December 2009: Green Scene

December 2009: Green Scene

More green, please

This house on a prominent Ridge Street corner will soon get a green rehab.

Want more green housing in Charlottesville? You got it. In a unique collaborative effort, UVA students of architecture and engineering have partnered with the city and Barton Malow Company to rehabilitate and redesign a house in the historic district of Ridge Street.

“Absolutely nothing is more sustainable than a building that already exists,” says John Quale, a UVA architecture prof leading students through the design process. (He also leads the ecoMOD initiative, which has many similarities to the Ridge Street project.) “We’re trying to demonstrate that you can keep buildings and keep the original materials but you can make them much more energy efficient,” he says. Plans include patching up the exterior stucco and original interior trim and molding while adding things like storm windows and insulation for greater energy efficiency.

Chris Weatherford, project manager at Barton Malow, describes the company’s role as “helping to manage the process, getting the right people to help out along with assisting with construction down the road.” Keep an eye open for the next few years and watch this ambitious project unfold.—Lucy Kim

Your shopping, done

Retail Relay’s Graham Evans, left, Ted Corcoran, center, and Dennis Bates, right, at Foods of All Nations, one of the local stores where they pick up groceries for their customers.

Here’s an unusual facet of the eat-local movement in Charlottesville: Retail Relay, the local business that takes grocery orders on its website and then delivers the food to centralized pickup spots, is growing like crazy. This year they’ve gone from four employees to 10, and from 10 vendors to 24. Those vendors include stores (Reid’s, Rebecca’s) plus small local farms (Davis Creek) and restaurants (HotCakes, Revolutionary Soup).

On November 13, the Relayers kicked off a big new part of their operation, in which they’ll bring their service to residents at UVA Hospital. It seems they’ve hit a nerve with their business, cutting down on one-person driving trips and bringing customers to local food producers outside the more familiar farmer’s market and CSA models.

Retail Relay, which identifies itself as part of a national trend, lets farmers set their own prices and gives them a much bigger cut (70 to 80 percent) than they’d get with most other middlemen. If you’re interested in trying online groceries for yourself, check out their offerings at—Erika Howsare

Clean air act


Forget about artificially scented candles or odor masking chemical sprays—one of the best ways to improve your indoor air quality is with plants. If you hate the sight of the exposed dirt in potted plants, or if you’re a fan of eco-friendly design, you might want to check out the Andrea, a new invention that will let you turn a leafy plant into an air filter and purifier. The product puts your humble houseplant under a clear dome, with a quiet fan pulling in toxins and pushing out cleaner air that has been filtered through the plant.

$199 is a steep price for a house for your houseplant (we are in a recession, for goodness sakes, and you could buy about 20 Christian’s pizzas with that), but the system doesn’t require replacement filters and reduces the pollution in your house. If that doesn’t win you over, the sheer cool factor and aesthetics of this sleek, curvy pod might. A list of retailers can be found at—L.K.

Join the green party

One way to survive the cold, dark, post-Fridays-After-Five season is to host or attend a cozy, holiday party. But if December is already booked with invitations, your carbon snow-print might be mammoth.


Follow these tips for green merrymaking:

Choose invitations printed on recycled paper; or postcard-sized, bamboo or hemp invites; or simply welcome friends with digital e-vites.

If you must have a tree, splurge on a fresh, local Christmas tree from the nearest tree farm (consult the Buy Fresh Buy Local guide at

Do you really need another seasonal decoration? Search your home for lost treasures, or ask close friends to loan decorations for the night of your party. Gather fresh rosemary or holly berry branches to garnish your soy, beeswax or palm wax candle. Fill your favorite glass bowl or jar with cranberries and water and top with a tea light. Old CDs make glittery hanging ornaments; so do non-toxic gold and silver painted pinecones. Create recycled magazine Christmas trees by folding down every page. And garlands of leftover greenery, apples, cinnamon sticks and twine provide fragrance and fun.

Why not explore a local menu with Caromont chevre and a bottle of Gabriele Rausse’s Rosso? Be sure to serve guests on real or biodegradable plates. Here’s a gift idea for you and the planet: a set of sturdy, fashionable bamboo plates suitable for future parties!

And a beautiful handcrafted gift from local artists at the farmers’ market, or a gift certificate to your favorite locally owned business, captures the seasonal spirit of giving.Better World Betty