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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

How Green Mortgages Can Fight Climate Change

Mar 31, 2021 08:30AM ● By Jordan Peschek
When Kevin Kane and his spouse were looking to buy a home in 2019, they started to ponder whether they could make their new home carbon-neutral in the middle of the city.

After some research, Kane discovered that while electric vehicles and wind farms are great steps in the right direction to fight climate change, it turns out one of the biggest ways to cut carbon emissions is even closer to home.

According to the National Resource Defense Council in a 2017 research study, upgrading homes to be energy efficient is the single biggest action individuals can take to cut carbon emissions.

In order to fight climate change, we should start looking at homes. Specifically:
  • Air leaks in and out of the home.
  • Insulation in our attics and basements.
  • Replacing older refrigerators and laundry machines.
  • Using high-efficiency toilets, showers and faucets.
  • Replacing incandescent and CFL bulbs with LEDs.
As well as fighting climate change, these methods provide a clear return on investment. Improving energy efficiency reduces utility bills and pays for itself over time. It helps both our planet and our pocketbook. As more people invest in energy efficiency, the global impact increases.

Kane found his new passion. After successfully getting the first “Green Mortgage” in Wisconsin and upgrading his new home, Kane founded Green Homeowners United, LLC, to help others do the same. Providing home energy assessments to determine what upgrades cut carbon and save money, Green Homeowners United helps navigate fair financing options and performs the recommended upgrades.

Green Mortgages

Cutting carbon emissions at home is vital and cost effective, but it isn’t usually free. Solar panels or new, triple-pane windows are not a financial option for many people. This is why environmental advocates have persuaded financial institutions to allow borrowers to pay for improvements through green mortgages, in order to make such upgrades truly affordable. 

This is how it works. When buying or refinancing a home, the new mortgage can be made “green” to include the cost of energy efficiency improvements. These green mortgages cover the cost of solar panels, air sealing and insulation, smart devices and any other improvements an auditor shows to be cost effective, up to certain monetary limits. The interest rate shouldn’t go up, and the borrower typically only needs to qualify for the sale price of the home—not the extra cost of the planned energy upgrades. Often there are no additional fees and payments aren’t increased. Most homes will save immediately while cutting emissions, and the homeowner is rewarded for fighting climate change.

Most homes are eligible to have their carbon impact reduced fairly and affordably. Even those who have paid off their mortgages can participate by getting a green loan that, in effect, temporarily pays the bank some of the money that was being paid to the utility company. For their part, banks have agreed to green loans because all those who value Nature advocated for it: they voted, rallied in the streets, moved their money to ecologically minded companies and invested in solar before it was economically feasible. Concerned citizens have moved the market for homes, and now is the chance to welcome millions more green homeowners into the cause.

Not every home needs a green mortgage, but just about every home can have its carbon emissions reduced further. Those that contact Green Homeowners United ([email protected]) and reference this article will be eligible for a free Home Energy Score assessment of their home to find cost-effective improvements.

Even those that have an airtight home, full insulation, solar panels, an electric vehicle, etc., can still positively impact the planet by convincing others to follow their example. Share this article with someone who owns or is thinking of owning a home. Share it with realtors so they can help people become green homeowners. Share it with banks or credit unions to encourage them to offer green mortgages.

A huge environmental impact can be started right on our blocks, if we all help show others where they can start.

For more information, call 414-604-6450 or visit