Posts Tagged ‘Ultra Touch’

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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Building a Wall Using Green Building Materials by a Beginner Builder — Me.

October 4th, 2010

Boys' room before wall

When we first moved into this house three years ago, it was with location in mind. We moved from a beautiful four bedroom home in a pretty neighbourhood just outside the city core, to a smaller, semi-detached home with three bedrooms in an excellent school district, walking distance to the subway. I knew that the boys sharing a room was going to be an issue one day, but it’s only been in the last year that they’ve been bugging me about to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Fortunately it’s a big room with two windows evenly spaced. Initially, we put up a curtain to divide the area, but we used a wire and hook system, which wasn’t all that sturdy so it came down on a regular basis. We looked at putting IKEA bookcases down the middle of the room, but for many reasons, it wasn’t going to work. So it seemed to me that there were two possible courses of action. Either, leave it alone and let the boys work it out, OR, use this as a perfect excuse to test out my new-found building skills and build a wall! Guess which one I chose?

I developed my materials list and sent it to Ian Burns at the BiY Learning Center to make sure I had everything down and the correct amounts of each (I did, hooray! Off to a great start!). I called in an electrician to have him move the one centered light in the middle of the room to two lights and two switches. It was then that he told me I had wet insulation above one of my son’s bed, which meant a leak in the roof above. Figures.

After having a temper tantrum and then dealing with the leak and the resultant damage caused by water pooling in insulation and the vapor barrier, we were back on track to building the wall (the leak is a whole ‘nother blog post).

Lumber: I located FSC-certified 2x4s at my local (Leaside) Home Depot. What I forgot to check was how straight the pieces were — which, it turns out, weren’t very. Last week when I was at the Green Building Festival, I remarked to Mark Kidd of Tembec on the fact that 4 of the 9 pieces of timber I’d bought (and cut before I could return them) were significantly warped. Tembec is the main supplier of FSC-certified lumber to Home Depot and he told me that that’s unusual because Home Depot orders tier 1 lumber, which is the highest grade lumber you can get. I put it down to beginner’s inexperience of forgetting to check the lumber before buying.

cutting away the baseboard

Initial Frame Construction

Framing is complete!

We measured and constructed the wall frame and I based the measurements on the drywall sheet size so there’d be as little waste as possible. We cut the baseboard out of the wall so we could mount the wall completely flush to vertical wall, nailed in the ceiling and floor beams, measured between each beam at 16″ intervals and cut studs to match. This is the part my husband, Kevin, and neighbour, Victor, helped me with. Victor kindly cut the pieces of wood with his skill saw (way faster than manually, although we did about half of them by hand), and Kevin hammered in the pieces — also faster than me.

First side of drywall

Oops! First insulation, THEN second side of drywall!

Drywall: I located CertainTeed drywall at Rona, Sheppard and Willowdale, which is synthetic, recycled drywall made in the west end of Toronto. We screwed the drywall to one side of the wood frame. The ceiling is lower than a regular ceiling, so we had to cut the second piece of drywall down to 3.5′, again measuring at different intervals because the ceiling height varies as you go towards the middle of the room.

Ultra Touch Cotton Insulation

Insulation. We used Ultra Touch insulation. Although there won’t be a door of any kind between the two sections, the insulation adds sound dampening and sturdiness to the wall. Ultra Touch Insulation is a great product; no gloves or masks required to use, it fit snuggly into the wall section and it’s made from scrap denim fabric.

Drywall assembly complete!

Next, we sealed up the wall with the second two sheets of drywall. It turns out you do have to measure again on the other side of the wall. Logic would dictate that the wall would be the same height on both sides of the frame but then, logic would be wrong! We goofed a little on the cutting the second upper piece of drywall so there is a bit of a bump up at the ceiling/wall joint that just screams “DIYer!” — oh well. You have to make a mistake here and there.

Mudding and taping -- Arghh!!

Mudding and taping -- arghh

Mudding and Taping and Sanding, Oh My. Oh my, oh my oh my. I still suck at this part of the job. While I’m improving, it certainly is a skill that takes practice. I can see my mistakes pretty easily, and as much as I tried to apply as little mud as possible, this was easier said than done. I’m sure if I did a few hundred more walls, I’d have the technique down pretty thoroughly. I don’t think I’ll ever get that far though.

Priming and Painting and Caulking. I used a low VOC caulk from Adbond, a Montreal company that makes a lot of eco-friendly sealants and finishes. I primed with Behr water-based primer and painted the ceiling after patching the holes made by the light being moved and the roof leak. I painted the peninsula wall (the divider wall), Cloud Blue from low VOC Pittsburgh Paints….then then I gave up. Yes, that’s right, I threw in the towel, I called “uncle!” I raised the white flag! I called my trusty painter Terry MacKenzie to finish the painting. By this time I’d been working on the darn thing (which was now known as “THE WALL” in any email correspondence I had with friends) for about 3 weeks in the spare time that I had and our house, my work, the family and my mood were all suffering for it. I’d already seen signs that I was cracking: I’d left little blue smudges of wall paint on the new white ceiling and I didn’t care. When you work that hard, you want the results to show it and a sloppy paint job is the first thing people will notice. Terry finished the job in 4 hours, it would have taken me 16.

The Wall -- Finished!

Voila! I feel pretty proud of myself now that I have this new set of skills to build a wall. Granted, it was a simple job, but still and all, it feels like an accomplishment. While I was building this wall, I had a thought: Building is a lot like cooking. You have a set list of ingredients, a certain amount of each is needed and they’re combined in a specific order. So I decided I’ll write a book all about construction skills to help women not be quite so intimidated by building projects and I’ll call it If You Can Cook, You Can Screw! What do you think?


Home Depot, 101 Wicksteed Ave., Toronto, ON. for FSC-certified lumber. Call your local Home Depot first to make sure they carry it.

Rona, 258 Sheppard Ave. East, Toronto, ON. for CertainTeed Drywall. CertainTeed Drywall: Synthetic drywall manufactured in the west end of Toronto. Even the face and back paper are 100% recycled.

Eco-Building Resource:  136 Wellington Street East, Aurora, ON. Ultratouch Cotton Insulation, AdBond caulk.

Terry MacKenzie (painter extraordinaire): 416-254-3090

BiY Learning Centre :  358 Dufferin Street, Toronto, ON. For home improvement classes.

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Gap Canada collecting old jeans for new insulation and 30% off new pair of jeans

March 5th, 2010

I received a notice from The Gap in my in box this morning that I thought I should pass along since there’s nothing on their website about it: Bring in an old pair of jeans (they don’t even have to be Gap jeans) to any Gap store and get 30% off a new pair of jeans.

The old jeans will be shredded and turned in to Ultra Touch cotton insulation for home building projects and benefit Habitat for Humanity.

It’s a win-win situation: old jeans find a second use and avoid landfill.

You get 30% off a new pair of new jeans.

For all the benefits of denim insulation, read the article I wrote about Ultra Touch Cotton insulation here.

Offer is valid between March 5-14th, 2010 in Canada, excluding Vancouver area stores.
For more information on the Blue to Green project, see the website information below:

Blue jeans go green

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