The StartupNation Blog Trends, tips and real-life anecdotes from industry experts

Modeling The Way To Green, One House At A Time

If there was an action figure of Shane Petersen (GreenLivingSeattle.com), it would have the following accessories: the proverbial Seattle coffee, his marketing materials (printed on 100% recycled paper) and all the accouterments for an REI hiking emergency. Peterson is your friendly neighborhood Eco-Broker Realtor, educating the public on the benefits of living, building and investing in “green.”

What sets Petersen apart from other realtors I’ve come across is the earnestness with which he approaches his subject. His interest and his presence are very genuine. Like many who successfully execute a career change, he came to this life path by extrapolating where he was at, not liking the answer and taking a leap in another direction.

About Shane Petersen
When finishing school and wondering about his future, Petersen immediately started sending out resumes and let the kinetic energy of opportunity kick in. “I reached out to 30 companies in Portland, 30 in Seattle, and 30 in Idaho. I answered the first one (in Portland) and flew out to meet with them. I answered the first one (in Portland) and flew out to meet with them. I didn’t really have the experience, but they were interested in me because they were impressed that I took such lengths to get the job. They hired me on the spot.”

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And that pretty much sums him up. I love stories like this, because it is situations like these that create opportunities for people who are willing to work for it. Only good things can come of sticking your neck out for something you want.

Petersen got a phone call from a friend working at “this place that sells books online and is looking to pick up some extra people.” (Deduct two points from the game of Life if you had to click on the link.)

He spent 6 years in IT, traveling heavily and the working standard .com sweatshop hours. The experience was solid, but when the company started to scale down with the economy, he “ended up behind a desk with a pager” and (in good company with the rest of us out there) began some serious soul searching.

During this time he and a friend began buying investment type rental properties. They became disillusioned by the experience they were having with realtors and lenders, so started doing it themselves. “My friend wanted to go the mortgage broker route and I wanted to do the real estate part, so it was the perfect partnership. We accumulated properties while the banks would give us money, but stopped once the debt started mounting – probably a good thing….but it wasn’t like I woke up one day and decided I wanted to be a green real estate agent.”

“I was getting my license at the time, decided I wanted to leave my job and do this full time. I got into “green” because I enjoyed learning about it and was already passionate about preserving and protecting our planet. The stuff I learned about healthier living environments was an eye opener. The Average American spends 90% of their day inside something: a car, a home, or an office. That’s a lot of time inside. Why not understand more about how indoor air quality it affects you? Child hood asthma, cancer rates and other mysterious illnesses are on the rise and some becoming epidemic. Doesn’t living in a more efficient home just make sense?”

If there’s one nugget I’ve picked up in my travels, it’s that when you get to the point where you are asking such simple questions, you’re past the argument and on to the next phase of the movement.
- Relationships: “This isn’t working, is it?” Ding! What do I win?
- Parents: “How does not studying for the test help you leave home any sooner?” Um, it doesn’t.
- Real Estate: “Doesn’t living in a more healthy, efficient and sustainable home make sense?” Why yes, yes it does.

About Green Living Seattle
Under the shingle of Windemere, Petersen has created www.GreenLivingSeattle.com , a resource site for all things related to green real estate in Seattle. As an EcoBroker Petersen specializes in green marketing, education and buyer/seller services.

Thru education he teaches buyers and builders the advantages of green construction. With a focus on promoting healthy, energy-efficient and sustainable building practices he feels this is an opportunity to reduce our impact.

Petersen also regularly holds green home tours in the Seattle area and has a green blog site in the works.

How does he give back?
Through Windemere, Petersen contributes a small percentage fee from each transaction which goes to the Windemere Foundation. Through Greener Living Seattle, he will be giving 6 free lectures this year to educate various segments on the benefits of green building options.

An example of the type of lecture he’s interested in is helping people trying to sell their homes and if they sit for more than 90 days; there is an opportunity to think through some “green improvements” making them more marketable. He’s also interested in speaking to builders, architects, schools and other segments on the environmental and economic benefits of building green.

Another endeavor of Petersen is to start a non-profit outdoor diabetic youth camp called Activ Youth. This organization will focus on educating and organizing diabetic youth to live more active and healthy lifestyles. Petersen has been a type 1 diabetic since age 15 and has maintained his own health thru diet and an active lifestyle. His goal is to act as a role model and encourage youth and their parents to be active and realize the benefits thru the outdoor programs Activ Youth will offer.

Espresso Shot Insights (what’s this?)
- Just Do (Learn) It
- Balance: Consider The Big Picture
- Stay On Tip Of The Wave

Just Do (Learn) It
Petersen should be funded by Nike if only for his philosophy in life and how he approaches new challenges. He might not be actually designing a shoe from 100% recycled materials, but his philosophies are definitely in line, and his extracurriculars undeniably influence how he moves toward a subject: sizing up the opportunity, choosing a line to the summit, and making sure there is enough chalk in his pockets.

This is a very young industry. For as much green-talk as there is in Seattle, Middle America isn’t quite there yet. Therefore, national standards are lacking and the industry is trying to put some concept parameters out there. “I’ve found that there are as many shades of education (with no standards) as there are shades of green.” Petersen is in an office with a fairly high concentration of green minded agents. “Many industry professionals still think “green” is a fad that will fade. The reality is that is here to stay and is quickly becoming a necessity not a choice.”

Lastly, “whoever it is in the room that has the most information – wins. You have to embrace technology if you want to be successful in this business. Many agents that aren’t embracing this technology are seeing a decline in their business. If your customers are tech savvy then shouldn’t you be?”

Equipped with a simple interest and enthusiasm and Google as his mentor, Petersen, an EcoBrokerfor almost two years, is now working toward his LEED-AP which “will help me bridge the gap between builders, developers and consumers; many agents out there today can’t inform their clients on the benefits of green and don’t know much about the value (economic or environmental) of the materials used.” That’s an injustice to their buyers and builders, but demand is forcing people to catch up, reinforcing for Petersen his decision was a smart one. Being one of only a handful of agents that specialize in green real-estate gives him an edge in a market where many agents are really struggling. As a result of his early investment, people are starting to call him up for expert advice and to educate their teams.

Balance, Consider the Big Picture
Coming from someone who appreciates the lessons of tight spaces, balance is a loaded term. “Everyone would like to be in a position to not to have to work…I make less doing this than what I did at Amazon, This was a quality of life thing. I didn’t want to be attached to a pager in the boiler room of an IT department. There are a million ways to make money, at the end of the day you have to choose how to do it. I’m making a living doing something that at the end of the day I can feel good about. My clients are in a better situation that when they started. I’m doing my bit to contribute to a healthy lifestyle and planet for others. I want to see change happen rather than just fuss about it.”

While Petersen gets a lot of fulfillment from the idea of his participation in the ecosystem and is empowered to be working for himself, he is quick to offer the flip side, “I consider myself an environmentalist but a different shade than the type that burnt the street of dreams homes in Issaquah. Granted the homes where excessive in size but think of how many similar homes are built that aren’t green. At least the builders reduced the impact of those houses. Now those homes will be rebuilt and have twice the ecological cost. People have to realize that for environmentalism to succeed there must be a profitable way to do it or society as a whole will never accept it. They raised awareness to their cause, than the cause.”

In terms of work lifestyle, Petersen also doesn’t like the uncertainty of the commission lifestyle. “In this business sales are down and that can be the difference of having food on the table (for some). This is one reason I want to begin to consult on the side. It’s pretty hectic but I’m laid back by nature. It wouldn’t be healthy or worth it if you couldn’t create any balance. When you are on your own, there is always something to do.”

As with anyone, there are things you know you need to do and you don’t get to it, like blogging, sorting through mail, your kitchen sink… “One of the things about being a small business owner is that you have to live your normal life, it’s only you and it’s all about being efficient.

Stay On the Tip Of The Wave
In a sales-based business and an industry without many experts in the space he wants to learn, Petersen’s drive to understand where the industry is headed is all the motivation he needs to stay sharp. “Most realtors today don’t have training in green building. If green buyers and green builders knew that, they would want their realtor to know more about the benefits of green building. Specializing in this field I can communicate this better to the public better than a typical agent would.”

To stay in touch with what people want, it’s important to be active in the community.

The green residential building arena = is dominated by smaller builders as opposed to larger production builders. Production builders are efficient at developing spec homes which allows them to be more profitable. To build green there is a learning curve which many large builders are not willing to face yet. The smaller builders that have taken that step are seeing the advantage in being able to sell their healthy, efficient, sustainable and unique homes. “I encourage a lot of builders that specialize in green or have green programs to get out and network, get their names out there, develop partnerships. Communities like Biznik have been great for that.”

Parting Words…
“If you really want to do (a small business), you have to just make the jump. You can’t dip your toes…you have to jump off the dock. For those without a second income, partner, or ability to make rent doing this right away, it will just take longer and you might have to keep your day job—nothing is easy.”

  • My most rewarding business moment was leaving Amazon was high on the list and knowing I was going to be doing my own thing was a big turning point.
  • My scariest business moment leaving Amazon…no net, no security…no consistent
    paycheck.
  • Every entrepreneur should be highly involved in the community they live and
    work. People who try to market themselves with random mailers and spam aren’t really tangible. You need to be in front of people. The beauty of organizations like
    BizNik is that they create a community of such like-minded people. You almost don’t have to look outside of biznik.
  • Success to me means at the end of the day feeling fulfilled in some way. Going to work and feeling that you are doing something for the greater good rather than being depressed and hating your situation…instead do something about it.

 

About the Author: Christine Haskell

Christine is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft with several years experience in the .com industry. She recently started social venture labs, an idea incubator for those leading small mission-driven businesses or organizations looking to create relationships, share ideas and [...]

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