Eating Sustainably (and Tastily) at the Boulder Green House

One of the best things about staying at the SpingLeaf Green House in Boulder was mealtime. The emphasis was on eating locally and organically, and August is a super time to enjoy the summer harvest.

Our LG fridge with sleek French doors offered loads of space to store all these yummy foods in energy-efficient style. And BPA-free storage containers were provided by Tupperware, which has recently launched a line of FridgeSmart containers with adjustable vents that let you control airflow to reduce food spoilage and waste. After meals, the water-saving steam-technology LG dishwasher made kitchen cleanup a snap.

The Boulder Green House organizers, Cercone Brown PR certainly found creative ways to promote healthy, earth-wise eating.

Gourmet Pizza Party

Chef Kevin Kidd helps Mothering magazine's Candace Walsh create a fresh Pizza Margherita.

One evening, executive chef Kevin Kidd  from Salt, a sustainable Boulder restaurant, brought unique pizza ingredients from Boulder’s Farmer’s Market and got us improvising. We chopped heirloom tomatoes, West Slope Colorado peaches, Munson Farm corn and more. (If you’re wondering about the peaches, you should know that Kevin’s peach/prosciutto/goat cheese and cilantro creation was superb! And so was the traditional Pizza Margherita!)

Smoothie-Making Contest

A variety of organic fruits and veggies blend up into a lip-smacking smoothie.

Try this idea if your breakfasts lack creativity: Assemble smoothie ingredients and challenge each person to blend up a unique concoction.

Our group was challenged to use White Wave Foods’ products, including Horizon Organic Yogurt, Silk Soymilk and Almond Milk.  Then we added fruits such as berries, peaches, bananas and pineapple; Earthbound Farms’ organic dates; maple syrup; and carrots and kale (very nutritious).

Our discovery was that Earthbound Farms Organic Ginger Snaps were a sweet and gingery asset to the smoothies with kale.

Sadly, neither of my smoothies won the contest, but I had a satisfying delicious breakfast anyway.

Organic, Fair-Trade Coffee Tasting

Fair Trade never tasted so wonderful as Green Mountain Coffee's organic brews.

Fair trade tastes great, especially as a mug of Green Mountain organic coffee.

To accompany our smoothies, our group of journalists got to brew and taste two organic, fair trade coffees while having a virtual meeting with the folks at Green Mountain Coffee via Skype. (What an eco-friendly way to have long-distance meetings without flying people all over the world!)

Sandy and Winston spoke to us from their “coffee lab” in Vermont, filling us in on the importance of paying a fair price to coffee farmers in places such as Ethiopia and Sumatra, where the higher pay can transform communities.

Organic Happy Hour

Yellow + Blue's organic wines come in eco-friendly Tetra Pak.

I was happily introduced to Yellow + Blue organic wine in environmentally-friendly packaging: Tetra Pak. I have to admit, I took one look at the boxes and thought: What’s wrong with glass bottles? They’re recyclable. However, what I hadn’t figured on was the light weight of the Tetra Paks vs. heavy glass bottles. Shipping wine in glass burns far more fossil fuel than in this packaging (which is also recyclable, by the way). And Yellow + Blue carbon offsets their shipping.

I loved the flavors of the organic Malbec and Rosé, but was personally less excited about Y+B’s white wines, though some of the others enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc.

Farm-to-Table Brunch

There’s nothing like eating a wonderful meal on an organic farm, especially one as beautiful as Pastures of Plenty, a 35-acre organic vegetable, herb and cut-flower farm a few miles north of Boulder. Pastures of Plenty is also a venue for parties and weddings, and farmer/chef Lyle Davis runs Big Bang catering there.

Our group ate brunch outdoors at Pastures of Plenty organic farm.

We were treated to wonderful recipes from organic farmer Myra Goodman’s The Earthbound Cook: Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet.

We savored asalad with jicama, pineapple and avocado and a fennel apple salad. That was followed by Lyle’s special fried egg with green chili at the outdoor table set for royalty. (And we saw the bin of just-picked green chiles!)

Here’s to eating fresh!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Next: Driving Green

Life in the Green House: Bed, Bath and Beyond

The emphasis during my stay at the SpringLeaf eco-development’s Green House in Boulder, Colo., was “smart living.” Although the house came with all the eco-bells and green whistles and was stocked with natural foods and products, I learned a lot about how you can make your own house greener without embarking on a pricey remodel or overhaul.

Here are some cool ideas for green living, room-by-room.

Bedroom

I loved the organic bedroom I stayed in. The natural wool carpet was soft under bare feet—and there was no toxic glue smell (thanks to the low-VOC glue) that normally gives me a headache.

The wool pillow from Suite Sleep was soft and supportive.

I slept wonderfully on a natural latex and wool mattress from Urban Mattress, a Colorado company. Completing the bed were healthy linens from a Boulder company called Suite Sleep. It included an organic-cotton mattress pad, sheets (colored with low-impact dyes), a comfy wool-stuffed pillow with organic-cotton cover, and a wool-fill comforter that was light and perfect for Colorado’s cool nights.

The wool in the bed was Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, meaning it was taken from humanely treated sheep and cleaned with mild, biodegradable soap (as opposed to harsh, caustic chemical detergents).

Bathroom

Plush organic-cotton towels were furnished by Suite Sleep, and Burt’s Bees, provided all the soaps, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, lip balm and facial cream. Burt’s Bees is a natural skin-care company that incorporates natural beeswax or honey into all its products.

All-natural products from Burt's Bees

The dual-flush Kohler toilet can save an average household approximately 2,000 gallons of water each year. Low-flow showerheads and faucets also reduce water waste.

To keep that water clean, without chlorine taste, 3M Clean Water Solutions installed under-the-counter Full Flow water filter. Boulder’s water is fairly clean to begin with, but it’s nice brushing your teeth with water that tastes fresh and clear.

I especially loved the sink backsplash (also repeated in the shower), made of recycled-windshield glass. The glass was polished, and it’s faintly green tint and pebbly look added a decorative and eco-friendly touch.

Hiking in Boulder and Movie Night

We had a busy day learning about sustainability, but it was fun. For instance, we got out and explored Boulder’s Wonderland Lake trails in Adrenaline ASR7 athletic shoes from Brooks. These lightweight runners have some great green features, including:

  • biodegradable midsole
  • laces made from 100 percent recycled materials
  • water-based adhesives
  • nontoxic dyes and colorants
  • packaging is 100 percent post-consumer recycled

For Movie Night, we watched a 3-D documentary on LG's LED television.

Then, after dinner we had Movie Night. First we screened Dive!, a thought-provoking yet humorous documentary about the problem of wasted food that winds up in the landfill. It follows filmmaker Jeremy Seifert and friends as they dumpster dive in the back alleys and gated garbage receptacles of Los Angeles’ supermarkets.

Next we donned 3-D glasses and put the LG Energy Star LED “Infinia” television with 3-D technology to the test with IMAX Under the Sea 3-D. The picture was clear and realistic, especially when those fish swim straight at you. And the screen was huge, yet slim. The wattage it uses is less than half that of a picture-tube TV.

Cleaning Day

Yes, we journalists had to do a few household chores, just to keep it real. At the end of the trip, we brought our sheets and towels to the laundry room, equipped with an LG Energy Star front-load Steamwasher with allergen-removal capability (for those people sensitive to dust mites and dander). Using a front-loader machine uses 50 percent less water and 86 percent less energy than a top-loader.

We also experimented with the LG “Kompressor” vacuum, which is certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation and holds three times the dirt of conventional vacs. And yes, it really sucks.

Coming next: All About the Green Home Kitchen

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Boulder House Is a Model for Green Living

A couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to join a group of journalists and stay in a “Green House” right here in Boulder. For three days, we got to live a fully environmentally friendly lifestyle—from waking up between organic sheets to driving an electric Ford Focus to using energy- and water-saving appliances.

Located in Boulder, Colo., this net-zero home is powered by solar electricity and cooled/heated by geothermal pumps. Ford hybrid vehicles are parked in front.

The Green House:

The 3,888-square-foot demo home (four bedrooms, four baths) is in the SpringLeaf eco-development in north Boulder, right on Broadway (for incredibly easy access to major bus lines) and in a walkable neighborhood. (It’s just across the street from Lucky’s natural foods grocery store; an organic pizza shop; some other great restaurants; and locally owned coffee shop, video store and a liquor market.)

When finished, there will be a mixture of single-family houses and townhomes in the SpringLeaf eco-community.

Architect George Watt toured us around his super-green creation, which has been certified as LEED Platinum (the highest rating) by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“As earth stewards, we try to minimize our impact as builders on the land,” said Watt while proudly showing us around the beautiful and fairly luxurious home, which proves once and for all that living lightly on the land isn’t restricted to yurts.

Green Building Features:

The Green House's master bathroom contains recycled-content counters, water-saving faucets, organic-cotton towels and Burt's Bees bath gel and lotion.

  • The house makes its own electricity from photo-voltaic solar panels, which lie flat on the roof, so you don’t notice them. Usually the home makes more electricity than it uses, which is why it’s called “net-zero energy.”
  • A geothermal heating/cooling system uses 300-foot-deep wells to heat the house’s water and to cool the house in the summer and heat it in the winter. This means there are no energy bills to pay—summer or winter.
  • Insulation is a high R-value.
  • There’s storm-water collection on the home’s roof and a sand filter in the neighborhood’s “pocket” park that cleans oil/impurities from runoff.
  • The developers designed the neighborhood around existing mature trees to preserve bird habitat.
  • Landscaping uses native and low-water plants and minimal lawn grass. It also incorporates locally quarried stone and beetle-kill wood fencing.
  • The permeable driveway allows seepage of water into soil and minimizes runoff.
  • The developers recycled the house formerly located on the site that’s now SpringLeaf. The old house is now a halfway house in the nearby town of Erie.
  • Low-flow water fixtures curb the house’s water use.
  • The stucco exterior requires no maintenance for 50 years
  • Windows capture the views of the nearby mountains, plus they allow in daylight so that residents don’t need to use as much electrical light.
  • The home is outfitted with Energy Star appliances and energy-saving compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs.
  • Cabinets are made of renewable bamboo (solid bamboo, not just a veneer).
  • Flooring is wood from Forest Stewardship Council-certified sustainably-harvested forests.
  • Finishes (paints, mastics, glues, putties) are all low-VOC, meaning they don’t outgas toxins into the air.
  • Carpeting is made from recycled soda bottles or from natural wool and has a natural jute backing
  • Doors are solid wood with no formaldehyde treatments.
  • Décor includes art from local recycled artist Bruce Campbell, who gets recycled paint for free from Western Disposal and uses it to paint on junk, including old car hoods.

Coming next: Life in the Green House: Tips for Eco-Conscious Living

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

St. Julien Hotel: A Green Sanctuary in the Heart of Boulder

In downtown Boulder, the St. Julien Hotel has many eco-friendly features. (photos courtesy St. Julien)

It’s hip, it’s luxurious, and it’s green. The St. Julien Hotel & Spa, one of Boulder, Colorado’s downtown hubs has awesome ambiance, live music in the lobby or outdoors almost every night, and a fantastic bar and restaurant (Jill’s).

Since the hotel was built five years ago on a long-vacant lot at the corner of Ninth Street and Canyon, I’ve been going there for happy hour and music, but recently my husband and I visited overnight. (Staying in a hotel in your own town feels like a decadent treat!)

Mountain Ambiance, Indoors and Out

Our luxurious King-size Flatiron-view room was decorated in sleek urban lines with décor that picks up on the mountains’ color palate: browns, golds, slate, rusty red, and tan.

The St. Julien's rooms are sleek but earthy.

In case you didn’t know, the Flatirons (diagonally oriented stone outcroppings) are to Boulder what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the Pyramids to Cairo, and the Statue of Liberty to New York City.

Our room’s french doors opened up to a completely unobstructed view of those glorious Flatirons. If you happen to check in after dark, you’ll still feel the Flatirons’ presence, thanks to the large photograph of them in the room. The photo is almost exactly to scale as what you’ll see the next morning when your throw open the curtains in the morning. (After a night snuggled between layers of down on the extremely comfy four-poster bed.)

Stone-surfaces in the bathroom recall the Flatirons outdoors.

The stone walls and floor in the bathrooms also echo the Boulder landscape. Organic coffee and fair-trade tea were just luxurious finishing touches.

St. Julien’s Green Stuff (some of it anyway):

  • The elegant, onsite Jill’s Restaurant sources local organic food and beverages when appropriate.
  • Housekeeping uses green cleaning products
  • No-VOC paint
  • Hotel gardens and lawns are pesticide free
  • The St. Julien provides cruiser bicycles to guests free of charge. (Totally cool! There are so many fun places to cycle near the hotel, including the Boulder Creek Path.)
  • Employees get an Eco-Pass for free public transportation.
  • The spa utilizes cruelty-free products not tested on animals.
  • The hotel uses integrated pest management instead of poisons on weeds, insects, birds, pigeons or rodents.
  • Business cards, marketing materials, etc. are printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks
  • The hotel donates linens, towels and its opened shampoo and conditioner bottles to the local homeless shelter.
  • The hotel contributes a percentage of sales to the Prairie Dog Coalition. (Prairie dogs are a huge bone of contention in this neck of the woods. Some people want them eradicated from the face of the earth.)
  • Rooms are lit with energy-efficient CFL bulbs.
  • Motion sensors control lighting in low-activity areas.
  • The laundry utilizes cold-water wash cycles to save natural gas and extra spin cycles to reduce drying times.
  • The hotel recycles paper, newspaper, cardboard, commingled plastic, glass, metal containers. It also composts food products and waste.
  • Single-steam recycling bins are available in every guest room.
  • Compostable food and beverage products (to-go containers, straws, etc.)
  • Reusable hand towels in public restrooms to cut paper usage.
  • Paper keycards to reduce the amount of PVC plastic reaching landfill.
  • Low-flow toilets are installed in both the public areas and guest rooms.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Cozy sofas in the lobby. A great place to sip wine while listening to live music.