GSRE Top Picks for green festival ’08

My green festival catalog is worn and tattered from six weeks of thumbing thru it trying to decide on “the perfect day” from a green real estate and lifestyle perspective. I’ve finally created the perfect two days and here it is:


Sat 11 AM Panel Discussion in Room 2: Pollution in our homes, campaigns to keep them out

Sat 1 PM Room 4: Jason McLellan – The living building: integrating technology with nature

Sat 3 PM Room 1: Stacy Malkan – The ugly side of the beauty industry

Sat 5 PM Room 1: Vicki Robin – Liberating limits: How limits to growth can free our lives

Sun 12 PM Room 2: Goldie Coughlan (of PCC Natural Markets) – Elements of ethical eating in the 21st century

Sun 1 PM Room 1: Puget Sound Energy – Energy efficiency workshop (low cost/no cost ways to save energy in your home)

Sun 2 PM Room 4: Gifford Pinchot III – Health, happiness and sustainable business (it’s not every guy who has a national forest named for his family)

Sun 3 PM Room 1: Cecile Andrews – The slow life movement: Living happier with a lighter footprint

Sun 5 PM Room 1: Mark Lakeman – The City Repair Project

Community Action Center:

Sat 4 PM: How can I be toxic free?

Sun 2 PM: Growing a local food economy

Green Home Pavilion: 40 minute workshops both days, click here for full schedule.

Note: The entire festival is green, so they have asked people to bring their own eating utensils and plates for food sampling, meals, and also your own refillable water bottle since there will be water stations but no water in plastic bottles available for purchase.

Here is my personal list of must-see booths. Keep in mind I have been researching green lifestyle things for 7 years, so there are a lot of must-see booths but I am skipping some where I already know about the product or service. Others I am hitting anyway looking for product samples! There are hundreds of booths, and it can be overwhelming if you don’t strategize a bit.

Name / Booth #
bgreen / 612/614
PCC Natural Markets / 914/918 (I bet they have samples and coupons!)
Simple Shoes / 518
1 Thing / 610
Body and Soul / 912
Chinook Book / 505
KMTT The Mountain / 610 (my favorite terrestrial radio station – I otherwise am a Sirius subscriber)
Mother Earth News / 915
Natural Health / 815
Natural Home / 913
Planet Green / 604/705
green 3 / 1303
Center for Cultural Interchange / 438
Ecohaus / 230 (formerly known as Environmental Home Center)
Northwest Ecobuilding Guild / 218
Dagoba Chocolate / Pavilion
Numi Tea / 617
Seattle Tilth / 212
Yaki Soba Noodles / F5 (this is lunch!!)
Plug In America / 100

I still have a PCC Natural Markets grocery receipt that offers 2-for-1 entry, so I am going to talk my husband into going and hanging out with me!

I hope you take this extraordinary opportunity to learn more about how a green lifestyle is obtainable and sustainable and doesn’t have to be expensive. The incredible density and variety of offerings at this festival just makes people like me drool! I can’t wait. Maybe I will see you there!

Be sure to check out the event web site to plan your perfect day!

The resident High Point Green Agent reports

Spring is in the air and people are getting itchy feet to go home shopping! I know it snowed only a week ago, but you just have to believe me. The grape hyacinths are UP in my deck garden (yeah, they survived the move!!) and there is no denying spring is here. I finally have Black capped chickadees visiting my feeder, and I put up a window bird house and am hoping that someone decides to build a nest there and I can even watch them being hatched from my living room!

I did a quick search of homes around West Seattle’s High Point redevelopment, since that’s my “beat”, and as a Built Green Certified Agent I specialize in this kind of new construction. But there are some other townhomes “on the fringe”, and you could move into new construction for as little as $269k. See the most recent list of relevant listings here. My personal favorite, of course, is the 1-bedroom carriage house ($315,950). And there are some 4×2.5 standalone “skinnies” also touting Built Green certification on 30th Ave SW that have been under construction for months that have finally been completed and are now on market for $425k. I need to stop by and preview them!

I was surprised to see a 3×2.5 townhome (about 1700 sq ft and 2-car side-by-side garage) in my floor plan has just gone on the market. There aren’t very many of these built. It has a city view (my place has a view of the Cascades). Love LOVE my house. You will, too. EMAIL ME IF YOU WANT TO SEE IT.

CALENDAR NOTE: There is another Walking Tour of High Point scheduled for April 20th thru my Green Spaces meetup group. Be sure to check it out and please join us if you can. Not only will you get a tour of a Built Green community, but we will also tour homes availalble for sale as time allows. Dress for the weather and wear shoes that are easy to take off and put back on.

Photo above is of a porous (pervious) sidewalk along 31st Avenue SW between SW Raymond and SW Graham Streets.

Catalog Choice : A real world application

I saw a story on NBCs Today Show in January about an elementary school that held a competition to see which class could eliminate the most catalogs from their home mail boxes. The kids, along with their parents, requested to be removed from mailing lists at home, and then the kids brought the catalogs to school to put in a big bin. 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades were competing against eash other. Many used an online service that I had not heard of, called Catalog Choice.

Herb Weisbaum as “ConsumerMan” contributed an article to called “Stop the Catalog Madness!”. I came across that when I was trying to find the original Today Show segment to post here – which I did finally find on YouTube (see video post above), or click to see the original video created by the school kids (which I had not seen before.)

My husband and I stockpiled catalogs February-March before finally sitting down to request removal today with the help of the web site First we weighed the catalogs we collected. 16.8 pounds! It was a heavy pile. We then next measured how tall the pile was, and it was over 9 inches tall. Then we sat down together and Steve read me the title of each catalog and I used the Search feature on the Catalog Choice site to see if it was already listed. Most of the catalogs we have been receiving were listed on the site. And if you are receiving a catalog that is not on their list, you can suggest the catalog be added, and they will email you when the merchant has agreed to be included.

You might think this is a hard sell for merchants. Au contraire. Catalog Choice is a free service whose objective is to reduce the number of unwanted catalogs sent to American consumers, thereby helping the consumers, the environment and saving marketing costs for the merchants. With today’s cost of postage, paper, and printing costs, I think some merchants are getting smart and realizing that it really is better for them to not be sending catalogs to people who are literally just going to throw them in the recycle bin without looking at them.

After inputting our catalogs we had three piles. The pile on the left is the very few (I think 5 total) catalogs we received that were not already on the web site (we requested that they be added and we will receive notification by email when they do so we can process our request).

The pile in the middle is made up of single copy catalog titles that we requested to decline – 52 titles in all. The pile in the “round file” is duplicates of the catalogs in the center pile. So, had I already put in my requests to be removed from these catalog mailing lists, not only would I have saved trees, oil, electricity and everything else that goes into production and distribution for the middle pile, I also would never have received the catalogs in the right hand pile since they are other mailings from the same merchants.

Here is the list of catalogs I was able to request to be removed from their mailing lists:
As We Change
CDW Solutions
Crate & Barrel
Crutchfield Electronics
Danbury Mint
Doctors Foster & Smith
Driving Comfort
Eddie Bauer
Great Windows
Griot’s Garage
Hammacher Schlemmer
Harry and David
High Country Gardens
Home Bistro
Home Decorators Collection
J. Jill
Johnston & Murphy
L.L. Bean
Lamps Plus
Lands’ End
Norm Thompson
One Spirit
Plow & Hearth
Pottery Barn
Relax The Back
Restoration Hardware
Shades of Light
Smith & Hawken
Spring Hill Nurseries
The Pyramid Collection
The Sharper Image
Time for Me
Tire Rack
Title Nine
Touch of Class
Vermont Country Store Catalog of Goods & Wares
Woman Within

The web site notified me that four of these merchants have refused to honor requests placed thru Catalog Choice, but they provide phone numbers and web sites so you can contact the merchants directly. I got on the phone with Macy*s and spoke to Customer Service and made the request, altho I did not hear a keyboard in the background so I am skeptical that this request will be honored. I sent emails to two others thru their web sites, and Steve said he would take care of Griot’s Garage by email.

Oh, and it was very interesting when we requested to be removed from Crate & Barrel. We received a notice on the screen:

All Crate and Barrel catalogues are printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and contain 10 to 30 percent post-consumer recycled material. You can learn more about our environmental Initiatives on everything from furniture to packaging materials to our energy-efficient warehouses at

Upon closer inspection of the catalog itself it does tout the FSC mark and statement and other things that tell you about steps the company is taking to reduce their environmental footprint. I will continue to shop there – in fact, I have a gift card from our holiday/housewarming/anniversary party that is burning a hole in my pocket. I think I am going to get a big wooden salad bowl so I can make proper Caesar salads.

It was hard to follow-thru and request removal from some of the catalogs, like Sharper Image, Hammacher Schlemmer, and Pyramid. They are fiun catalogs and we always find things to show to each other. But who needs to waste time looking at things they don’t really have the money to buy anyway?

2008 is a year of conscious reduction in our household, and getting rid of the daily temptations in the mail box is a GREAT step towards freedom.

Something else I really liked about the site is that I could tell the merchant why I was requesting to be removed from the mailing list. The options are:

* Prefer not to answer
* Prefer shopping online for these products
* No interest in products
* I want to help the environment
* Duplicate mailing
* Addressed to person not at residence
* I receive too many of this catalog
* Other – has a type-in field where you can give specific reason

Honestly on many of these catalogs, I prefer to shop in the store (e.g. J Jill, Smith & Hawken, Crate & Barrel, etc). So I selected Other and typed this into the field that pops up. I think they should make that a menu option. For catalogs I never bought from before, requested, or know how I started receiving them, I answered “I want to help the environment.” Sharper Image and Land’s End and catalogs like those are web sites that I have used and will continue to shop from in the future. It’s silly to get a catalog in the mail when you ordered from the web site. The merchant should learn to mirror the customer. If I ordered by phone from a catalog obviously I am a catalog shopper. If I ordered from the web site, I
am an online shopper. By showing up in my mailbox they are trying to entice me to the web site to shop, and I am just not going to fall for it.

One wifely concession – I let Steve keep his REI catalog.

If you are serious about getting off of these mailing lists, you will also love the Catalog Choice web site because it lets you keep Notes on the site of actions you have taken. So I documented the phone call and emails I sent today using this feature. It lets you come back and check on the status of your requests, too. It will Confirm when you have been removed from mailing lists, letting you know which ones they are.

I hope our experience and illustration of how we were able to use might inspire you to save your catalogs for a month and do the same. You will feel better for it, and free from constant pressures to spend you hard-earned money!

And the Built Green Hammer Award goes to…

The Master Builders Association Built GreenTM Case Study for April is about an affordable housing townhome community built across the “dell” from me near the home I owned before moving to High Point. I am referring to Croft Place Townhomes, built by DNDA (Delridge Neighborhood Development Association).

In case you have ever wondered, the name of the Delridge neighborhood is derived from the dells and ridges that define this community.

Several years ago I remember going to the community meetings, held at Sanislo Elementary School, and hearing the NIMBYs. I decided a lot of people in the neighborhood had a case of “sour grapes” and felt people who are of lower income didn’t deserve to live in healthy new construction. What was ironic about this situation is that the Puget Ridge neighborhood where this is located is a rather modest community and many of the people living here would have qualified for affordable housing in this new community.

The most squealing was about how much more traffic this 21- unit community would bring the neighborhood. I lived around the corner and at the very busy intersection of 18th and Myrtle and Orchard (5 streets met at the traffic circle) and just laughed because everyone and their brother already was driving thru that intersection on their way to SSCC, “cutting the corner” so to speak and avoiding the stop light and left-hand turn at SW Austin and 16th Ave SW. And they were driving fast and no one yielded properly to anyone. I don’t miss that, or any other real aspect of my old residence on 18th Ave SW. What a crazy place.

More about Croft Place from the Built Green web site:

This month’s featured project is Croft Place Townhomes, a 3-Star townhome project in Seattle’s Delridge Neighborhood. Developed by the Delridge Neighborhood Development Association, the 21-unit project is a model of quality, environmentally friendly affordable housing. Winner of the 2008 Built Green Hammer Award in the multi-familiy low-rise category, this project not only incorporated green design and building strategies, but also took the next step to include community residents in designing community-wide artistic elements to establishing a sense of place. Croft Place Townhomes is one of the great examples here in the Pacific Northwest that demonstrates how green building can be realistic for affordable projects.

You can see the entire case study here. Right now you can also see the townhomes from Delridge, on the east side of the street, across from Lam Bow Apartments. The trees have not leafed in and they are pretty visible. Those houses are built on STILTS!

Are you interested in native plants?

Native Plant Stewardship Program Offers Free Education and Habitat Restoration Skills

I took part in this training and volunteer program in 2001 and it is invaluable information. If you’re lucky you’ll come away with some really great stories – like getting your boot sucked off in an east King county bog and learning the hard way why you ALWAYS pack extra socks when going out in the field.

In the meantime, I can entertain you with photographs from a salvage event we attended in 2002.

Stephen Hughes-Jelen (my husband), and Steve Richmond (of Garden Cycles) help another salvager / homeowner claim a fallen tree stump. They intended to place it in their yard. They lived nearby. This was the Trident development area in Redmond before homes were built.

Steve and Steve plot how to pack in as many plants as possible. Note the sword ferns and other plants are packed in burlap bags that we got for free from a Gerogetown coffee roaster. You can dump water over the burlap bags and it gets them really soaked and it will keep the plant roots damp and make them more likely to survive the transplant.

GRNSTRK set up for maximum hauling capacity. The 4’x8′ trailer can haul a LOT of plants. Here it is fully loaded and ready to head home.

If you are interested in salvaging native plants for your planting project or yard, contact Bob Spencer at Seattle Public Utilities. Visit the Plant Native web site for even MORE information.

I hope there are some new prospective stewards out there in Green Spaces-land! The press release is below.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Are you interested in the native plants in your community and taking on the challenge of restoring Seattle’s forested parklands? The Washington Native Plant Society is now accepting applications for the 2008 Native Plant Forest Stewardship Program. This year, as in 2007, WNPS will partner with Seattle Parks and Recreation, Cascade Land Conservancy and the Green Seattle Partnership.

In an exciting and extensive ten-week training program, you’ll learn and experience first-hand how to identify native plants; the importance of soils; how to propagate, plant and care for native plants; the functions and benefits of wetlands and forests; how to remove invasive plants; tips on educating the public; which native plants work well in urban settings (and attract wildlife); how to train and lead volunteers, and how to restore and monitor a variety of habitats. Expert training is through lectures, workshops and field trips.

The 10-week program is free in exchange for a 100-hour volunteer commitment within King County-most of which will take place in a Seattle Park. Following the training, teams of stewards will be assigned 1-acre sites in identified Seattle Parks where they will fulfill their volunteer commitments through designing and implementing native plant restoration plans.

Classes will be held on Fridays from 8:30am until 4:30pm at South Seattle Community College. Classes will begin Friday, April 25, 2007 and will run until June 27th, including three all-day Saturday field trips.

All applications for this Native Plant Forest Stewardship training are due by 5pm Tuesday, April 11th to Washington Native Plant Society, 6310 NE 74th Street, Suite 215E, Seattle, WA 98115 or by emailed to Download an application from Washington Native Plant Society at or email Stewardship Coordinator, Deb Gurney at

“This program gives stewards the tools and confidence they need to teach others about native plants and lead projects that improve our streams, lakes, parks, forests, soil and air, and make us proud to live in our neighborhoods,” said Gary Smith, Chair of the Washington Native Plant Society’s Stewardship Program. “We encourage all native plant enthusiasts to apply, as well as volunteers who are working on or want to start a restoration project. The more we can educate and train people to provide this type of preventive care, we’re keeping the tax burden down for everyone-now and in the future-with benefits that will last well past our lifetimes.”

The Grand Unveiling : custom art for my new home office

I’ve been in my new home office for about seven months now. It has great new furniture, a custom California Closet for office supplies and everything else, and was painted a color that was inspired by our most recent international adventure, Italy. (You can read more here.)

The big wall above the Ferrari-red wing couch called for something dramatic. And preferably sunflower-y since that is my favorite flower, and of course the flower of Tuscany, the place that has inspired my entire office decor. I found a neat painting in an art gallery in Snohomish, but it was the wrong red and not a sunflower at all. It is difficult to shop for art when you 1) are color blind, and 2) live with someone with an artistic background and heritage. It can be intimidating.

I told my husband (the art “critic”) that it might take a couple of years to find the right piece. And I was prepared to wait. Waiting is part of my new persona. I would rather do without altogether than having something not right. That’s the criteria I used to get rid of so much stuff when moving from our old farmhouse a mile away to our modern townhouse in High Point. Scan Design of course was the answer for almost everything that’s in our new house. And is where we had obtained the only furniture we brought with us from the old house.

His solution, and he was in cahoots with his father, I call him Ron-dad, was to commission his sister, Kimry Jelen, another family artist (and horse trainer, there will be a PBS special on her soon) to paint a piece for the wall. It would be the right size, the right colors, and it would be sunflowers.

Of course I didn’t find this out until it was unveiled at Xmas. She was here over Thanksgiving scoping the room out – and the bold and bright Wing Couch dominating my office.

The painting arrived just last week. We still need to frame it – we are considering a metal frame to match the rest of the hardware in the room (and throughout the house). I couldn’t be more happy with what she has produced, just for me and my space. Now I just wish my desk, which is inside of an armoire, faced the same direction so I could stare at all day!

Thanks Kimry! You did a fantastic job and I couldn’t love it more!

Now I have to get rid of that floor lamp. Or find a matching shade. Steve! Better get shopping.

Note: clicking on a photo in blog post will enlarge the photo in a new window.