Jennifer Howard was musing the other day "about how different communities embrace and promote sustainability and environmental awareness," what with Earth Day approaching on April 22.

She started thinking after visiting Summers Corner, a newer neighborhood from developer WestRock with more than 100 homes in greater Charleston's northwest corner.

"For example, Audubon designated Summers Corner as a 'climate resilient and bird friendly community,' for its use of native plants," says Howard, marketing and communications director for the Summerville-based company. "Our April farmer's market will feature a nature walk with an Audubon naturalist — just one of many nature-minded special events," she says. The neighborhood also is home to Clemson Extension Master Gardeners for Dorchester County including a pollinator garden and kitchen garden. Not far away, the community's 95-acre Buffalo Lake "encourages residents to get out and enjoy nature," she says.

There's more. Located within the neighborhood, the new Sand Hill Elementary School features an outdoor classroom "that we constructed for them," she says. Through its developer, Summers Corner has put up nature-centered art created primarily from materials on site. It's also teamed up with the Blue Bird Society to install blue bird houses throughout the community, Howard says.

The sustainable efforts at one Charleston-area neighborhood illustrate steps that home builders and real estate associates take to champion environmental stewardship, notably at the time of Earth Day. First held in 1970, the worldwide designation is designed as a period to demonstrate support for environmental protection. What's significant is that numerous plaudits come from developers and real estate groups, sometimes seen as at odds with pro-ecology movements.

That's the case even though a new survey runs counter to the perception that many people favor environmental safeguards, as well as that younger generations are most committed to preserving nature.

According to the findings by Varo Money mobile bank account firm, "Americans have mixed emotions about 'going green.'"

The data shows that 41 percent of those surveyed "would buy something they really wanted even if they knew it was bad for the environment." Men were even more likely to make an anti-green purchase at 47 percent, compared with 34 percent of women.

By age group, millennials were more apt to buy something knowing it was environmentally hazardous at 46 percent, as opposed to 37 percent of Gen Xers.

Varo Money asked about purchases of specific items, including:

  • If Americans explicitly knew the carbon footprint of something, 46 percent say it would impact their purchasing decision.
  • Nearly half (49 percent) of people would pay an extra $5 for an environmentally low-impact product.
  • More than one-third, or 36 percent, of Americans check to see if products are tested on animals before making a purchase.

Separately, RISMedia real estate publication in a nod to Earth Day earlier this month listed five places worldwide noted for "stand-out landscaping and/or eco-friendly features."

They include "luxe eco-lodging in Belize" at the Itz’ana Resort & Residences set to open in November touting a "carbon neutral program" in its high-end four and five bedroom villas. They will include a private pool with an ozone system, an on-site organic garden, sundeck built of locally sourced wood and rooftop solar panels.

There's also Windsome Farms in Wellington, Florida, priced for sale at $25 million, boasting an eight-stall equestrian center and covering "80 lush acres with serene lakes and palm trees;" the $1.47 million Lucky House at Heartfire in Jamestown, Colorado., S-shaped and sitting atop a hillside to maximize solar potential; "Severn Escape" estate in Gloucester, Virginia, for sale for $899,000 and parked along the water with passive solar and geothermal heating, super insulation and stack ventilation for energy efficiency; and a six bedroom, 10 bathroom home in Greenwich, Connecticut, with 18,000 square feet of living space, including a movie theater and 50-foot indoor lap pool as well as aerated concrete blocks, geothermal energy, reclaimed wood and radiant heat. It's priced for $12 million.

In some cases, real estate professionals are getting the word out about the April 22 environmental events. Akers & Ellis Real Estate urges people to celebrate Earth Day at the Naturally Kiawah Demonstration Garden in Night Heron Park on Kiawah Island.

Activities promoted by the Kiawah Conservancy include taking part on a live ladybug release, "see, touch and learn all about the endangered diamondback terrapin and what you can do to help protect them," and get educated on dolphins and conservation efforts at the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network booth.

Dart Real Estate of the Cayman Islands went one step further, drawing up 15 "suggestions" for people to practice on Earth Day to encourage an ecological approach to living on Grand Cayman.

The ideas are to "educate yourself" with books or documentaries on the environment, "say no to plastic for one day," buy a reusable water bottle, plant a tree, support local farmers, bike to work or carpool, volunteer for a clean-up, unplug for a day using appliances and electronics only when "absolutely necessary," be mindful of your waste such as from disposable utensils and napkins, reduce energy usage such as installing longer-lasting LED bulbs, remember to reuse shopping bags, "think before you print" to lower paper consumption, know when and where to recycle, go for a walking lunch and "treat yourself" in a minimalist way such as eating ice cream in a cone rather than a cup.