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RISMEDIA, February 7, 2009-In this month’s Viewpoints, we asked our experts to speak out on the issues that matter most to real estate professionals. This week, Walt Clark, senior vice president of Transaction Management Solutions for Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions, speaks to the importance of the “green” revolution.

Walt Clark
Senior Vice President
Transaction Management Solutions, Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions

As the people most involved in selling land, real estate professionals are also the most able to influence protecting it.

Our industry has joined the “green” revolution. At the 2008 California Association of Realtors Exposition, there was significant emphasis on new materials and appliances that builders and do-it-yourselfers can use to make more environmentally responsible homes. The National Association of Realtors also has a new initiative focused on “using environmentally sound building techniques that conserve resources and provide for healthier living.”

But encouraging our clients to reduce their homes’ carbon footprint, while subjecting them to a wasteful real estate transaction process, is one step forward and one step back. We need to look at the business practices that have become too paper-intensive, and ultimately, too intrusive to the environment.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), based in Washington, D.C, calculates that the average workplace goes through “about 350 pounds of paper per employee each year.” Certainly real estate offices are pushing the envelope on that statistic! The country has made great strides in recycling (which, according to the Paper Industry Association Council, was a record 53.4% of paper used in the U.S. in 2006). But, whenever possible, why not minimize the use of so much paper in the first place? Reducing the manufacturing, transporting and disposing of paper, ink and packaging will cut energy consumption-including the fossil fuels required to support them.

Many vendors, including Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions, have created technologies that can make real estate businesses and their interaction with consumers virtually paperless. FNRES provides transaction and document management solutions that greatly reduce an office’s “carbon footprint.” At the same time, they provide an effective disaster recovery solution while improving customer service through increased efficiency, security and accessibility.

Transaction and document management products give clients a 24/7 online window so they can monitor progress and provide approvals without having to drive into the agent’s office or have documents sent by mail or courier.

The Internet is already having an impact. As Hannah Fairfield wrote last February in The New York Times, “In the richest countries, [paper] consumption fell six percent from 2000 to 2005.” Still, in the United States, where the NRDC sees usage at 50% above the worldwide average, we still have our work to do. And, our own workplace is the place to start.

Next week, in Part II, Anna Bourland, Web Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Advanced Access discusses her take on greening real estate practices.