Archive for January, 2010

Can You Help Intelligentsia Coffee with Their Eco-Waste?

Intelligentsia Announcement:

It is my pleasure to formally announce an eco partnership developing between Intelligentsia and members of the Garden Clubs of Illinois’ Nancy Block and her husband Mike.  Some of Nancy’s credentials include being Master Gardner of the year and Citizen of the Year (by Cook County Sherriff Tom Dart); Nancy and Mike’s home garden has taken first place two years in a row city wide competition not to mention they have been featured in several news papers and magazines.  Together we have been developing avenues for diverting a large majority of the eco waste generated at our Chicago Roasting Works and the coffee grounds from our Broadway Coffee Bar.  To keep a long story short, Nancy and Mike show up every Friday at the CHRW and collect a minivan full of burlap sacks, plastic trash liners, coffee chaff & coffee grounds and distribute them to local farmers, garden clubs, Master Gardeners and not-for-profit groups like Habitat for Humanity.  Uses for the coffee grounds and chaff are obvious because their rich nutrient content but become muddied when looking at the plastic and burlap sacks; a farmer who loved the print on the bags is making a rug for himself, one garden club is designing animals from the bags for a handicap children’s garden, another is making purses out of them and turning a profit, at the Flower & Garden show by Master Gardeners children are going to pretend they are worms and roll around, the potential is limitless as you can see.  Nancy and Mike help us recycle one bag at a time and currently have a waiting growing list.  Please note many of us at Intelligentsia are adding our efforts to make this movement a success.  Broadway Coffee Bar Manager Talya Strader and Delivery Driver Nick Tate are ironing out the logistics of getting wet coffee grounds from our cafés to the roasting works where Sean McMahon is taking steps to ensure proper storage of all the eco materials while they are in wait.  Please take this opportunity to keep our efforts going, if you have any ideas or would like to participate in this process please let us know.  Our goal is to develop a self sustainable program that will continue to grow with Intelligentsia’s and Nancy & Mike’s success.

If you are interested in obtaining some “coffee waste” please contact Nancy at

NANCYBLOCK09@COMCAST.NET.

Thank you,

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Even Dragons Are Going Green These Days…

…bearded dragons, that is.  Here’s a wonderful e-mail from a GHE customer.  Check out the great work she did–we love the picture!  Remember we’re a pet-friendly store, so always feel free to bring in your animal friends, even bearded dragons!

When I decided to build a custom terrarium for my bearded dragon Brutus, I thought the project would be a piece of cake. During my first attempt in building his terrarium, I used a polyurethane coat on the wood frame. The smell would not go away. I was very concerned that under the hot conditions of Brutus’s habitat, the terrarium would not be safe for him. I tossed that terrarium to the side and began researching safer products and materials for the terrarium.

I visited Green Home Experts for a safe alternative. I used the “Early Day” AFM Safecoat blue paint to seal the wood and give Brutus’s terrarium some color. For the fake rocks, I reused the packing styrofoam from a stereo system. A can of Great Stuff insulation foam, some sand and acrylic paint put the finishing touches on the rocks. I was very grateful to find a store from which I could purchase a safe paint product for Brutus’s new home! And Brutus absolutely loves his habitat!

Thank you, Green Home Experts!!!

Your happy customers, Rena and Brutus
Brutus the Bearded Dragon at home

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Local carpenter invents water barrel platform; get pressure and use out of your barrel | The Center Square Ledger

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Clutter Clear for the New Year!


Clutter Clear for the New Year!
Thursdays, January 14 and 21, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Green Home Experts, 823 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL

Is your home or office the supportive, effective space you desire?

Do you struggle with managing the mounds of paper that descend on us all each day?

Do you wonder how to organize and/or release items with satisfaction?

Do you want to live more sustainably for your own energy and the earth’s?

IF YOU ANSWERED YES TO ANY OF THE ABOVE, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE TO
CLEAR AND REALLY CREATE A NEW YEAR! WHEN YOU MOVE YOUR STUFF, YOU MOVE YOUR LIFE

Whether you are a committed clutterer, or just want your place to become more harmonious, this two-session class can be TRANSFORMATIONAL.
Your home or office is a metaphor for your life. When you LOSE clutter and obstruction, you can FIND time, money, well being and peace; the joy of found treasures and found Self! Class will include lecture, handouts, group sharing, meditations… and homework!

A ONE-HOUR PHONE CONSULT BETWEEN SESSIONS WITH SUSAN IS INCLUDED.  CALL 708-948-7048, or email susanharmony@comcast.net
TO REGISTER OR FOR QUESTIONS! Class limit of 12, call in advance.

THIS CLASS IS AN EFFECTIVE ANTIDOTE FOR RECESSION!
The cost alone can be repaid by learning systems to: pay bills on time (avoiding penalties); find and better store items that are frequently duplicated (avoiding extra costs); have more time and space to act on new opportunities that can then arise!
Class Cost: $81/sliding
Instructor: Susan Francis of Harmonious Places 708-948-7048

Susan Francis is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and owner of Harmonious Places, a business dedicated to clearing clutter and creating comfort. Susan brings a unique, varied background and depth of experience to her practice. With an undergraduate degree in environmental studies, over 20 years public health and social service experience with local and national agencies; Susan is also a massage therapist
and energy work practitioner, and apprenticed with a feng shui master. She helped initiative a sustainable business network in Oregon, and is now doing the same in Oak Park. These themes weave together in Susan’s work on simple yet satisfying living that heals both our souls and the web of life that sustains us here.

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Retailing Green in 2010

This is a recent column in Green Building Product Dealer by my friend and colleague, Andy Pace.  Andyhas been a pioneer in the green building industry since 1993, when he opened the first green building supply company in the Midwest, Safe Building Solutions. He is also the founder of Degree of Green® and Green Design Center™.  In addition, Andy is an advisor to Green Building Product Dealer magazine.

He was one of my earliest supporters when I was working to open Green Home Experts, even helping me set up shop selling paint from the room in my house that I now call my bedroom!  I still call on Andy regularly to talk biz, to brainstorm, and for a good morale boost.  He never disappoints.  Enjoy.

Retailing Green in 2010

For several years, I have offered my analysis about the green building industry for the coming year.  Here’s a recap of the last two years:

2008 was the year of green credibility.  As the construction market was shrinking rapidly, manufacturers scrambled to re-brand their existing products to make them appear to have green attributes, even if they didn’t.  Although the industry was still unregulated for the most part, consumers began to demand more in-depth information to prove that these green claims were accurate.  Prior to 2008, many consumers were buying anything that had “green” or “eco-friendly” written on the packaging.  But in 2008, the majority of green-minded consumers started to question what green really means.  And when this happened, manufacturers had to back up their claims or loose credibility.

2009 was the year of RGI, Return on your Green Investment. No longer did the ‘greenies’ and ‘light-greenies’ have disposable income to put into green things to make themselves feel good.  No longer did they spend 10% more for a household item that may or may not affect the earth’s climate.  If consumers were going to spend 10% more for an eco-friendly household product, there needed be a clear sign that the extra 10% will be paid back via an energy savings, or an improvement in their quality of life.

I think consumers finally understand energy efficiency. Friendly to the outdoor environment, that’s great.  Friendly to our pocketbook, even better.  But when builders market their homes as green, energy efficiency just wont cut it anymore.  Green needs to go beyond that.  Lets face it, how many consumers when building a new home or remodeling an existing, actually ask their contractor for the least efficient building techniques?  How many consumers go into their local big box store and ask for the least efficient furnace or appliance?  Due to a combination of the economy (RGI-2009) and consumer knowledge (green cred-2008), energy efficiency is now the new normal.

So, what does 2010 have in store for us?  I’ve been saying for years that once everything is green, then nothing is green.  In 2010, we’ll be at that point.  My prediction is that 2010 will be the year of The Healthy Home.  Consumers will be looking beyond green and will focus on the health and welfare of themselves and their families.

A Healthy Home takes green to the next logical level.  Building a healthy home means that it is healthier, safer, and is free from sources of indoor air pollution.  There are various strategies to use in building a healthy home, but using only one strategy won’t make a healthy home.  A systems approach is needed that integrates the different aspects that comprise a healthy home. Using HVAC equipment that controls moisture to minimize mold, mildew, and provide continuous fresh ventilation is very important. The increase of natural light in as many areas of the house as possible creates a sense of well being for its occupants. Another important strategy is the use of less synthetic carpeting and more hard surfaces to reduce dust and allergen collection areas.

The most critical area to consider when building a healthy home is to avoid using toxic chemicals and materials.  I’m not talking VOC’s. The industry buzz right now is to reduce the amount of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) found in most building materials and finishes. But, just because a product states it has zero VOC does not mean it is free of ingredients that are toxic (e.g., formaldehyde precursors, ammonia, acetone or odor masking agents, etc.) or that it is free from outgassing.  For example, many companies promote “no odor” or Zero VOC paints to potential homeowners or those remodeling their homes. These paints were not formulated with a view toward human health issues and the elimination of toxicity. These “environmental” paints can contain toxic ingredients exempt from government regulations.  The same holds true for thousands of common building materials.

With health insurance and healthcare reform headlining just about every newscast these days, consumers are getting weary of their own healthcare futures.  Americans are used to taking matters into their own hands, when push comes to shove.  Therefore, more folks will be looking into alternative forms of healthcare and ways to reduce illnesses.  Making the home a safer, healthier space is a logical step.

Retailers need to recognize this trend quickly and adapt their marketing and merchandising to meet the growing demand from the consumer.  If you step outside of the energy-efficient box, you just might find some new green shoots of potential sales.

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My 2010 Green Resolutions and Looking Back on ’09

I have a love-hate relationship with 2009.  Last year brought tremendous growth for Green Home Experts.  We expanded our product line to offer more green alternatives for everything in the home.  We assisted with the build-out of a green restaurant in Naperville.  We hosted free workshops on a wide variety of topics.  And we drew in almost twice as many customers as the previous year.

But 2009 was also difficult, for sure.  The credit crunch put a halt on commercial and residential building.  One of our cabinetmakers went under.  Other suppliers were bought and sold, all in an effort to stay afloat.  People were hesitant to spend money because we all felt like we didn’t know what would happen tomorrow.  Everyone was stressed by the terrible economy and we carried that burden with us all year.

Last year, I made 2 resolutions for a greener new year and I challenged readers to come up with their own.  My 2009 resolutions were:

“1) Grow more veggies. I already get much of my fresh produce from the Farmers Market, and I would like to eat even more locally by eating out of my backyard. I’ll be planting beans, tomatoes, squash, and herbs. Any suggestions for other full-sun veggies?

2) Eliminate baggies. Being the Costco junkie that I am, I bought sandwich bags 3, that’s THREE, years ago! And I still have them! Every once in a while, I have to use one. I successfully banned paper towels from my domain in 2008, which was a big challenge considering I have 2 puppies (and 2 men) in my house. I think if I could bar paper towels, sandwich bags should be a zip–haha, no pun intended.”

I’m happy to say that I was pretty successful with #1 and completely successful with #2!  Eliminating baggies was a cinch, especially with the Wrap-N-Mats and Snack Taxis sold at GHE.  So now the Onesto Moran household is completely void of paper towels, garbage bags, paper napkins and baggies!

#1 was also successful, although by no means do I eat a completely local diet.  My husband and I built an organic vegetable bed in April, so we enjoyed onions, tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, zucchini, hot & bell peppers, and spinach.

We also enjoyed more food from the OP Farmers Market and a variety of friends’ gardens.  My husband and I loved eating what we grew, and now I have to add eggplant to the list of veggies that I refuse to buy from grocery stores, because now store-bought ones taste terrible to me!

So this year, we’re going to expand the vegetable garden and hopefully learn more about preserving.  That will enable us to expand our local eating throughout more of the year.  There’s even word on the street that we might get a small deep freezer and buy a quarter of an organic cow!  That’s exciting even for me, the vegetarian.  More planning is needed in this area, but it’s definitely a resolution again for 2010.

Does anyone know of any classes in the area that teach preserving?

2010 Resolutions
#1) Eating more locally, as stated above.

#2) As a result of our recent energy audit, hubby and I are going to put some money into sealing up our house and insulating.  I’ll be writing soon on the energy audit, so stay tuned for that.  But for now, I resolve to work with some GHE partners to tighten up my 1914 home.

#3) Shop locally.  I could go on and on about the importance of shopping locally.  Did you know that when you shop at an independently owned store, 68% of that money stays in the community?  That’s compared to a measly 43% of dollars spent at big box and chain stores.

As a small business owner who’s committed to keeping it local, I think I already do a fair job at shopping locally.  The benefits are endless.  I only buy things for my dogs at Sirius Cooks because I trust their expertise, and I know that they have my dogs’ well-being as their best interest.  And now I have two great friends, Julie and Harriet, the owners!

And I love eating and shopping at Marion Street Cheese Market too.  Their sustainable practices are an inspiration to me.  Hubby and I go there for a glass of wine and a healthy portion of good morale whenever needed.  We’re lucky to have several friends at MSCM now as well.  Check out their new blog, too.  It’s an amazing source of info!

This new year, I pledge to remain loyal to my fave local shops as well as to shop at more local shops as much as possible.  This will be an easy one, because the benefits of shopping locally provide instant gratification.

Want to learn more about the importance of shopping locally?  Visit The 3/50 Project.

Ok readers, now that you know what my goals are for 2010, what are yours?  Please share your thoughts, observations, advice and resolutions in the comment section.  Happy New Year!

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