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Marla Esser Cloos (aka The Green Home Coach) is the founder of Everyday Green Home, a weekly podcast where she and occasional co-host Tony Pratte, of The Sound Room, talk all things residential green. Marla is a NAHB Master Certified Green Professional, LEED AP, and Wellness Within Your Walls certified professional, who works with individual consumers, homeowners, builders, remodelers, and realtors. She is a frequent writer and speaker on the topic of sustainability. Her online shop, Everyday Green Home, offers a curated set of products for a safer, healthier, and greener life.

Sheridan Foster joins the Green Home Coach to talk about a cool, highly sustainable renovation project she and her team did in an historic Chicago building. #EcoRenovate is a term that Sheridan, publisher of Elemental Green, coined while doing research on the circular impact of different building materials. #EcoRenovate shows that we can all level-up our homes in terms of sustainability and high design. There is so much we can do to improve our health and that of the Earth.

#EcoRenovate is the first branded project that Elemental Green ever took on from start to finish. The team expanded their focus beyond just building material, evaluating eco-friendly furnishings and celebrating the architecture. This historic, modernist building near the Chicago University campus in Hyde Park was designed by I.M. Pei and Araldo Cossutta and built in 1961. Originally apartments and now condominiums, the top-floor corner unit has big, beautiful windows with delicate arches.

Staying true to the design

Sheridan wanted to stay true to the original design while updating the unit for how people live today. They started with the tiny, closed-off kitchen, opening it up to the rest of the light-filled condo. They took down parts of two walls to connect the kitchen to the rest of main living space. The bathroom still had all the original, charming fixtures, which remain, and the floor tiles were lovely. But the plain-vanilla wall tiles had to be changed out.

Color affects our moods and energy levels, so Sheridan and her team deliberately added pops of color to the space, particularly with tile. The view of Lake Michigan inspired them, so they brought lots of blue into the interior spaces.

They compromised little in selecting the eco-friendly building products and practices. From building materials to furnishings, everything was evaluated against various standards of what makes a good, sustainable product.

Elemental Green #EcoRenovate Sustainable Kitchen Renovation University Park Condominium
Elemental Green #EcoRenovate Sustainable Living Room Renovation
Elemental Green #EcoRenovate Sustainable Bathroom Renovation University Park Condominium
Elemental Green #EcoRenovate Sustainable Living Room Renovation

Mindful and eco-friendly

Resisting compromise helped the Elemental Green team identify some great companies to work with that use eco-friendly raw materials, treat their employees fairly, and use mindful and eco-friendly practices. They evaluated everything they did against the concept of circularity, focusing on nontoxic finishes and furnishings and recycled content specifically. The public is starting to make the connection between their personal health and the health of the planet at large.

Sheridan repainted everything in the condo using paint from a company called Recolor. Recolor is a woman-led company seeking to solve the problem of waste paint. Recolor filters and reprocesses leftover paint so that it can be reused. As a result of the reprocessing, Recolor’s paint is lower in VOCs than regular paint. It is available from Amazon or through Habitat for Humanity stores in a range of colors.

The part of the renovation Sheridan enjoyed most was re-doing the kitchen with handmade and hand-painted tiles from Fireclay Tile! They also put in bamboo plywood-fronted cabinets and a large island workspace.

To improve indoor air quality, the team installed filters over all the vents. They also put Molekule air filters in all the rooms. (Molekule is not just a filter. It uses electricity to destroy unwanted air particles.)

Taking on a renovation

Taking on an especially green renovation may seem overwhelming, but it will feel great once you have accomplished your goals! Sheridan pointed out that it is vital to keep your sustainability goals for the project top of mind, and that you should never compromise your health. The right products are out there!



If you want to learn more about why green matters to you, your family, and the planet, subscribe to the Everyday Green Home podcast. Marla and her guests share tips and trends in sustainable building.

Find additional insights in Marla's book Living Green Effortlessly: Simple Choices to a Better Home on Amazon.

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