Green Tour: Gina and Bill's Realistically Sustainable Home

Green Tour: Gina and Bill's Realistically Sustainable Home

Janel Laban
Jun 19, 2007

(Welcome again to Gina, one of the finalists in our Editor search for the upcoming Green Therapy blog. Here's her "Green Tour". Comment away!)

Name: Bill and Gina
Location: Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Size/Type: 650 square feet
Years lived in: 10 months

The idea of a "green home" can be intimidating. Many think that its a huge effort: that you have to start from scratch and spend a lot of money on something like a Glidehouse. On the other hand, there is the misconception that an environmentally friendly home has to be crunchy and made of hemp. While there is nothing wrong with either of these options, what do you do if you are living in a rented apartment in the city? If you can't build and redesign, if you don't live on acres of land?

I think our place in Brooklyn is a great example of how you can realistically live in a sustainable way. We moved to Brooklyn with green on our brains; the backyard was the key element. Since then, we have slowly but surely made small changes that make a big difference.


Lighting: We have supplied all of our lamps with energy-saving bulbs. The only exception is the Artemide lamp in the living room. Because of its unique design, we have decided to keep the original bulb in. However, we are running on Con Edison's wind energy supply program, so that is a great trade off.

Furniture: Almost every piece of furniture in the house is vintage or found. Our 8-foot long danish modern couch is from craigslist. The patio furniture is an old 50s kitchen set that we refurbished. The shelving unit housing all of the records is an old department store display. We scour antique stores, thrift stores, ebay and even the streets for used items. This way, we can give a home to something that might otherwise go to waste. This also preserves the materials used to build new pieces, even if it were to be made from renewable sources.

Food & Garden: We grow our own tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs in the backyard. For all other fruits and veggies, we shop at the local farmer's market. We have a compost that provides the soil for everything in our garden but we'll use organic soil when needed. Both of us are vegan, which is actually one of the simplest ways to have a personal impact on the environment. By eating lower on the food chain, we are reducing the amount of resources used to produce our food.

Recycling: Of course we keep two recycling bins, one for paper and one for plastic.

Closets: Our love for all things found is obvious, even in the way we dress. Pretty much everything we wear is vintage, with the occasional new pair of jeans, sneakers, and other stylish must-haves. Most older clothing is made better, lasts longer and is more unique in general. Once again, reusing is one the best ways to be green.

Materials: We have an Ingeo Fiber Natural Living Fiberbed on top of our mattress. Its made out of raw materials and is a renewable resource. Its just as comfortable as a feather bed and is much better for the environment!

Supplies: Everything from our shampoo and deodorant to our glass cleaner and bathtub scrub is made out of natural ingredients.Our favorite brands are Ecover, Nature's Gate and Seventh Generation.Its also important to use recycled toilet paper and paper towels, though we try to use dishcloths in the kitchen.

Transportation: We run our 1984 Mercedes Benz purely on biodiesel. Because its not easy to find in NYC, we store the fuel in our backyard so that we can always get a quick fill-up.


Our style: Smart vintage.

The inspiration for our home: Each room has taken on its own personality because we go through different periods. But in general we are inspired by pieces that have stories.

Favorite element: The backyard! Its allowed us to take our green efforts to a whole other level.

Biggest challenge in designing our home:
Being minimalists at heart, but having way too much stuff.

Biggest embarrassment: Our neighbor's unsightly yard.

Proudest DIY: Definitely the yard. When we moved in it was a pile of bricks and weeds. The landlord said he was going to eventually fix it up, but we were immediately excited to take on the challenge. Second runner up is the floor to ceiling headboard for our bed that Bill designed and handmade. There is actually an extra door to the hallway behind it and we needed to cover it up.

Biggest indulgence: The 1,000+ vintage records in Bill's collection. Its ever-growing but that's ok because they add an element of style. And we will never run out of good music to play.

Latest purchases: A Knoll credenza, the Artemide lamp, a vintage silverware set from ebay.

Best advice given or received: Measure twice, cut once.

Our dream source for stuff: Moss. But we will never tire of places like Goodwill because its such a thrill to find an amazing piece.

Please let us know how this home could be more green! Suggestions are welcome.


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