Once you've challenged yourself to be the greenest remodeler you can be, the next challenge is: How do you sell efficient, sustainable projects to customers? How do you go about convincing them that, say, upgrading insulation is a better investment than putting in new granite countertops? And how do you make a case for saving the environment?

Marc Richmond suggests that you not even try, at least on that last count. To remodelers making a foray into this niche, he advises leaving the green-wash mentality at the door.

“There's this tendency for green builders to try to get others to understand the reasons they like green, to make them socially conscious thinkers or whatever,” says Richmond, a former builder who is now president of green-building consulting company Practica Consulting (www.practicaconsulting.com). “They say, ‘You should use this product because it's better for the earth, blah blah blah.' And that's a fatal flaw. It's an attitude that can turn customers off.”

You can sell customers on the idea, however, by touting benefits such as lower utility bills, better air quality, and more durable materials.

Aaron Lubeck of Trinity Design Build in Durham, N.C., steers clear of the words “green building” entirely, since some people associate it with “fringe practices and hippies,” he says. Instead, he presents green strategies as smart building practices.

“If I say, ‘I know of a way to make your house more durable, lower your energy bill, and make you more comfortable. Are you interested?' what do you think they'll say? Even Attila the Hun wants to be more comfortable,” says Lubeck, whose outfit is the only remodeling company in town that embraces green renovations.

By Lubeck's logic, you might talk about the benefits of an air-exchange system, how it makes the breathable air healthier. Or you'd talk about the benefits of adding more insulation, how it lowers the monthly operating cost of a home and how easy it would be to add while you're already doing work on a room. And only then would you say, “Oh, and your home will also be more energy-efficient. And, by virtue of all those things I just mentioned, it will leave a smaller footprint.”

TAILORED PITCH

Listening to the client talk about his or her priorities will help you frame the discussion, Richmond says.

Are you dealing with a mom with young kids who cares about indoor air quality? Then gear your pitch toward that. Are you talking to a 43-year-old conservative banker who doesn't want to hassle with maintenance on his home? Talk about how durable and good-looking the products are. For someone who gravitates toward high-tech features, tout how cool solar panels are, and show off the digital readout on a fresh-air exchanger.

“They're all buying the same house because it has the same elements, but your sales pitch differs,” Richmond says.