Archive for the ‘Green building stores’ category

A Visit to Ottawa’s The Healthiest Home Building Store

August 5th, 2014


Mythic Paint at The Healthiest Home

Mythic Paint at The Healthiest Home

Nadurra Flooring at The Healthiest Home, Ottawa

Nadurra Flooring, through The Healthiest Home

If you’re a consumer living in Ottawa, and you’re looking for healthier building materials than the norm, The Healthiest Home is the place to start. When I was in Ottawa a month ago, Josh Gallant, the general manager of the store, gave me a tour and explained how  The Healthiest Home works. It turns out that their retail location is the tip of the green iceberg. In addition to the store that supplies a very wide selection of green building materials, it also has:

  • the retail store including architectural design services;
  • HH Commercial, a commercial group that supplies and installs interior finishings for condo developments and works on industrial, institutional and commercial projects;
  • HH Greenbuild that specializes in renovations and green builds of residential projects; and,
  • MD Ottawa, one of the oldest and largest millwork shops in Ottawa, that builds healthy cabinets and countertops.

Each business ensures that each project it undertakes includes waste minimization through the best use of design and materials. It uses materials that are lower impact on the earth and that also contribute to a healthier indoor air quality.


Enviroshake recycled rubber roofing tiles

Enviroshake Composite Roofing System: recycled rubber roofing tiles

Dura Design Cork flooring

Duro Design Cork flooring

The store also installs all of the products it sells from flooring to paint and guarantees its workmanship and materials. I have written about many of the finishes they carry in flooring (Nadurra bamboo and hardwood, Marmoleum linoleum), paint (Mythic Paint), counter tops (Paperstone and Icestone), and even structural (Durisol). There were, however, a few brands I wasn’t familiar with, the most interesting one was a “new-to-me” product called K-tect Sustainable Building Systems.

K-tect Sustainable Building Systems is an insulated light-weight structural building material similar to Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs). The structural panel consists of expanded polystyrene (EPS) which provides insulation, sound dampening and structure, and light-weight steel framing providing strength. Like ICFs it combines structure and insulation into one package so there is no thermal bridging and fewer materials are needed. Unlike ICFs, it doesn’t use concrete and the product is 100% recyclable at end of life. It has an R value of 4 per inch which never degrades over time. It is easy to install and can be customized for your building. Further, and perhaps most surprisingly considering the use of EPS, there is no off-gassing from the product so it has been GreenGuard certified.

Josh told me that it has become a favourite product of their build/design group and that they have now used it on many of their projects. Their clients are particularly happy with their exceptionally low heating and cooling bills.

Because The Healthiest Home believes that to be a good business is also to be a part of the community it offers free yoga classes on Saturday mornings in its warehouse.

Healthiest Home hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm, Saturday 10am-5pm.


1523 Laperriere Ave. Ottawa, ON K1Z 7S9
(417 Exit – Carling Ave.)

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A Visit to Living Rooms — A Healthy Home Store in Kingston, Ontario

February 21st, 2013


On yet another monotonous drive down the 401 (thank goodness for audiobooks!) from Montreal to Toronto, I broke up the trip with a stop in Kingston. Living Rooms, owned by two brothers, John and Michael Sinclair, is a mixture of healthy lifestyle products and green building materials.

The brothers  had started their professional lives as painters. But the more they interacted both with the paint and with clients who were becoming concerned about what they were putting on their wall and breathing in the air, the more research the brothers did, the more they sought out alternatives to traditional paints. They started searching for paints that were less toxic to human health with little to no off-gassing of toxic chemicals. Fast forward to the present and low and zero VOC paints are so yesterday. You won’t find any petroleum-based paints in their store, rather, they’ve sourced some really interesting alternatives.

When they began developing their store concept, they worked not on the philosophy of supplying green building products, but rather, they source products while living by standards developed by Bau-Biologie and Permaculture. Bau-Biologie was developed in Germany and is all about creating a healthy indoor environment. The movement focuses on using building materials and home products that don’t off-gas toxic chemicals. Permaculture (which I have written about before), recognizes that all biological systems are closed so that one living thing’s waste product is another’s food source. To that end, on their website they note that their store is not so much about green building materials as it is about sourcing products that are low impact, responsibly-made and better for your health as well as that of the planet’s. In other words, they stay away from a lot of what might be considered electronic green gadgets. The kind of items they stock focus on healthy sleeping, healthy eating and fresh interior air.

Building products: In addition to paints, there are several other better building products to choose from. To name a few that I’ve already written about, there is American Clay, Log’s End flooring (timber salvaged from the bottom of the Ottawa River), IceStone, PaperStone, (for counter tops) Nature’s Carpet (100% wool carpet), Safecoat paints and sealers, Ultratouch cotton insulation….

BUT, they also introduced me to a few new and intriguing products such as insulation made from leftover sheep’s wool, paint made from linseed oil, an intriguing exterior stucco-like product that’s made in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and a new concept: modular built strawbale homes. I’ll discuss each of these products in future posts.

Because they are located in a building which also has artisans and trades, they can also set you up with cabinetmakers and contractors who will take care of any building project work you want done in the Kingston area. Their objective is to source better building and living products as locally as possible and to use local trades and craftsmen to complete their customers’ projects.

Lifestyle products: Another aspect of this store that is the selection of lifestyle products they offer. When John took me around the store he was most enthusiastic about Xtrema, the ceramic cookware and baking line they’ve brought in. He explained that the problem with ceramic cookware in the past has been that it can’t be used over direct heat or it will crack. The manufacturers of this line have solved that problem and Xtrema cookware can be used directly over gas or electric elements (However, it can’t be used with induction cooktops, which use a magnetic pull between cookware and energy source). The cookware is also reasonably priced compared with high-end stainless steel pots and pans. A 24 piece set sells for $530.

Also within the kitchen category, there were tea and coffee makers, and my personal favourite was Presso, a manual espresso maker — perfect for cottage living (although you still have to heat the water).

There are plenty of products that focus on sleep as well. A buckwheat pillow by Eco et Eco, is as local a product as you can get. Except for growing the cotton, all parts of the pillow are made in Quebec. Apparently, buckwheat is a great material for people who sweat a lot around the head and neck area at night as the buckwheat wicks away moisture and heat and allows the sleeper a more even body temperature.

Other bath and sleep products include organic cotton towels, mattresses and mattress pads, and duvets.

In the household cleaning category, Living Rooms carries natural coco scrub pads, natural luffa sponges and soap nuts. Soap nuts look a bit like acorns and are the fruit (called a drupe) of the Sapindus genus of bushes and trees, which grow in tropical climates. The drupe produces a natural soap substance that can be used as a laundry soap. Soapnuts are very versatile and can also be used to make household cleaners, shampoo and even toothpaste! Usually soapnuts can be reused four or five times before they lose there effectiveness. At end of life, they can be composted.

To explore the products they offer on line, visit their website.

If you’re in Kingston or surrounding area,  Living Rooms is located at:

12 Cataraqui Street
Kingston, ON
K7K 1Z7


Regular Store Hours
Monday 10am – 5pm
Tuesday 10am – 5pm
Wednesday 10am – 5pm
Thursday 10am – 5pm
Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday Closed
Or by appointment.
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Mythic Paint — Zero VOC, 1200+ Colours, Great Price!

August 15th, 2011


Mythic Eggshell InteriorA few weeks ago our family was on holiday near Huntsville, Ontario. While there, I dropped in to visit Jonathan and Celine MacKay, owners of Sustain Eco Store and Pure Green Magazine. When I asked about any new products they were carrying, Celine told me that they’ve brought in Mythic Paint.

Mythic was developed at the University of Southern Mississippi. It is non-toxic and zero VOC (volatile organic compounds), even when tinted. One of the dirty little secrets of some paint companies is that their paints are  zero-VOC only until they are tinted.

Volatile organic compounds are bad for our health — in addition to the immediate paint smell you get when you breathe in, paints can off-gas for another 6 years, putting all kinds of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals into our indoor air ready for us to breathe. VOCs are also bad for the environment, and the paint industry estimates that VOCs from paint manufacturing may be contributing up to 10% of chemicals responsible for ozone depletion and climate change.

Mythic paints are different than traditionally manufactured paints because they avoid using the toxic solvents usually needed to dissolve paint and colour tints (hence the absence of VOCs). However, performance and coverage are considered as good if not better than traditionally made paint. It has performed very well in scrub tests too.

But maybe what I like best about this paint is the price. Mythic Classic sells for $42.99-$54.99 per gallon. That is an incredible bargain, considering I just spent $85+ on one gallon of a competitor’s zero VOC paint.

Mythic sells three different lines through Sustain:

Mythic Classic: Homeowner, do it yourself paint for anyone to apply. Coverage is approximately 400 sq. feet. Available in three different sheens: flat, eggshell and semi-gloss. Sustain Eco Store Prices: Flat $44.99, Eggshell $46.99, and Semi-gloss $54.99. All prices are per gallon.

Mythic Pro: excellent coverage, made for professional painters. Available in flat, eggshell and semi-gloss. Price $32.99 – $42.99. All prices are per gallon.

Mythic Black Label: an all-in-one paint and primer. Made for drywall and first-time applications on new material. Available finishes are matte, satin and semi-gloss. Price: $58.99-$60.99 per gallon.

Note: all prices quoted are current prices (2011) at Sustain Eco Store. Prices vary by vendor.

Mythic is available in more than 1200 colours and the palettes are divided into different categories and available on their website (although I’d recommend seeing the real thing because digital colour and real colour will vary by computer). Finally, Mythic has a “room visualizer” where you can “paint” a ceiling, trim and wall from the colours available in their palette. It’s kind of fun. You get to put all kinds of colours together you wouldn’t do in real life; for instance, I paired “plenty of sunshine” (orange) as a ceiling colour with a trim of “island magic” (turquoise) and “Sunburst Nose” (deep pink). Let’s just say if you walked into a room like that you’d wonder if I was colour blind!

(Update April 6, 2016 — Mythic website and Mythic room visualizer don’t seem to be available. I have contacted the company for updated information but so far have had no response. Visit Southern Diversified products for more information.)

For more information on Mythic, contact Celine and Jonathan McKay at Sustain at or  705-787-0362.

Sustain Eco Store

8 Crescent Road

Huntsville, ON

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A New Green Building Store in Toronto: “g” GreenDesign Center

June 1st, 2011




“g” GreenDesign Center is a new green building store located in the Castlefield Design District in Toronto. If you’re just learning about how to “green” your renovation or build a new greener home, this is a great place to start your search. “g” GreenDesign offers all kinds of small, little one-offs from your picnic supplies (places, cups and cutlery) to ReBinders — recycled cardboard binders — great school supplies for September. But the small items serve a purpose. You come in to buy biodegradable cups and cutlery for your next picnic, but you can also learn so much about greening your next home improvement project while you’re there.

“g” GreenDesign is a franchise owned by David Lee and Joe Caricari, with store manager, Michele Vig. The concept of “g” GreenDesign was developed by Nicole Goldman, with the first location based in Cape Cod, MA. As an interior designer who was building her own house, she wanted to build green but was having difficulty sourcing all the products and trades. Nicole had the idea of developing a green building store that would be a one-stop shop so people wouldn’t have to run all over the place trying to do exactly what she did.  By franchinsing out, she offers homeowners the opportunity to take advantage of all the research and foot work she’s already done. Toronto is the third location of this store. Because suppliers are already in place, sourcing products becomes that much easier. All trades hired, naturally, are local and the store carries local products as well such as milk paint from The Homestead House.

While green interior products abound in the store and, admittedly, are the most fun to put together, it’s also great that they offer all the options for building a tight building envelope, and all the HVAC systems you could dream of — not to mention the design services that will help you put it all together.

“g” GreenDesign carries many of the finishes I’ve written about before including American Clay, PaperStone, IceStone, Eco by Cosentino, Marmoleum, etc., but it also carries many products I have yet to write about including fabrics, window coverings, bamboo products and lighting. I will be visiting shortly to learn more about these products.

The next time you’re in the Castlefield Design District, drop by and take a look around. Michele will be happy to help you out.

“g” GreenDesign Center is located at 113 Miranda Ave, Toronto, ON, M6B 3W8.

Phone: 416-782-9105


Sustain Eco Store, Sustainable Building Store in Huntsville, Ontario

March 1st, 2011

Jonathan McKay from Sustain Eco Living Store in Huntsville

When I was at the Interior Design Show this past January, skimming through the brochure index, many of the green products and services that were there were all represented at one exhibit — that of Sustain, an eco building and lifestyle store based in Huntsville, Ontario. The owners of the store, Jonathan and Celine McKay, are a young couple who have a mission to educate builders and cottagers alike about the importance of building responsibly and sustainably.

I spoke with Celine last week about what they hope to achieve with their business. Celine was very candid with me about their store; she said that their philosophy is to encourage people to introduce small changes into their lives that are better environmentally speaking than the traditional product, so a product they carry might not meet a true “greenie’s” expectations.

Celine and I have a lot of the same goals and philosophies about green building: having a lot of people making small incremental changes will have a better result than a few people making major changes. Not that these latter folk aren’t praise-worthy, they are, it’s just that it’s hard for many people to make dramatic environmental alternations to their lives. Then, of course there’s the fact that many people don’t have an interest in changing their lifestyles or there is the common misconception that “going green” is more costly, or the products don’t work, or aren’t as green as they’re marketed, or even that the styles are “too modern” or “too antique.” While all of these concerns are valid, Celine and Jonathan like to point out that the paths to “a greener lifestyle” are as varied as the number of paint colours on the market. Celine told me that some people come in wanting “toxic free” products, while others want ethically produced products, and others want the lowest environmental impact products available.

Celine and Jonathan’s goal is just to get people to consider using a low VOC paint instead of a regular paint, or perhaps use their bamboo flooring instead of a big box store’s. (Bamboo in itself is a big can of worms that we won’t go into right now, but let’s just say that when it comes to flooring, you get what you pay for: the cheaper it is per square foot, the poorer the quality).

So, when Celine and Jon look at representing a “green” product, they look at every detail of the product from its manufacturing right through to its use. Their important criteria for representing a product are:

  • Is it produced using fair labour practices?
  • Is it produced while safely managing the environment? For example, does the manufacturer have recycling systems in place, conserve, reuse or minimize water? Conserve energy or use renewable energy?
  • Is it produced locally? If not, how is it shipped?
  • Is it produced with the lowest impact ingredients available?
  • If the product is to be visual (like flooring or tile) is it design worthy or attractive? Is it durable? Does it off-gas?
  • Is the retail price point realistic?

Basically, if the product can pass these tests, Celine and Jonathan will carry it in their store. If you look at their website you’ll see a lot of products that I’ve covered before such as PaperStone, American Clay, Nadura flooring, AFM Safecoat and UltraTouch cotton insulation. But in addition to these products they also carry furniture, air purifiers, natural latex mattresses, infrared heaters, and area rugs all of which have a lower environmental impact than their “regular” competition.

You’d think that running a store would be enough for the pair, but in addition to that they also produce a stunning online magazine called Pure Green Magazine. Celine told me that the magazine’s target market are regular home decor magazine readers, such as those who read Canadian House and Home and Style at Home. The goal of Pure Green is to demonstrate that being green doesn’t have to be “out there” on the design front. While a lot of people think that green design is modern and expensive, Celine’s out to demonstrate through concrete examples that green design is just like any other design only with a lighter environmental footprint that’s also healthier for its occupants.

The next time you’re in Huntsville, drop around to their store and have a look. In the meantime you can subscribe to their online magazine here. The next issue is due out in May, 2011.

Thanks again Celine for your time!

Sustain is located at:
8 Crescent Road, Unit B2
Huntsville, ON
P1H 0B3

t.    705-787-0326
f.    705-787-7326

Store Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10 – 5
Saturday: 10 – 4
Sunday: closed

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