By Garret Eakin
We are lucky to have a retail store committed to sustainability on a grass roots level in our village.
The charming storefront at 811 South Blvd., is in the center of town, appropriately located in the Ridgeland Historic District. The store parallels the elevated tracks, an early infrastructure which symbolizes Oak Park's central role in the area's development as a commuting suburb of the city. This location is not only convenient but speaks volumes about the store's promise to the surrounding cache of historic architecture.
Maria Moran, the owner and local expert regarding sustainability, has developed this unique eco-business. Navigating the constantly evolving Green World is a challenge for the educated. Moran and her cabal are immersed in the current -eco culture of materials and technology. Finding new products that are locally produced and would be of interest to our community is exciting detective work. She is keenly aware that her business must evolve to remain relevant. The retail store's mission is to provide eco-friendly solutions for everyday living to individuals, contractors, architects and landscapers.
The real value of this business is how the screened products are made easily accessible for everything you need to create a healthy home. You do not need to be an expert on sustainability; at this store sales consultants are free and available to assist you with your requirements. Unlike the daunting task of shopping at Home Depot, the green home concept reminds me of Trader Joe's, a small grocery with seasonal unique products. Limited choices make the task of shopping much simpler and reliable.
Moran's green building experience took root with a marketing and fundraising job for Lakefront Supportive Housing, now known as Mercy Housing Lakefront. She was part of the campaigns to build two LEED-certified apartment buildings in Chicago that provide permanent housing and supportive services for people who were formerly homeless. These buildings have received international acclaim for providing innovative and sustainable housing.
The shop has evolved into a hybrid hardware store, garden center and kitchen and bath shop, with green gifts on the side. The space is organized around three product categories: Green Lifestyle Goods includes alternative products from non-toxic cleaning supplies to natural baby products; Sustainable Building Materials contains healthy home with "easy on the earth" cabinetry, countertops, flooring, paint and more; Eco-Garden Center or "earth spa" for those who like to get their hands dirty; Garden products, tools, and techniques that bring you joy while leaving behind a smaller environmental footprint.
The brick and glass north facing storefront is flooded with natural sunlight, creating a wonderful bright interior. In good weather the colorful displays, flowers and handwritten signage all spill out onto the sidewalk. I'm appreciative of retailers who actually use their storefronts for advertising, bringing interest and vitality to the street.
The interior is like a series of educational moments. Why choose cork in your home? First of all it is sustainable and softer as well as easy on your feet. The material is made up of recycled wine corks that are collected at the store. Cork trees are not destroyed at harvest, only the bark is removed and nine years later the process is repeated.
Green Experts stock Niagra Stealth Toilets which use only .8 gallons of water per flush compared to most of our outdated toilets at 3.5 gallons. For alternative countertops for your kitchen you can select Paperstone, which is made from recycled paper and petroleum-free resin which is FSC and Rainforest Alliance Certified.
The store is full of interesting and sustainable products to learn about, purchase and install. It's like a Whole Earth Catalogue, as much an education as it is a store. Green Home Experts is good for Oak Park and fantastic for the planet.
Oak Parker Garret Eakin is a practicing architect, preservation commissioner and adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute.