Growing these Green Big Box Stores
Have you been trying to live a life of more healthy, energy efficient, non-toxic, sustainability this-that and the other thing? Have you been trying to reinvent the wheel in creating a shopping list at a big box store that when you got there huffing and puffing through the chemically treated lumber section when all you really wanted was some sort of mosquito repellent so you could grill in peace?
Then… all you could find was a super-pesticide which was marked “pet-friendly” when it markedly wasn’t? There are places for you! No, these places are not just online and they are not just in the crunchy-granola mama section of the store; I promise.
Planting the Seed
It is pretty amazing that even five years ago, the thought of a consolidated place for sustainable products for home building and living in a big box store format was so far-fetched. Like a dandelion in the wind – just fluttering about. Some of these bad-boys have planted the seed and watched this wisp of an idea blossom. Actually, I take that back. There was this place over on South Congress and Elizabeth in Austin called the Eco-Depot that was sort of an un-known- off the beaten path- spot that my mother would drag my sister and I into on random days to check out the bamboo floors, look at compressed hemp-hulls in whiskey barrels and for her to buy refrigerated ladybugs out of little white paper bags as beneficial bugs for the garden.
I just had a flashback; it smelled like lavender in there and it was always breezy because the owner kept all of the doors open. End flashback… Now, there are quite a few locations where others with the grand vision of living a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle have consolidated the resources for the public to come and learn and buy.
Live in a Tree House
A very well developed plan gives Tree House the leg up on the sustainable product market in Austin. Nice website. Nice storefront. Blog. DIY seminars. Products out the wazoo. They have a lovely mission that is planted on deep in their “roots” on their about us page and they go into community, nature and the ethereal. Something that gives Tree House an interesting twist is not only their local product chain, but also that they have the capacity for the service and installation of many of their products (more than likely subcontracted).
Many of the sustainability focused shops that are growing know that they need to have a well trained, and well educated staff and the Tree House team has a whole open concept surrounding the education factor- not just their staff, but they want to educate their client base as well. Smart.
Get to know a friend in Amicus
Locally owned and operated shops such as Amicus Green Building Center specialize in creating a design, build construction center where people who are actively seeking to live a more sustainable lifestyle can grow their home and lifestyle in a healthier, more environmentally conscious way. From milk-based paints, totally recycled content insulation and even garlic based mosquito repellents for the yard, this green-big-box store, may not be so big, but it is getting there.
Based out of Kensington, Maryland and the brainchild of owner, founder Jason Holstine, Amicus is the perfect place to find ideas for a healthier home and then have the people to make them happen. Holstine frames it well : “the Amicus Green Building Center is a one-stop source of genuine ‘green’ products, resources, and expert support to help you create a healthy, environmentally friendly, stylish, energy smart and sustainable building.”
House+Earth in Austin
Also way down south, in Austin, Texas, House+Earth was founded by two friends who had nearly the same vision as Holstine up in Kensington. A local chain focusing on the environmental impact that building has, House+Earth is another design center that is no stranger to healthy living concepts, products and services that enable and empower clients to discover what it means to live sustainably.
Two years ago, after visiting right after their grand opening, I wrote this: “Artfully and meaningfully designed to help you love where you live. Both your house plus the earth; thus, House+Earth- the scion of years of planning by the House family of Austin, Texas. Owner and founder, Zach House, a native Austinite and LEED AP put a lot of heart and conscientiousness into a little shop that is going to make a huge impact both regionally and hopefully- nationally.”
Interestingly enough, this blossoming store has just been regionally recognized as a champion for sustainability in Austin and has regular news spots for their sustainability knowledge. One of my favorite things about House+Earth’s program is that they are educators: Offering seminars and how-to classes, House+Earth puts the element of education back into their tight knit community.The appropriately sized staged areas meander through the warehouse like space echoing the call of the store’s manifesto: “For the home you live in. And the home you live on.” I love that.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: this “green thing” is more than a phase, and stores such as Amicus and House+Earth and the like are paving the way for all people to start building, and improving their homes in sustainable, healthy ways. I bet if you have found a store around you that features sustainable homegoods and building products, share it! We’d love to hear about it these places.