November 2009: Green Scene

File photo. File photo.

The latest buzz

Most morning routines hinge on that first hit of liquid sanity known as coffee. If you have a regular habit, even with a downgrade from Starbucks to 7-11, your fix can end up costing you. If you brew at home, the cost of the machine, paper filters, and energy used to crank out a cup (or five) a day can be worrisome. Enter cold-brew coffee. Rigging up your own system is cheap, easy and energy saving.

Mix room temperature water with coffee grinds (try a 3:1 ratio of water to grinds) in a jar, then leave it on a countertop for 12-24 hours. Strain the liquid and voilà—a batch of potent coffee concentrate that you can keep at hand in the fridge. Dilute to taste with cold or hot water (not boiling—hence the energy savings) when you’re ready to drink.

A multitude of online discussion boards fuss over the finer details, but it really comes down to personal taste. Tweak the details to see what works best for you—try using a mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or French press as a filter, adjust the ratio of grinds to water, experiment with the amount of time you let it sit.—Lucy Kim

Greening up baby

“Babies just don’t need a gazillion things!” I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Dolly Garnecki, a local chiropractor and presenter of green mom workshops in town. This month we offer guidelines to help babies grow up green, which could end up saving you some green.

Paint: For your little one’s room, choose PVC-free wall coverings and paint without VOCs (volatile organic compounds). If your house was built before 1978, check for lead paint.

Furniture: Try local secondhand stores. For cribs, first verify the consumer safety guidelines for proper rail spacing and other safety considerations at Buying new? Choose Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. It’s harvested with care. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification is industry-led, less stringent, and possibly an illegitimate measure. See the National Resources Defense Council website for more.
Clothing: Choose secondhand or handmade clothing at farmers markets and craft fairs. Recycled fabric and organic cotton are lower-impact.

Toys: Less is more. Remember, babies and toddlers enjoy the box as much as the toy, so no need to overindulge. Embrace hand-me downs, both giving and receiving. If you decide to buy, choose domestic. I liked to rotate toys every two weeks, moving toys from one room to another. It keeps things fresh. Consider starting a toy-swap-rotation with other parents: Gather six toys your baby (and you) can part with, disinfect them with vinegar and hot water, and exchange at a monthly play date. Keeping it simple will help you stay sane. And it’s O.K. to to give in to the occasional necessary bright pink plastic item!Better World Betty

Local LEED-ers

The Augusta Project, in which Charlottesville’s Water Street Studio is a partner, will be the first LEED-certified house in Richmond.

Once more, Charlottesvillians are set to rack up a LEED milestone. Locally based Water Street Studio is involved in the Augusta Project, a collaborative effort with Hollyport Venture to rehabilitate a single-family home in Richmond. If successful, the project will produce the first LEED certified residence in the capital city.

Water Street is providing landscape architecture and civil engineering savvy to further the environmentally agenda of the project. The studio has helped to lobby the City of Richmond to approve the usage of a unique rainwater cistern (developed by Rainwater Management Solutions, another Charlottesville company) that’s designed to allow rainwater to be used in place of municipal water in toilets.

Construction is ongoing, and you can even watch the project unfold at Recent progress: Crews installed the 1,400-gallon cistern!—L.K.

New garden shop

Been waiting for a single place to shop for organic fertilizer, beer-brewing tools and hydroponics? You’re in luck. North Carolina-based Fifth Season Gardening is opening its fifth store in early November right here in Charlottesville, at 900 Preston Avenue. The store will sell supplies for organic gardening, home beer and wine making, and hydroponic indoor growing—a mix sure to appeal to the eco-conscious, D.I.Y.-crazy crowd. Sprout some ideas at—Erika Howsare

Cool cruising

Commuting, like doing dishes or straightening up the living room, is an unavoidable but annoyingly time-consuming part of the day. What can you do in the face of a morning battle against traffic and sleepiness? Try transportation that’s environmentally friendly. Try riding a bike

Mitchell Oliver fixes his derailleur at Community Bikes.

If your bike is serving as an obstacle to safe passage through your basement rather than as an efficient and enjoyable means of transportation, consider getting in touch with a biking community. Charlottesville Community Bikes offers shop space and assistance in repairing bikes as well as a Build A Bike program. The organization has relocated to 612C Preston Avenue (near Reid’s Market); manager James Richardson says the move was prompted by “[general] consensus that moving the shop would not only give us better facilities to work in but would improve the operation of the shop.”

The non-profit organization accepts donations and is run largely by volunteers who offer their time and mechanical skills. It is expected to reopen by the end of the month.

Contact with questions.—L.K.