they are going green:

They are adding special windows and insulation to reduce heat loss.

All painting is being done with low-toxin paint.

Their kitchen materials, such as plywood for the floor, are all locally sourced and non-toxic. On the appliance side they are going with a high energy-efficient fridge and an air conditioner that uses puron, instead of ozone-depleting freon.

Charters, 35, and Thompson, 37, are aware renovations create at lot of waste. But they’re hoping to strike a balance by creating an energy-efficient, non-toxic home.

“We kept saying at least we are investing in ourselves by putting equity into a home,” he says.

Thompson works in community health, teaching pregnant women about the dangers of environmental toxins. She is also pregnant herself.

“I can come into the house at five months’ pregnant and not feel like I am in a toxic environment,” she says.
Charters says they felt like they were breaking new ground at the beginning of their renovations, but now notice more people making the same choices with their homes.

“I think it’s worth it and I think it’s getting easier,” he says.

Green home features are becoming increasingly popular — and sought after by homebuyers.

According to a recent Angus Reid study for Royal LePage, 72 per cent of the 1,266 Canadians surveyed say green features, such as energy-efficient appliances and proper insulation, are high on their list of priorities when searching for a home.

And more than half of the respondents say they are willing to pay extra for it — between $5,000 and $20,000. Although some green changes, such as energy-efficient bulbs and weather stripping, are easy and affordable, others can be costly. For example, Charters and Thompson’s energy-efficient fridge cost several thousand dollars.

“We had very specific dimensions; this was the only one that fit the bill,” says Thompson, who estimates going green cost about 20 per cent more than a typical renovation.

There are several shades of green when it comes to homes, explains Elden Freeman, executive director of the National Association of Green Agents and Brokers.

“We are not talking things like solar panels. If you walked into a green home, you wouldn’t necessarily know. We are talking about using healthier products.”

Funded in 2005, NAGAB is a non-profit organization offering “green real estate” training to its more than 16,000 members.

Brokers take courses on energy efficiency and green heating and cooling, earning credits toward their recertification (something all brokers must do every two years). They also receive training on government grants and incentives available to home and business owners interested in conserving energy, he says.

The association will soon be connected with a list of organizations offering green products, so its agents will be able to offer discounted products to customers.

“It kind of closes the loop ... now they can recommend products and home services,” says Freeman.

Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage and a founding member of NAGAB, says real estate companies need to recognize the growing interest in green products.

“It was only a couple of years ago that we came to the conclusion that we could make a difference and be seen as one of the leaders in this base,” he said.


Fast-growing bamboo is a popular renewable material, and high-end tilemaker Walker Zanger has now refined bamboo flooring with its Sobu Collection, a line of mosaic tiles. To find Walker Zanger dealers in Canada, visit

TerraMai’s ( jungle-mix hardwood flooring is made out of railroad ties, mine timbers and demolished industrial buildings from Southeast Asia. Reusing old wood in new ways is enjoying a renewed vogue among homeowners who are worried about the environment.

Benjamin Moore’s new premium Aura lineup uses a new pigment-embedding technology, meaning most applications need only one coat of paint. It also uses VOC-free colourant, and contains under 50 grams of VOCs per litre.

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