The Colorado Environmental Film Festival Is Back This Week — for Home Viewing  

Golden Real Estate is proud to be a sponsor once again of this great festival highlighting all aspects of environmental responsibility.

After all, one of the two slogans on every Golden Real Estate for-sale sign is “Promoting and Modeling Environmental Responsibility.” 

Since 2006, the Colorado Environmental Film Festival (CEFF) has been a flourishing part of Colorado’s cultural landscape. It was founded by a dedicated and passionate core group of environmentally minded educators, filmmakers, and supporters who sought to create Colorado’s first and only homegrown, international environmental film festival. Based in Golden since its inception, CEFF has entertained, enlightened, and educated thousands of festival goers over the years with hundreds of original and thought-provoking environmental films originating from around the globe. Each year, CEFF carefully juries and presents a new and different catalog of films, encompassing a broad mosaic of topics that always reflects CEFF’s cornerstone mission to engage participants to learn about ways to understand, preserve, and protect the environment.

Last year, in response to the pandemic, CEFF successfully hosted and implemented the first fully virtual festival, increasing accessibility and opening up the event to broader audiences around the world. It screened a record 86 films, and it added Young Filmmaker Workshops to engage students.

The festival’s three goals are to Inspire, Educate and Motivate, and I can personally testify that the films screened each year accomplish all three goals.

You can buy an all-access ticket allowing you to stream all 90+ films, or you can buy tickets to stream one or more of the festival’s “collections.” Each film is assigned to one or more of the following collections:

> Activism/Environmental Justice

> Adventure

> Colorado Films

> Consumption/Waste

> Energy/Climate Crisis/Fossil Fuels

> Water, Rivers & Oceans

> Wildlife

> Health/Food

> Land Use/Conservation

Because this is an international film festival, many of the films are in foreign languages with English captions.  Others are in English with closed captioning.  For the hearing impaired, there is a separate collection with all the films that have either open or closed captions.

If you’re interested in climate change, you’ll want to view the 5-part series called Feedback Loops, which describes what could also be called “vicious circles” causing the acceleration of planet warming. An example of a “feedback loop” is the thawing of permafrost which releases large amounts of methane, further warming the planet. Each part of this series is 9 to 15 minutes long.

The Virtual All-Access Ticket can be purchased at www.CEFF.net for $75, allowing you to stream all 90+ films, including 13 world premieres. A single collection ticket costs $10, or you can buy a 5-collection ticket for $40.

You have from today (Feb. 24th) until March 6th to stream the films. In addition, there are some live events, including a Filmmaker Q&A on Feb. 24 and 25th, a Photography Keynote Talk on March 3rd, and two free “lunch & learns” from noon to 1pm on March 1st and 3rd.  All are free except the keynote, which is included in the All-Access ticket or can be purchased separately for $10.  Order these tickets on the same website.

A paragraph describing each film is available on the website. You could spend an hour just getting to know about each of the films and the filmmakers.

CEFF may be a homegrown Golden event, but it has acquired an international reputation for screening the very best in films and videos — and also still photography — related to the environment.

Remember, the films are only streamed for 11 days starting today, Feb. 24th, so get started by visiting www.CEFF.net today!

Climate Change Vulnerability Is Increasingly an Issue for Homebuyers  

It’s not surprising, given the extreme weather we’re witnessing, including here in Colorado, that 63% of people who moved during the pandemic say that climate is or will be an issue where they now live, according to a Redfin survey of 1,000 Americans who moved since March 2020. Many of the respondents said they researched climate issues before making their move.

In another survey by ValuePenguin, more than half of Americans fear they would not be able to recover financially from a climate-induced catastrophe. An earlier Redfin survey showed that Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 were most likely to say that “natural disasters, extreme temperatures and rising sea levels” all influenced or will influence their decisions on where to move. 

Here in Colorado we’ve been blessed to experience fewer and less dramatic impacts from climate change. But those impacts are knocking on our door. Consider last summer’s fire smoke, or this month’s hurricane-force winds, or our current drought.

Our water supply depends on snowpack, and rising winter temperatures result in more rain and less snow. Even though we’re east of the continental divide, we, like the Western Slope and the states west of us, are dependent on the dwindling Colorado River water, which is transported from the Western Slope to the Front Range through tunnels.

Because we experience fewer effects of climate change, I foresee increased migration from other parts of the country, including “tornado alley,” to Colorado as their current homes experience climate change’s increasing impact.

In researching this topic, I came across a Fall 2021 white paper from SitusAMC entitled “The Burgeoning Insurance Costs for Real Estate.” It assesses the impact of increased losses from catastrophes, mostly caused by climate change.

Although the focus of the white paper is on the ability of insurers to cover increased claims and the effect of those increased claims on residential and commercial insurance rates, it also made some interesting observations about the migration of people to and from states with high insurance claims and expected future risks from climate change.

So guest what? With the sole exception of California, people are moving to states where they will be more at risk rather than less. Texas, which accounted for 40% of all insurance claims in the first half of 2021, has had the highest influx of people from other states. Florida, despite its risks, was a close second.

In recent years I’ve seen many of my sellers relocating to Florida, and it’s hard for me to understand.

So there you have it — a Redfin study that says Americans are considering climate change risks before making their move, while another study shows that more people are moving into states and areas of high risk. Could both be true? I’m not sure what to believe now!

Let’s Call It What It Is: ‘Climate Destabilization’

Regular readers of this column know that I’m a big proponent of addressing climate change. We are definitely feeling the effects of not addressing it this year with the “heat domes.”

Years ago, I suggested we refer to climate change as “climate destabilization,” because the kinds of flood/drought, hot/cold episodes we are witnessing demonstrate exactly that. Although I’m not a scientist, I understand science, and I know that the jet stream is affected by changes in the Arctic, and the Arctic has been warming faster than the rest of the planet, as proven by the rapid reduction in summer ice. The heat domes of summer and the polar vortexes of the winter are direct results of that polar warming.

We are fortunate to have the climate change deniers out of power so that we can finally address climate change. Have we passed the tipping point?  A few years ago, citing the loss of summer ice in the Arctic, I said we may be, but we shouldn’t use that as a reason to stand by as the jet stream continues to lash the planet and as the Gulf Stream, responsible for keeping Europe temperate.

We can’t do everything the world needs, but the world needs everything we can do.

Redfin Survey Suggests Colorado Will See Influx of Buyers Due to Climate Fears

A recent survey of 2,000 U.S. residents by Redfin found that three-quarters of Americans are hesitant to buy homes in areas with a high climate risk. Those risks include more severe hurricanes & tornadoes, flooding, higher temperatures, wildfires, and rising sea levels.

It’s not hard to see why Colorado would be a favored destination for “climate refugees.” I have sold several homes to Californians recently, including just this month to my stepson, who currently lives in Sherman Oaks. 

We Realtors are seeing more and more of our listings going to out-of-state buyers, subjecting local buyers to increased competition in bidding wars.

If you’ve been paying attention to national weather reports, you can understand this trend. In California, the last two fire seasons have been terrifying. Last week’s earthquake in Los Angeles could have added to the situation.

In the Midwest, we have seen tornado after tornado destroying entire neighborhoods. And rising water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico are promising increasingly severe hurricanes and flooding.

The Redfin survey broke down by age the reluctance of home buyers to purchase a home in such areas. What it found was that buyers between 35 and 44 years old have the highest reluctance, with buyers between 25 and 34 years old having the second highest reluctance to buy in such areas.

Fifty-nine percent of persons between 35 and 44 years old said that the increasing intensity and frequency of natural disasters played a role in their decision about where to move.  Fifty-eight percent said that extreme temperatures played a role, and 48% said that rising sea levels played a role in their decision.

For people 25 to 34 years old, the percentages were 52%, 50% and 35% respectively.

The lowest percentage of reluctance was among the oldest buyers surveyed, those between 55 and 64 years old. (For some unexplained reason, Redfin didn’t survey people 65 and older.) Only 28% of that age group said that natural disasters and rising temperatures were a factor in their decision to buy, and only 15% cited rising sea levels as a factor.

Among my own clients, I have been surprised at how many sellers — all of them seniors — have relocated to Texas and Florida. For some it was to be close to family. For others it was because of lower home prices. They benefited from our runaway seller’s market, buying equivalent homes for much less money in those states.

“Climate change is making certain parts of the country less desirable to live in,” says Redfin’s chief economist. “As Americans leave places that are frequently on fire or at risk of going underwater, the destinations that don’t face those risks will become increasingly competitive and expensive.”

Perhaps the Denver Post should bring back the phrase, “Climate Capital of the World,” below its front-page logo.

All-Electric Homes (and Buildings) Are Central to Mitigating Climate Change

As much as we Americans love our gas fireplaces, gas ranges and gas grills, we need to recognize that the move to an all-electric home, with the electricity being generated using minimal fossil fuels, is central to the goal of mitigating the effects of climate change.

And it can be a good future, especially if you’re able to generate all the electricity that your home and cars use.

That’s the future Rita and I have created for ourselves. We have 10 kW of solar panels on our Golden home, enough to heat and cool our home and charge our two electric cars. Our forced air furnace only burns gas when the outside temp dips below freezing. Otherwise, a heat pump provides all the heat we need. And recently we replaced our gas water heater with a hybrid water heater that heats all the water we need using its built-in heat pump. It has a standard electric heater coil in case we need faster recovery.  (We never have needed faster recovery.)

Yes, we still have a gas cooktop and gas fireplace, and our BBQ grill is plumbed with gas. I can picture us moving to an induction electric cooktop, electric fireplace and electric grill, but for now we comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we have drastically reduced our carbon footprint and our monthly energy bills with the use of heat pumps for heating, cooling and water heating, as well as by driving EVs.

A December article on axios.com reported that some progressive jurisdictions are now banning gas hookups in new residential and commercial construction. According the article, 40 California municipalities, starting with Berkeley in 2019, have banned the installation of natural gas service in new construction.

The most common argument against this anti-natural gas trend relates to the cost of electric heating vs. gas heating, but the people who make that argument are probably thinking of conventional resistance heating, such as baseboard electric heating.

Resistance heating is similar to your kitchen toaster, sending electricity to a coil causing it to generate heat.  There is a more efficient way to heat, however, which is to use a heat pump. A heat pump moves heat instead of generating heat, and the cost is as little at one quarter that of resistance heating for the same BTU (heat) output. Here’s a article comparing the two kinds of electric heating.

Moreover, a heat pump can provide both heating and cooling, merely by reversing the direction in which it moves heat, replacing both the gas furnace and electric air conditioning unit which most of us have in our homes.

Another argument against increased electrification is that electricity is itself created by the burning of coal and natural gas. The current fuel mix of Xcel Energy in Colorado is 36% natural gas, 32.5% coal, and the rest renewable energy (mostly wind). The company’s goal is 55% renewable by 2026 and 100% “carbon-free” by 2050, so it makes sense to start now replacing gas appliances with high efficiency electric ones such as heat pumps.

Keep in mind, too, that we can generate our own electricity at home and on our office buildings, taking advantage of “net metering,” paying only to be connected to the electric grid. With net metering, Xcel’s grid functions like a battery, taking excess electricity from our solar installations during the day and delivering it back to us when the sun goes away — or when our solar panels are covered with snow!

This Climate Change Movie Is a Must-See

Of all the movies I watched during last month’s Colorado Environmental Film Festival, “Kiss the Ground” was by far the most impactful. It won the festival’s top  award, and deservedly so.

You will learn so much, as I did, from this 84-minute documentary about agriculture, farming, carbon sequestration and climate change. Schools can stream a 45-minute version of it free, including if you are doing home schooling. Visit www.KissTheGroundMovie.com to stream it. The rest of us can rent it for a dollar, or find the full-length documentary on Netflix.

The central thesis of the movie is that the mass tillage and spraying of farmlands under industrial farming is destroying the soil’s natural ability to sequester carbon. By the end of the movie you’ll be convinced that “regenerative farming” is the solution of our CO2 crisis.

The narrator of the movie is Woody Harrelson, who starts out by saying that he had given up on saving the planet from the effects of climate change, until he realized that the solution is “as old as dirt.”

A key character in the documentary is Ray Archuleta, a conservation agronomist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly the Soil Conservation Service created by FDR to deal with the causes of the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s, when excessive tillage of farmland had caused massive erosion and dust storms.

The goal of NRCS agents like Archuleta is to reduce tillage and the use of chemicals that damage the soil. Achieving that counter-revolution would allow the soil to absorb and sequester enough carbon to solve the climate crisis, the film asserts. It’s a powerful argument.

I challenge you to watch the first 10 minutes of this film, and you will want to watch the remaining 74 minutes. You’ll get a huge education about the importance of soil health to the future of our planet. There’s a trailer on the website.

The 14th Colorado Environmental Film Festival Is Feb. 20-23

With our area’s historic reputation for environmental responsibility, it’s not surprising that Golden is the birthplace and home of the nation’s leading film festival focused on environmental issues. And it won’t surprise you that Golden Real Estate has been a sponsor of CEFF for most of the festival’s life.

I love how this festival is structured, combining local, national and international films — including by children — in both short and feature-length formats. The festival’s opening reception and award ceremony (with film screening) on Thursday, February 20th, is free to attend, as is the reception and Eco Expo on Saturday, Feb. 22nd, where you can enjoy free food and beverages as you visit 20 or so exhibitors of environmentally friendly products from home hydroponic towers to solar panels, to companies which can make your home more energy efficient. We’re sharing Golden Real Estate’s booth with Good Business Colorado, whose membership includes over 210 like-minded businesses committed to sustainability.

You can peruse the 60 films being screened at www.CEFF.net. The films are bundled into four screening sessions on Friday and Saturday — 10 a.m. (10:30 on Saturday), 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. — plus the 7:30 p.m. free session on Thursday and two afternoon sessions on Sunday that will feature the films which won awards. The website lists and describes the films included in each session. You can purchase tickets on the website. Prices range from $9 for a single session ($4 for children under 12) up to $20 or $25 for a day pass and $65 for an all-access pass.

There are two theaters for each session, and each session includes 2 to 5 films, depending on length. The Friday morning session (CEFF 4 Kids) is limited to students, including those who are home-schooled, by advance reservation.

The films explore the undeniable and inescapable interconnection of Earth’s ecology, societies and economies. Audiences will be entertained and will leave inspired, surprised, motivated and transformed through events that will involve audience members and filmmakers in thought-provoking dialogues and forums about the films.

Still photography is a big part of each year’s festival, too, with environmentally themed photographs adorning the walls of the American Mountaineering Center, where the festival takes place. On Friday at 5 p.m. there is a photography reception, with a keynote address at 6:30 by photographer Cheryl Opperman on “The art of communication through photographs.”

The Eco Expo opens at noon on Friday and Saturday only.  Look for us at our booth!

Plant-Based Meat Has Won Us Over

First, Rita and I tried the “Impossible Whopper” at Burger King, and we liked it — can’t tell it from the regular Whopper. Then Rita found the package shown here at Costco — eight 1/4-lb. patties for $14.99. She cooked them in a pan and seasoned them as she would regular burgers, topped with pepperjack cheese and sautéed mushrooms, and served the patties on a bed of romaine lettuce and sliced tomatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. On another occasion she substituted Roast Pineapple & Haberno Sauce for the dressing, and it was even more delicious.  Try it! You’ll thank me for telling you about them!

Committed as Rita and I are to mitigating climate change, we recognize the desirability of reducing our consumption of beef, and this product makes that really easy and enjoyable.

You’re Invited to a ‘Climate Reality’ Event Next Wednesday, Nov. 20th, 6-8 pm

Next Wednesday, Nov. 20th, from 6 to 8 p.m., Golden Real Estate is hosting a Climate Reality Project event called  “24 Hours of Reality: Truth in Action.”

Think of it as a “teach-in” where you can deepen your knowledge of climate facts. About 1,000 of these presentations are taking place within a 24-hour period across the globe. Fifteen of them are within the Denver metro area alone.

Our Net Zero Energy office at 17695 S. Golden Road in Golden is a suitable venue for this presentation. Think of it as an example of steps you can take at home or work to participate in the mitigation of climate change’s impacts on our planet.

Our presenter is Owen Perkins, who, like all Climate Reality Project presenters, has been personally trained by former vice president Al Gore on the topic of climate change.

Register for this event by emailing Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com or by texting Jim Smith at 303-525-1851. Refreshments will be provided. Reservations are essential, since space is limited.

Here’s some more information from ClimateRealityProject.org:Truth in Action  is a daylong global conversation on the climate crisis and how we solve it.  You want to know the truth of what’s happening to our climate. But you also want to know what we can do to solve this crisis before it’s too late. You want to know what you personally can do to make a difference… 

“Research suggests that one of the most critical things you can do right now is talk to others about the climate crisis. When we have conversations about the crisis, we shine a light on its importance in our own communities, and make it clear to our friends, families, and neighbors that this is something serious enough to talk about. In this way, we can shift public perception and increase support for taking swift action.”

At Saturday’s ‘Green Homes’ Tour, You’ll Learn What’s Possible for Your Home

The Metro Denver Green Homes Tour is an annual event that happens on the first Saturday in October, which is this coming Saturday. For $10 per person, you get to go on a self-guided tour of 14 Jefferson County homes with a variety of green features.

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about solar power and sustainability, but every year I learn things I didn’t already know by touring the homes on this tour.

Golden Real Estate is proud to be a platinum sponsor of this event each year. Also, I serve on the steering committee and help in a variety of ways, such as organizing the Electric Vehicle Showcase, which takes place during the post-tour reception, 4 to 6 pm in the CoorsTek parking lot at 10th & Jackson Street in downtown Golden. It coincides with the reception and Green Expo in the American Mountaineering Center (AMC) across the street.

You can register for the tour online at www.MetroDenverGreenHomesTour.org, but you’ll need to pick up your tour book and map, which you can do anytime on Friday at Golden Real Estate’s office, 17695 S. Golden Road, or on Saturday after 9am at the AMC, 710 10th Street.  If you don’t register online, you can do so at the AMC on Saturday morning.

Then you’re on your own, mapping out your own tour based on locations but also on what you read about each house in the tour book.

I couldn’t shoot video tours of every home, but I did choose two that the committee felt represented particularly interesting examples of sustainability. You can see those two videos on the website mentioned above. By watching those two videos you will learn things you didn’t already know, as I did by shooting them.

To quote from page 3 of the tour book, “In our ongoing effort to showcase a wide variety of solutions and lifestyles, you will see solar, of course, and also mini splits, ground source heat pumps and passive solar treatments. You can visit an Arvada sustainable new town home community [Geos] and enjoy many other sustainable lifestyle features such as co-housing, electric vehicles and water wise gardens. You will be viewing the tried-and-true in addition to the latest in innovative technologies, plus learning many steps used to eliminate red tape while going green.”

If you pick up your tour book at Golden Real Estate, let us show you how we transitioned to “net zero energy” using many of the features you’ll see on the tour, including heat pump/mini-split heating & cooling, solar panels, super insulation, and tankless electric water heating. Our monthly energy bill is $10.26 since having our gas meter removed two years ago. If you come in an electric car, you can plug in to our free ChargePoint charging stations — powered by the sun — while we show you around! Click here to read the Jan. 4, 2018, column I wrote describing Golden Real Estate’s transition to Net Zero Energy.

This Saturday’s tour is one of 79 such tours of 894 private homes happening this weekend as part of the National Solar Tour sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). And that doesn’t include, for example, last Saturday’s Boulder Green Home Tour, which had 10 homes on it. This is the 25th National Solar Tour, and we have participated for 23 of those years.

Don’t forget the Green Expo during the reception, 4 to 6 pm following the tour. Many companies which implement green solutions will have booths, and there will be an Electric Vehicle Showcase in the parking lot across the street. If you have an EV, bring it for display! If you’re interested in going electric, there will be test drives available. Also, Pedego Golden is bringing electric bicycles which you can test ride.  I have an electric bike, and I love it!

Also at the event will be the CSU Extension 4-H Mobile STEM Lab. The primary focus of the mobile lab is energy production and conservation, energy conversions and mechanical advantage for youth and adults.  Should be interesting!

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