Just like the tender shoots of a garden, businesses are emerging to help people realize their "child of God" status. Only problem is, they're finding it isn't easy to make the green by simply being green. Three of the five eco-retailers profiled in City Weekly's 2010 Green Guide, for example, are already out of business. It's a risky time to launch a niche business, and consumers are more careful than ever in how they spend their hard-earned dollars.
Thus, those sustainably minded businesses that have survived know some stuff. City Weekly asked them about the secrets of their success and also asked what consumers should look for when trying to buy/live green. The Green Giants, as well as articles that follow on Sharing Backyards, CSAs and growing in small spaces with a limited budget, will help get you back to the garden post haste.
THE GREEN HOME
Tall Pines Construction
Tall Pines Construction in Park City recently finished the Sungazing House in Silver Creek. With Utah’s only LEED Platinum certification, it’s Utah’s greenest home, says Tall Pines owner Garrett Strong. It just won the national Green Home of the Year award in Green Builder Magazine. The company has other energy-efficient green homes, too. “In the design, we’re making sure we get passive solar heat gain—that’s how we get 90 percent of the house’s heat,” Strong says. The remainder comes from solar voltaic and site-specific means of alternative energy. Beyond design, Tall Pines contracts with a recycler to minimize its waste, uses recycled glass for 50 percent of the foundation and donates items to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore—a nonprofit retailer of used home-building materials.
“The key component to finding the right builder is finding one that takes [sustainable building design] classes and is, overall, showing an interest and willingness to learn,” Strong says. “Experience is a big indicator, because, otherwise, [the builder] might need a consultant or an energy engineer.”
Real Estate & Eco-Brokers
SLC Green Homes
There are approximately 6,000 licensed Realtors in Salt Lake City—only six of whom are eco-brokers. The certification means completing a three-day course in indoor-air quality, energy use and the like, along with annually maintaining the accreditation. While eco-brokers still meet the hectic deadlines of traditional Realtors in the home buying/selling process, they add another level of diligence. Beverly Hanson, owner of SLC Green Homes, says, “With that training, we’re more capable of helping buyers, sellers and homeowners identify and improve efficiencies in the home.” Hanson is a real-estate agent who specializes in building science and offers home-energy-performance assessments—free with the closing on a home. This three-hour assessment is generally performed after a purchase, but can be done before or during. Hanson also guides new buyers on how to take advantage of state-offered rebates for energy upgrades.
Hanson recommends that those deciding among eco-brokers check up on their current certifications, which are a clear sign of dedication. “Ask what ongoing education they’ve received and what organizations they belong to,” she says.
1214 Wilmington Ave. (2150 South), 801-680-4325, SLCGreenHomes.com
“I got into architecture for the people, not for the buildings,” says Angela Dean, owner of AMD Architecture. Since founding her company in 1997, she’s melded solid design with healthy, energy-efficient spaces for off-the-grid desert dwellings, offices and city homes and remodels. Because of the nature of green building, Dean thinks it’s important to increase her onsite visits above the norm for architectural services—to answer questions, track down materials, etc. While the building market has suffered during the recent recession, green projects are expanding, Dean says.
For those scouting for a green architect, Dean says, “Research is key: Find a record of experience. Also, find someone who is open to listening to [your] unique demands.”
311 S. 900 East, Suite 103, 801-322-3053, AMDArchitecture.com
There are a lot of choices in flooring: carpet, linoleum, cork, bamboo, wood, tile or stone. Some options are more environmentally sound than others, like carpets with synthetic fibers or acid-cured finishes. Step into Underfoot Floors, an industry specialist with 10 years of experience, which vigorously screens for the most Earth-friendly flooring, including finishes with low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and soy-based carpet pads for retail sales. Underfoot also provides residential and commercial installation. Underfoot also significantly cuts down on waste, which general manager Kathrine Stringer identifies as the industry’s biggest problem. Underfoot orders per installation and as minimally as possible, reducing waste from the onset. Any product left over is used for samples.
Stringer recommends those looking for building materials and a supplier “be wary of green washing—many products are presented as environmentally friendly, but that’s a vague term,” she says, adding that a specialist, rather than a general contractor, will be more knowledgeable for that aspect of the process.
1900 S. 300 West, 801-467-6636, UnderfootFloors.net
With World War II came synthetic pesticides like DDT that have lingering harmful effects on the ecosystem. Before synthetic pesticides were developed, pesticides were made from chrysanthemum, soy and other plant roots and botanicals. Alonzo Thayn, owner of Wasatch Natural, is bringing back that old-school method. The 5-year-old company provides organic pest management as well as lawn and tree fertilization. The products are all USDA Organic certified or OMRI listed—designations that Thayn trusts the most. When choosing a green pest management company, he recommends asking for product certifications and not relying strictly on broad definitions of “natural.”
Utah Solar & Alternative Energy
Much of America’s electricity is lost as it moves along the grid, but it doesn’t have to be. “The technology and wherewithal is available to change our grid and make people net producers instead of net consumers,” says Utah Solar & Alternative Energy owner Joe Raycraft, who’s installed solar voltaic systems for homes and businesses for five years. His main focus now is battery-based grid-tied systems, which, he says, is the most practical because it allows access to the grid in case of power outages. He says an average three-kilowatt system costs around $15,000-$20,000 and takes two to three weeks to install.
Raycraft, who drives vegetable-oil-powered vehicles, says recycling is a priority for him. “If a solar-energy company doesn’t recycle, that's a pretty good indication they’re in it for the money,” he says.
Eco-Star Green Cleaning
After launching her home-cleaning business in April 2010, Stacie Holyoak—like many home cleaners—knew from her headaches and dry skin that conventional cleaning products were unhealthy for her. She started using the Waxy Green Line of completely biodegradable products in her work and, now fully green, Eco-Star offers regular or one-off residential and commercial cleanings. Carpet cleaning is outsourced to local Green Clean (801-889-1041), which specializes in using only eco-friendly and organic cleaners on carpets.
Holyoak cautions against using cleaning companies who claim they are “eco-friendly” because they car pool or use routing software to cut down miles in transport, yet buy conventional cleaners to save the fuel of shipping water weight. She recommends asking cleaners for a materials data safety sheet for ingredient information.
999 Murray Holladay Road, Suite 109, Murray, 855-971-5195, EcoStarCleaning.com
After taking a permaculture class in 2005, Chase Fetter, owner of Sage’s Way, was inspired to go beyond his original focus of xeriscaping—a method of landscaping that emphasizes local plants and reduces the need for supplemental watering—and began making clients’ properties more self-reliant regarding growing food. Now, 9 out of 10 designs include edibles in raised-bed gardens or fruit trees. Fetter’s 10-year-old business uses smart water controls to monitor sprinklers and irrigators as seasons change. It has a Certified Natural Gas vehicle and only uses organic fertilizers. A subsidiary, Eco-Lawn Care, uses renewable-energy-powered mowers—offset by wind credit. Because of Utah’s desert environs, Fetter recommends asking "what a landscaper is doing to save on water usage, first and foremost.”
Green Painting of Utah
Joel Marsh, owner of Green Painting of Utah, doesn’t hold the corner on the market, he says. With access to the same water-based, low-VOC and soy-based paints as anyone else, for him, green is mainly a frame of mind. “We recycle the majority of our buckets, reuse paint from other jobs and mix mis-tinted paints for primers,” Marsh says. He uses green paints for 80 percent to 90 percent of surface area. On exteriors, green paint lasts half as long as regular oil-based paints, so it’s a trade off. He informs his clients of the cost-benefit analysis and is open to their decisions on specific materials. He recommends looking for this willingness in a painter.
CONSUMER GOODS & PERSONAL CARE
Earth Goods General Store
Earth Goods’ role in the community is to be a “Walmart with a conscience,” but also a unique resource to help people move toward a sustainable lifestyle, owner Thom Benedict says. For three and a half years, people have regularly come in to ask general questions—like about baby products—or buy specific products like green cleaners. “We’re open and receptive—even if we don’t have something that people need in the store, we’ll work to help them find it,” he says.
Benedict shares a few green “general-store” goods that often surprise folks, such as alternatives to clothing dryers—free-standing, sustainably harvested or reclaimed wooden drying racks or umbrella dryers. “That’s one of the first things I’d encourage someone to do if they want to minimize their ecological footprint,” he says. They also offer eco-friendly baby diapers and rain barrels for backyard water harvesting.
1249 S. 900 East, 801-746-4410, EarthGoodsGeneralStore.com
Bath & Body Products
Bubble & Bee
Bubble & Bee came from Stephanie Greenwood’s concern that the many chemicals—neurotoxins, parabens and estrogenic compounds—in body-care products, even at health-food stores, are harmful, she says. Greenwood began making and selling her own products in 2007 at the downtown Farmers Market. Now, she’s distributed in local grocers, 29 national Whole Foods stores and through her Website and Bountiful store.
“There’s a lot of confusion in what is organic and what is natural,” Greenwood says. “We have the USDA Organic green seal on our products. ‘Natural’ is really not defined in any sense of the term—there’s no kind of certification.”
Bubble & Bee is a certified organic facility. They package in recycled materials, source locally where possible and sell concentrates to lower its products’ carbon footprint. When shopping for green personal-care products, Greenwood says to “Always read the ingredients and don’t just take the front cover for face value. Understand what those ingredients are [by looking them up online].”
297 N. 200 West, 801-560-7899, Bountiful, BubbleAndBee.com
With all this talk of “being green,” here’s some motherly advice to “eat your greens.” At Pago, sustainability tastes pretty good. Springtime dishes like Morgan Valley Lamb ravioli or Pago’s roasted beets should pique interest and perk palates. With a focus on artisan, local, and farm fresh, the dinner menu frequently changes due to the seasonality of produce. During summer, 90 percent of food and beverage is locally produced. Pago began Restaurant Supported Agriculture—similar to the community-assisted-agriculture model—upon opening in May 2009, but stopped last year when it began growing its own produce on a small parcel in Sugar House. Proteins, flours and eggs are bought locally year-round.
The building was remodeled to incorporate reclaimed wood and steel, along with paper stone—made from recycled paper. Pago’s extensive recycling program now includes one employee turning empty wine bottles into cocktail glasses.
878 S. 900 East, 801-532-0777, PagoSLC.com
Clothing & Accessories
Green the World
This one-of-a-kind Weber County store sells wares that don’t compromise cute and chic to be green and Earth-friendly. The shop offers a hodgepodge of items, with many brands to choose from, like Simple Shoes, CycleLogical and Park City companies Green Element and Locals Have More Fun. Ladies can adorn themselves with recycled jewelry like Silver Wear—bracelets made locally from sterling-silver spoons—or Fair Trade necklaces made from magazines by African women.
Owner Beth Bell encourages people to start by doing a little at a time—like a shirt and necklace, rather than a whole wardrobe—until customers reach a satisfactory shade of green. Green the World also offers quarterly classes, like making green cleaners for spring. Bell adheres to the three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle. Bell encourages consumers who shop for green products to ask storeowners where the products come from and how they screen them.
4171 Riverdale Road, Ogden, 801-781-3931, GreenTheWorldStore.com
TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION
Automotive Alternative-Fuel Conversions
Alternative Vehicle Solutions
Family-owned-and-operated Lancer Automotive Group knew the auto industry’s future would not be tied to foreign oil dependency. In 2008, the company opened Alternative Vehicle Solutions, which is devoted to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicle conversions and fuel-systems design. It designs fuel systems for General Motors and other American manufacturers. AVS also sells, installs and repairs Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) components and aftermarket CNG Fuel Delivery Systems locally. For the average consumer, a full conversion with installation runs $10,000-$12,000, but the price is expected to drop soon, says marketing manager Bry Scherbel. The fuel efficiency remains the same, but fuel costs are much less. As of mid-April, regular unleaded gasoline was $3.59 while natural gas was $1.30. Scherbel adds that natural gas isn’t as hard on a vehicle, meaning less-frequent oil changes and a longer vehicle life. The state offers a tax credit of $2,500 for conversions. Converted vehicles also burn much cleaner.
255 W. 2950 South, 801-463-0444, Avs-Cng.com
U Car Share
Do you normally bike or walk but need to buy groceries or get to a doctor’s appointment or a social engagement in another town? You can rent by the hour one of the UCars, located at the U and various Salt Lake City locations, the Phoenix-based subsidiary of U-Haul has more locations here than any in other city. The program helps keep cars off the road and, by extension, more harmful pollutants out the air. The mostly hybrid fleet can be rented by the hour for $4.95 plus a per-mile fee, but there’s a per-hour cap. “Renters” must be over 18 and restrictions apply up to 21.
Treasure Mountain Inn
“Protecting and preserving the planet is key to our longevity as a business and as residents,” says Treasure Mountain Inn co-owner Thea Leonard. Its mission is totally green, from the big-picture approach to the small details. The first hotel to join One Percent For The Planet, it donates 1 percent of its gross revenues to environmental nonprofits. 100 percent of the inn’s power comes from Rocky Mountain Power wind offsets. While they produce carbon, they’re actually carbon negative because a four-kilowatt solar system pumps energy back into the grid when unused. The inn is an EPA-certified Green Power Partner.
Additionally, the inn hires locally to avoid commuting. It has an extensive recycling program, offers organic food when possible and provides eco-friendly body care products. “You can make green choices without having to sacrifice. You don’t have to sleep in a tent,” Leonard says.
255 Main, Park City, 800-344-2460, TreasureMountainInn.com
BUSINESS EVENTS & SERVICES
E2 Business Program
Nearly 100 businesses in the Salt Lake area have made the commitment to cut back their energy consumption and reduce waste by enrolling in a free program offered by the city government. The e2 Business Program was started in 2003 to help businesses become more environmentally responsible and economically viable—the two Es that form the program’s name.
The service is free and the application is straightforward and thorough, involving assessments in energy use, transportation, recycling, etc. The wait for a consultation is about two weeks after the application process, says program coordinator Bridget Stuchly. Consultants do a site assessment, providing an outside eye to look for energy drains and places to improve efforts. Once a business adopts e2’s goals and demonstrates cutbacks, it receives accreditation. That’s good for profits, consumers and the environment—the triple bottom line.
451 S. State, Room 145, 801-535-6438, SLCGreen.com
Live Green SLC! Festival
Now in its eighth year, the Live Green SLC! Festival is the largest green exposition in Utah, with more than 100 booths of green products, vendors and nonprofits featuring cutting-edge ideas and technologies from local and national organizations. As such, it is the premier place to network and pick up some knowledge that’s solution-oriented—be it about biodiesel or backyard chickens. But Live Green isn’t all business. A family-friendly affair, there’s music, food, a solar-powered beer garden and tunes spun by DJ Rocket Boy and the Solar Saucer—truly something for everyone.
May 7, 2011, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 400 S. 210 East, LiveGreenSLC.com
Salt Lake City Green Drinks
Green Drinks started in London, England, with a few mates regularly discussing all things green over a pint at a pub. The idea spread worldwide, landing in Utah in 2007. Now co-run by Kirsten Gellella and Mary Rogers, the monthly networking event is hosted by rotating hosts, including Vertical Dinner, ReDirect Guide and Tracy Aviary, among others. “Our goal is not only to bring people together who are interested in a sustainable lifestyle, but to give them the opportunity to see other businesses that are green in the area,” Gellella says. Information for each month’s event can be found on the group’s Facebook page.
Various locations, fourth Tuesday of each month, GreenDrinks.org/UT/Salt Lake City
Zero Waste Programs
Momentum Recycling is a little giant—a small company with lofty goals. It helps move organizations (not individuals) towards being zero-waste by collecting recyclables (blue-bin materials), organics (yard waste and food), glass, bulbs and batteries. Co-owner Kate Whitbeck says, “Depending on interest, we can provide in-depth consulting so [businesses] can further divert things from the landfill—be it minimizing materials or using them differently.”
Whitbeck says these services go beyond simply setting up a recycling container on location and involves hands-on business consulting. Look for someone who is “constantly giving feedback on progress and needed improvements, as in quarterly diversion reports.”
1909 S. 4250 West, 801-355-0334, MomentumRecycling.com