Archive for July, 2012

Tips for a Green Dorm

Recently I had the pleasure of giving a presentation to a group of high school seniors about ways to be eco-friendly when they go off to school. The presentation was very well received, and the kids seemed to be in tune with a lot of the information I gave them. Their insightful questions indicated that this generation has been raised with more eco-knowledge than mine. Then again, basic concepts like composting were foreign to them.  So it looks like we still have some work to do!

Below is the PowerPoint presentation I gave. Take a look through, and let me know if you have questions or other advice!

Green Your Dorm

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Local Government Allows Farming on Village Owned Property, Yes!

And now, more insight from our pal Gina of MySkinnyGarden:

I met Jessica on the Internet. There, I said it.  I know it sounds weird but we both had garden blogs and somehow found each other and learned we lived just blocks apart in Forest Park and that we were both originally from Tennessee.  Within 12 months of meeting, we’d partnered to start Forest Park Community Garden. I have never met anybody so easy to work with. Not only did we share a vision about creating a local community garden but the synergy between us was amazing, comfortable, fast!

While writing this blog post for Green Home Experts it occurred to me that I’ve never really talked to Jessica about her gardening experiences prior to when I met her. I just know that ever since then she’s been on fire trying to figure out a way to make a living doing something she loves. Urban agriculture.

This year Jessica started Forest Park Mini Farm, a small farm located on a piece of land owned by the Village of Forest Park and leased to her for growing herbs, flowers and fresh, organic produce. Jessica sells what she grows at Forest Park Farmers Market every Friday evening and she is also offering shares of her harvest for sale just like large-scale Community Supported Agriculture farms do and she’ll even deliver to your home for free if you live in the area.

I am proud of Jessica for relentlessly pursuing her urban agriculture dream and for her innovation in working with local government to utilize the empty land they own to provide space for eager farmers like Jessica. Most communities have these parcels of land waiting to be developed and allowing them to be farmed in this way is a very safe investment that sends a strong message to the community that they support residents with this entrepreneual spirit and a lot of sweat equity to give. It’s cliché but it nobody loses here.

Jessica still has a few shares available for her Community Supported Agriculture program which starts this coming Friday July 20th. If you live in the Oak Park, River Forest or Forest Park area, you can’t get much more local than purchasing produce from this exciting new mini farm. If you decide not to buy a share, be sure to stop by the Forest Park Farmers Market on Friday evening 3:30 – 7:30 at The Grove where you can buy Jessica’s produce and beautiful flowers, in person.

(And a note from Maria, GHE Queen Bee: I subscribed to Jessica’s CSA and can’t wait to get my first share on Friday!)

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Battle of the Brews a Huge Success

From the bottom of my heart I’d like to thank all of the guests, homebrewers and judges who made our inaugural Battle of the Brews a resounding success! Mother Nature co-operated and gave us great weather. The brats from Kinderhook Tap were seriously the best I’ve ever had. The staff and volunteers from the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry were enthusiastic and brought their passion to the party.

Marty Nachel, author of Homebrewing for Dummies, was one of our celebrity judges along with Paul Kreiner of Burke Beverage and Chris Withey of Kinderhook Tap. They voted Jeffrey Sobczynski Homebrewer of the Year. And the People’s Choice award, Master Hopster, went to Daryl Hoedtke! In addition to their Battle trophies, both winners also received $100 gift certificates to Kinderhook Tap.

Plans are already in the works for making next year’s competition bigger and better. Stay tuned!





Judges Paul Kreiner, Chris Withey and Marty Nachel with Maria Onesto Moran of Green Home Experts and Jeffrey Sobczynski, Homebrewer of the Year.



Judges and Queen Bee with Daryl Hoedtke, Master Hopster

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CornerStone House

Last month I had the pleasure of touring the CornerStone House in LaGrange, IL. There are a lot of reasons I was excited to see the home–my colleagues Jason LaFleur and Brandon Weiss were part of the project; and my husband grew up just a few blocks from there!

Owner/architect Regina McClinton truly put her heart and soul into this project. What I loved most about it is that, even after the home was stripped down to its studs and completely remodeled, the building still fits well into the neighborhood. It’s not glitzy or new age.  In fact, it’s rather old school.

Rain gardens and native plants surround the home on the exterior. A highly efficient furnace, insulation and windows keep the house comfortable. All of the windows provide amazing daylighting. Low VOC paint and construction materials ensure the safety of its inhabitants. The woodwork and reclaimed materials are a beautiful nod to the original home and a smart reduction of construction waste.

The kitchen’s long countertops make the area inviting for guests.  And I swear the walk-in closet in the master suite is bigger than most apartments I’ve lived in! Congratulations, Brandon and Regina, on such a successful project! Click here for more photos and information about the process.

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Looking Back and Moving Forward: Part III

One of the most relatable things about Mercy Housing’s work on the Harold Washington Apartments is their ability to accomplish this during The Great Recession. I opened the doors to Green Home Experts in February 2008, when everything was falling apart in the economy. Since then I’ve had up years and down years. Then last year we pursued and accomplished our expansion. While I was planning for the expansion, businesses all around me continued to shutter their doors.

Likewise, despite unbelievable economic distress that has taken a huge toll on local and national charities, Mercy Housing Lakefront secured funding for and successfully completed an amazing renovation. Kudos to them!

The courtyard that was once impassable during the winter (due to the fear of ice falling off the building) has become a quiet dwelling with a beautifully planted garden. An elevator was installed to meet building code and the needs of its residents. The community room now gets wonderful daylight and is very inviting. The historic facade was meticulously repaired. And–my favorite part–the Harold Washington Apartments is the first building in Chicago to have a geothermal heating and cooling system installed under an existing building. Amazing.

Now that my writing about this recent visit is complete, I’m left pondering a lot of questions. Coming back to Mercy Housing reminded me of the impact that healthy and safe housing has on all of us. It means stability, peace of mind, and the dignity and assuredness to take on the world. My visit also reminds me that I am incredibly lucky to be where I am in life–my family and I are healthy, safe and incredibly blessed. I own a company that provides safer, healthier housing for my customers. And my roots are in an organization that cares about the people it serves.

Check out these pictures of the revitalization of the Harold Washington Apartments. You can also click on this link to learn more about Mercy Housing Lakefront and the fantastic work they’re doing in our state.


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Looking Back and Moving Forward: Part II

I loved working for Lakefront Supportive Housing. My job was at once tedious and exciting. Originally hired to develop an Intranet project that never got off the ground, my role morphed into a marketing and communications role. Aside from working on the capital campaigns for two LEED buildings in the early 2000’s, my job was really rewarding. I got to hear the personal stories of tenants and share those stories with donors and potential donors.

Working at LSH, I helped manage an annual home and garden tour in Michiana. And I threw a pretty good party–uh, gala–every fall! But the job had its pitfalls too. Someone was stabbed to death on the Argyle Red Line stop two days before I started my job there. The sketchy night life meant getting my boyfriend (now husband) to pick me up from the office when I worked late nights. But what bothered me most was my desk. Yep, my desk. One day after a relaxing summer weekend, I came in to find my desk was under water. The dropped ceiling above my desk had started to leak. Marty, the building engineer, claimed it was rainwater but it hadn’t rained that weekend!

After that fateful weekend, I had to cover my work area (reports, photographs, newsletters and more) with a plastic tarp and put a 55-gallon garbage can under the gaping hole above my desk. The building staff always did the best they could with what they had, but they didn’t have much.

Fast forward ten years later to the lunch I had with my former co-worker. Let me say, we’ve come a long way baby! Check out this fantastic video that tells the story of Mercy Housing Lakefront, nee Lakefront Supportive Housing, nee Lakefront SRO. It documents the history of the building and highlights the fantastic renovation that was just completed.

Amazing! To view the YouTube video, click on the picture below.

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Looking Back and Moving Forward: Part I

Last week I had the pleasure of having lunch with an old co-worker in Uptown. He and I used to work for Lakefront Supportive Housing, which was acquired by Mercy Housing in 2006. Now known as Mercy Housing Lakefront, this organization provides much-needed affordable and supportive housing throughout the Chicago metro area.

I started working for LSH after a short visit to Los Angeles studying the failure of SRO housing. Once intended to provide safe, affordable rooms to a transient population and seasonal workers, SROs are now synonymous with crime, destitution and filth.

In the early 1980’s a group of Uptown residents recognized that the Harold Washington Apartments, located at Sheridan and Argyle, was one of many crumbling SRO buildings that could—and should—be turned around to provide housing for people at risk of becoming homeless. Soon Lakefront SRO was born and the non-profit’s administrative offices were on the HWA’s first floor.

Lakefront SRO became Lakefront Supportive Housing in the early 2000’s. Their new name and tagline “More Than a Roof” reflected the organizations mission to end homelessness through permanent, supportive housing. Every building provided an apartment for tenants who were formerly homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. And tenants had access to supportive services such as counseling, job training, case management and other vital assistance to end the cycle of homelessness.

LSH owned and managed 12 properties when it was acquired by Mercy Housing Lakefront in 2006. While I was there we built two LEED-certified buildings, Wentworth Commons and the Margot and Harold Schiff Residences. Always a greenie at heart, I fell in love with green building while I was part of these two capital campaigns.

Wentworth Commons

Schiff Residences

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