How green is your garage? Is it an organizational nightmare? Are the shelves filled with old paint cans and toxic pesticides? Is it where you store your trusty leaf-blower? Do you own expensive, seldom-used tools that could be borrowed and shared among neighbors?
In a Connecticut church social hall last week, a group of members of the Hortulus Garden Club of Greenwich demonstrated how to transform the typical toxic jumble of the American garage into a tidy model of green living. The goals: reduce consumption and waste; conserve energy, fuel and water; eliminate chemical exposure; and protect future generations of people, animals and plants.
The exhibit consisted of two closet-sized spaces, “before” and “after,” both filled with carefully selected and styled props. Hanging signs admonished: “Go Organic,” “Not Down the Drain (dispose of toxics properly), and “Go to the Car Wash” (surprisingly, car washes use less water than using your garden hose to wash the car).
The messy “before” garage space reminded many visitors of what needs to be done at home. Props included old paint cans, crumpled plastic bags, half-used cans of Raid and Roundup, a leaf blower, and asphalt tiles on the roof.
The neat-as-a-pin “after” garage was fitted with recycling bins, organic gardening and cleaning products, a pegboard with rakes, and an inspirational potting table with a bucket of homemade compost. Two of the most compelling features were exterior elements: a rain barrel with gutter downspout for collecting water and a green roof covered with succulents to provide natural insulation and make a natural habitat for birds and other wildlife.
According to exhibit co-chair Jeanine Behr Getz, author of the award-winning children’s book Think Green and managing director of KidsThinkBig.com, best conservation practices went into the planning, design, assembly, and disassembly of the exhibit. “The structures were disassembled with care and saved for future uses,” she said. “We believe that the Green Garage Before and After Makeover has inspired change in garages big and small. Many visitors were amazed that rain barrels could be so good looking. At least two people we know are exploring putting in green roofs. An area church plans to make a green garage for their parishioners to view and learn from, and is using our signage, recycled. And the exhibit was honored with the prestigious Garden Club of America Marion Thompson Fuller Brown Conservation Award.”
Planned and designed by conservation committee co-chairs Behr Getz and Lin Lavery and committee members Amanda Davis, Alane Harrington and Laura Cunningham, the exhibit was constructed by Dave Schrader of Bristol Fashion Cabinetry in Bridgeport, assisted by committee husbands Robert Getz, Tracy Lavery and Michael Tierney.
This exhibit deserves to become a national story and find a much wider audience. I’d like to see it reproduced at venues like the Go Green Expo and in community centers around the country. It will need government support or a corporate sponsor, perhaps one of the organizations and companies listed on the virtual handout, a four-page PDF with live links to resources for composting, energy-efficient lighting, insulation, non-toxic cleaners, organic fertilizers, native plants, and many more green products and services.