About Kim Mulligan Realtor GREEN, 2014 Evergreen Award Winner, Seattle Green Real Estate Agent
"Normalizing Green"Kim Mulligan has been described as an environmentalist first and a real estate practitioner second, and she's lauded by colleagues for her endless perseverance and commitment to "normalizing" green.
In sustainability circles, Mulligan,(now with HomeSmart RE Associates) in Seattle, is known for her involvement in numerous green building and networking groups and her enormous commitment to the Northwest Green Home Tour.
The annual tour has grown steadily in the four years she's been involved with it, and this year it included 35 houses and 12 other sustainable sites. Mulligan served as the tour's 2014 chair and she'll do it again in 2015.
She talks about how green came to permeate her life.
Early influences: Mulligan was raised by Depression-era parents who imparted what she calls a second-use mentality. It's that notion that there's always a second use for an item and that something broken can be repaired.
It's a philosophy Mulligan has carried throughout her life and it probably explains why she once found herself taking apart a broken toaster to see if she could do a DIY fix.
Others, too, influenced her. A fourth-grade teacher introduced eco-friendliness to the young student and classes in environmental studies during college and time spent in nature observing the circle of life all shaped Mulligan's views about respecting and protecting the environment.
So did a six-month European junket. "Europe isn't perfect, but what I remember was a focus on quality versus quantity and having the time for family activities and hobbies. And in Italy, I saw that family meals were a piece of life that should be carved out and not be just an afterthought," she recalls.
Reverence for life: The early focus on all things environmental brought Mulligan to a place where her sustainability interests have merged with her daily routine.
That entails organic gardening, driving a bio-diesel car, making DIY green upgrades (the most recent addition was a split heat pump) to her 1950s house, and racking up an excessive number of hours on green continuing education classes.
"I don't know how to not to let it permeate my life. I've always had a reverence for life and animals and I just can't imagine not doing what I do. It makes sense to me and it's something I've thought about since I was young," she explains.
Destroying the planet: Mulligan fights against materialism and tries to use only what she needs. She remembers marveling at a professor in college who was so thrifty and green that he generated an astounding two cans of garbage per year.
So she laughs off the teasing she gets about the tiny closets in her 1950s house. She loves her local tool lending library. Fix-it groups are fun for her.
She also routinely refuses useless giveaways, especially if they're plastic. Those include bags, desk gadgets, and other logo-ed throwaway items that are so prevalent in the real estate industry.
"We're destroying the planet to make these tchotchkes," she comments.
Legislating green: Mulligan is a proponent of using incentives and government intervention to accelerate the adoption of eco-friendly buildings and green habits.
"I really believe in the power of public policy. We're getting better insulated houses and we're handling storm water in a more responsible ways because this city is mandating it."
She ticks off some examples of gentle force (mandates and incentives) that have accelerated the adoption of green.
The Seattle Department of Planning and Development expedites permits for projects that meet certain green building standards, giving developers an incentive to incorporate eco-friendly features. Wrapping up projects faster lowers developers' carrying costs and is a huge incentive, believes Mulligan.
The Bullitt Center, Seattle, banned dangerous chemicals during construction and got the manufacturer of a vapor barrier for the building to devise a formula that excluded phthalates.
California's banning of single-use plastic bags is sure to reduce plastic consumption.
Connecting the dots: One of Mulligan's goals with the next Northwest Green Home Tour is to better connect the dots for people and help them see the impact that small changes by large groups can make.
"The dots are the choices and actions we take. The dots are small, but compounded by the sheer number of people making those same decisions the impact is exponential. It makes a difference if one buys bottled water, it makes a difference with the type of food we eat, the flooring we put in our homes, and how we move ourselves around through our daily lives," she comments.
Normalizing green: One way she sees as a way to connect the dots is by tweaking the NW Home Tour. Though LEED Platinum houses elicit oohs and aahs, they're out of reach for most people. "I want it to be more educational. We don't want all the houses to be too green because it's intimidating," comments Mulligan.
It now includes normal properties that illustrate the small steps homeowners can take toward greater efficiency. Each has a couple green features – rain gardens, improved insulation, bamboo flooring, or solar panels – that are in reach for normal homeowners.
It's the future: Mulligan doesn't see embracing eco-friendly building codes, products, and systems as optional.
"It's the future," she says.
"The sooner you get on with it, the more comfortable your house will be. Your resale value will be higher because the house is built to future codes and it won't be antiquated by the time you sell. So it's not just a choice of morals and beliefs. It makes financial sense."