Zen and The Art of Household Maintenence
How-To Green Your American Dream
(page 2 of 2)
Greening homes—and entire towns
Photo by John Rizzo
Having grown up in Israel, one of the driest countries in the world, Mayan Metzler learned early on that “every drop of water matters” and that energy should be conserved. That eco-consciousness has translated well to his full-service design and remodeling firm, MyHome, which is working to bring new meaning to the term “green house.”
His company, which has a Westchester showroom in Mount Kisco in addition to others around the tri-state area, has long had an eco-friendly bent, but Metzler and partner Yoel Piotraut recently proclaimed their intent to promote green building throughout the New York metropolitan area. In addition to loading the company‘s website with ideas on earth-friendly projects and materials, the firm has an entire outfit devoted to green home improvement: the MyHome CleanTech division focuses on renewable energy alternatives, such as solar or geothermal heating and wind turbine power.
“One of the things I love about the whole green movement is that it’s an opportunity to get everyone—regardless of who they are or what they do, regardless of sex or nationality or religion—to create something important,” Metzler says.
Content with their progress here, the two entrepreneurs are now looking to spread their wings wider. Their latest endeavor, MyPlanet, takes the MyHome model to the next level by pooling green development professionals from around the world “for the sole purpose of combating climate change with sustainable building strategies.” MyPlanet recently got the green light to make the Israeli town of Eilat more environmentally friendly, with the goal of saving 10 percent in energy and water each year. It’s a project Metzler hopes to apply to buildings—and even entire towns—in Westchester in the near future.
Mayan Metzler’s Tips
- Use green materials like cotton, soy, foam, and cellulose for insulation. Not only will this save in heating and cooling costs, materials with low VOC ratings create a cleaner environment with fewer allergens.
- First used in Europe, solar hot water and solar pool heating is a relatively inexpensive way to save energy.
- Consider using products by Textured Coatings of America (texcote.com) for your home’s exterior coating. Because it reflects sunlight, the product reduces energy consumption for cooling by 20 percent.
74 South Moger Avenue
Transforming factories into livable spaces
Photo by John Rizzo
As a student during America’s first energy crisis, Stephen Tilly was focused on solar and environmental design before Ronald Regan sat in the Oval Office. “I was always aware of environmental issues, so it became a way of linking my professional activities to larger issues,” the architect explains. “I saw the connection immediately.”
Three decades ago, Tilly says, his projects were seen as ahead of their time. “Now I have people coming to me through the network who are asking for this,” says the principal owner of Stephen Tilly, Architect, in Dobbs Ferry, with a tinge of amusement in his voice. Tilly and his team of 11 architects, a landscape designer, and an historic preservation specialist have flexed their green muscles all over Westchester—from “recycling” a historic factory into a structure encompassing the Irvington Public Library and affordable housing units to serving as consulting architect for Lyndhurst in Tarrytown to renovating the 36,000-square-foot Music Conservancy of Westchester in White Plains.
Residential renovations also are becoming more and more popular, as people realize that using fewer materials, machines, and modes of transportation “has a lot less impact on the environment,” according to Tilly. Right now, his team is helping Westchester County create a sustainable plan for the conversion of a 183-acre Yorktown farm into an environmental resource center to be shared by the County, the Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Watershed Agricultural Group. It’s a project that will have many returns, open some eyes, and, if we’re lucky, create a whole new generation of Stephen Tillys.
Stephen Tilly’s Tips
- Insulate your attic.
- Invest in high-quality interior or exterior storm windows.
- When planning renovations, look first at making the space you already have more efficient. Minimize demolition and recycle construction debris.
Stephen Tilly, Architect
22 Elm Street, Dobbs Ferry
Recycling a Kennedy’s cabinets in your kitchen
Photo by John Rizzo
Picture the satisfaction of buying a drop-dead gorgeous kitchen for less than half the price you’d expect. Now go a step further: imagine that the money you pay for that kitchen is going to a good cause. Feel good? Thank Green Demolitions.
From fixtures to furniture, cabinetry to countertops, Green Demolitions accepts donations from people looking to renovate or demolish their homes, resells them at 50 to 75 percent off the retail price, and gives donors a tax deduction to boot. In addition to saving money for customers and homeowners (Green Demolitions picks up most donations, eliminating hefty disposal costs), less construction debris means a healthier environment. And, in a win-win-win program, proceeds from sales go to Recovery Unlimited, which supports All Addicts Anonymous (AAA), a 12-step group for addicts of everything from alcohol to food to anger.
Steve Feldman, president of Green Demolitions and a onetime addict himself, came up with this inspired idea back in 2001, while raising funds for the AAA outreach programs in Greenwich, Connecticut. Stumbling across a razed 10,000-square-foot onetime Rockefeller estate owned by former Iranian Empress Farah Pahlavi, he had to wonder what would become of the “old” cabinets and appliances and furniture inside.
“I stood there in the driveway thinking that queens do not live in shabby houses. There just had to be good things in there,” he recalls. “Why not start a demolition donation program to support my outreach project?”
In 2005, he did just that, incorporating the nonprofit organization Recovery Unlimited to operate Green Demolitions and to earn the funding for AAA programs. The company now has three stores (including its flagship showroom in Norwalk, Connecticut), a website through which customers can preview and buy donations, and a long roster of satisfied customers. Having recently scored two truckloads of goodies in Westchester from the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. family, Feldman is ready to tackle the entire New York area, spread across the East Coast, and, perhaps, beyond. “I’d like to get a shot at every good quality kitchen that gets thrown out,” he says. “Every single one.”
Steve Feldman’s Tips
- Evaluate your good-condition kitchen cabinets, appliances, and countertops to form a true appraisal of what can be donated.
- If you decide to donate recycled items, contact a charity early in the process.
- Keep your kitchen designer and/or contractor in the loop about your donation plans to prevent valuable items from being demolished or discarded.
19 Willard Road
(203) 354-7355 /(888) 887-5211
Introducing enviro-chic to Kips Bay
Photo by John Rizzo
Dining rooms are a given, bedrooms are standard, but there was a new space at the revered Kips Bay Decorator Show House last year: an environmental room outfitted by interior designer Cheryl Terrace. Tented with organic materials and finished with an oxygen-emitting, plant-covered “living wall,” the room was proof positive that sustainable and locally sourced elements are both possible and pretty.
Having been raised in Louisiana, the owner of Vital Design Ltd. always had a reverence for nature and animals. She “walks the environmental walk” both with her design company, which was founded in 1997, and through a lifestyle that centers around hiking, yoga, and the absence of meat. Still, Terrace prefers to consider herself a “mindful” designer rather than a green one, decorating clients’ homes with an environmentally sound focus that enriches the mind, body, and spirit. Characterized as “part sustainable design, part Feng Shui, part luxury style, and part cutting-edge innovation,” her Manhattan-based company has been greening up Westchester with projects in places such as Katonah, Briarcliff, and Irvington.
Single father Peter Goldich came to this eco-friendly—and just plain friendly—designer for help pulling together his Ossining townhouse. In addition to finding ways to reuse his old furniture, rugs, and artwork, she showed him how to reduce his electricity use by covering the windows with solar shades, moving furniture from the heating vents, adding insulation, and wrapping his hot-water heater. “I laugh when I see the words ‘save the planet,’ ” she says. “The planet will be fine; it may not be the place we know now, but it will be here long after we no longer are. It’s more about saving our future generations.”
- Take off your shoes at the door so you don’t track in dirt and pesticides from outside.
- Reuse furniture by having pieces repainted with non-toxic paint and and reupholstered with organic textiles.
- Buy live plants, which help clean the air, instead of pesticide-sprayed roses, which not only are toxic but also exploit workers.
Vital Design Ltd.
102 West 85th Street
New York City
Hitting the roof for greener landscapes
Photo by John Rizzo
Now a green landscape designer, speaker, consultant, and blogger, there was once a time when even Richard Heller gave up on Mother Earth.
While researching a Vassar College thesis on alternative technology, the then-young idealist came to the disturbing conclusion that society would never shake its oil dependency because the huge corporations “have us by the throat,” he says. Seeing nothing but a futile, uphill battle, he admittedly gave up and went into landscaping.
But, by a twist of fate some 10 years ago, Heller was commissioned to build a garden directly on top of a roof—an unfamiliar concept at the time. He had no idea that the greenroof was an environmentally friendly tactic designed to double the lifespan of the roof, lower heating and cooling costs by acting as an insulator, curb storm-water runoff, and reduce global warming by absorbing pollutants and carbon dioxide. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is the alternative technology that I wrote about in college,’ “ Heller says. “So I made the decision that I was going to base my whole business on sustainable practices.”
Self-described as “very Al Gore” about the environment, the father of five now owns the Pelham landscape-design firm Greener by Design. Originally founded as Mornhurst Gardens by his mother, Ann Roberts Levine, Heller expanded the company from interior plants to exterior landscape design, changing its name in 2005.
With his newfound inspiration, this forward thinker now lives and works with a devout eco-friendly consciousness. In addition to earning kudos as a builder for his greenroofs, his company uses water-conserving irrigation systems, low-voltage lighting, organic fertilizers, and non-chemical weed controls, installing native plants “as much as possible.” For Heller, the grass is always greener.
Richard Heller’s Tips
- Use organic fertilizers. For every pound of chemically produced nitrogen, 6.2 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.
- Five percent of air pollution in the United States is produced from gas lawn mowers, so swtich to one that runs on electricity. (It’s cheaper in the long run as well.)
- Use drip or low-pressure irrigation instead of pop-up sprinklers, which are 80 to 90 percent more efficient.
Finding second homes for your castoffs
Photo by John Rizzo
When Sleepy Hollow native Callie Sullivan realized that she needed the help of a professional organizer to clear out her closets and office, which were “filled to the brim” with books and items she had inherited, she enlisted Niña Weireter to help tackle the task. Weireter, owner of Ossining-based My Divine Concierge, combats clutter with a twist: she doesn’t dump, she donates. Three carloads later, the local thrift shop had new clothes, eBay had new listings, and Sullivan’s office had wood shelves transplanted from her library.
Many people have clutter in their homes—the closet full of clothes that no longer see the light of day, the garage that houses little Johnny’s playhouse rather than the family car. Weireter not only gets rid of the mountains of stuff most of us have accumulated, she finds second homes for as much of it as possible (and sends you a receipt for tax deductions).
Having once helped a woman who had 50 pairs of pajamas she was unwilling to part with, Weireter believes reducing consumption will make the earth better for our children. Americans consume “like it’s endless” she says, and we believe our castoffs disappear when the garbage truck hauls it away.
Why bring in an outsider to help pitch your junk when you can do it yourself? Because chances are you won’t. “I don’t have that emotional eye that owners do,” Weireter explains. Translation: she doesn’t have a problem hauling off that tacky, unused vase (a wedding gift from your aunt) or the My Little Pony your daughter (now at college) once played with. Weireter, a mother of three, doesn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, however. “Niña doesn’t encourage you to toss everything,” says Sullivan. “She just separates the wheat from the chaff.”
Niña Weireter Tips:
- Pay as many of your bills online as possible and convert financial statements from paper to digital files.
- Keep a bag or container in your closet to collect hangers from laundered shirts. A single person uses 300 hangers a year that can be returned and reused by the dry cleaners.
- In your work area, keep a paper shopping bag with handles into which you can throw paper recycling. The bag gets reused and the handles make it easy to carry to the curb on recycling day.
My Divine Concierge