by Eva Otto and Eric Thomas
“We are passionate about the environment, conservation, design, and sustainable building,” says Tyler Reith as he leads us through the recently expanded showroom of Greenhome Solutions, Seattle’s locally owned green building supply store, located just south of the Ballard Bridge.
Judging by the neat racks of sustainable flooring samples, the gleaming displays of eco countertop materials, and the smiling faces of the staff that greet us, “passionate” might be an understatement.
Tyler and his siblings, Cameron and Erin, have turned their love of all things green into a thriving business that serves Seattle and beyond. The dedication and energy they’ve poured into their business comes through in many ways: the care they take in choosing their products, the support they’ve given to their community, and the praise of customers, who call the staff “incredibly friendly,” “super helpful,” and “easy to work with.”
From Dot Com to Down the Street
In an era when online competition has shuttered many local businesses, it’s refreshing to hear that Greenhome Solutions took the opposite path—starting online and then opening a showroom.
The seed of the Greenhome Solutions idea came to Tyler while he was working as a general contractor. His clients were asking for environmentally friendly products and finishes, but there was no good local source at the time.
“Many of the products my clients were looking for I had never heard of, but they were really cool products,” says Tyler. So cool, that Tyler, his brother Cameron, and sister Erin were inspired to make them available to the general public by setting up an online store.
Soon, their web-based business became popular enough to convince them that the Seattle community was ready for a bricks-and-mortar storefront as well. As the three siblings started planning, they quickly realized that Greenhome Solutions could be more than a store, serving as a resource center for their hometown Seattle community.
“A lot of what we do is education,” says Cameron Reith who spent years teaching homebuyers about green homes as a certified real estate EcoBroker. He now spends his time providing information about products and personalized service to customers.
“We don’t need to do a hard sell because the products sell themselves,” says Cameron.
A Commitment to Locally Sourced Green Products
While most building supply stores choose their products based on price, Greenhome Solutions also considers the number of miles a product must travel before being installed in a customer’s kitchen or living room. Their goal is to minimize a product’s “embodied energy,” the sum of all the energy required to manufacture and ship it. Products that are sourced closer to home require much less fuel for shipping and can be a greener choice.
“We’re extremely choosy about what makes it into our showroom,” says Cameron. “We try very hard to source only the greenest products that live up to their promises. We also go out of our way to find locally sourced building materials and products whenever we can. It provides a Seattle connection that many of our customers appreciate. At the same time, we like doing what we can to support the local economy, which has given us so much.”
Some of the company’s most popular items are produced right here in the Puget Sound region. A customer favorite is a product from Seattle-based NovuStone. The company’s countertop material is hand-crafted in the historic Ranier Brewery building from natural aggregates and recycled bottle glass, windows, and mirrors, as well as castoffs from local glassware maker Glassybaby. Customers can choose from dozens of styles, from the sophisticated look of classic stone to fun and colorful mosaic patterns.
Another way Greenhome Solutions reduces the embodied energy of its products is to offer drop shipping. By bypassing their own warehouse and sending materials directly from the manufacturer to the jobsite, prices can be kept down and a product’s carbon footprint kept to a minimum. “We can drop ship most of our products anywhere in the Continental United States at super low flat rates, or even for free,” says Tyler. “That means that we can serve a customer in Florida or Washington for the same low price and reduce the number of gas-guzzling miles the product has to travel.”
With over 20 years in the construction and green real estate industries, the Reith brothers prides themselves on not only thoroughly knowing the products they sell but having first-hand experience with installation.
“We have personally tested or installed everything that we sell,” says Tyler. “If a product doesn’t meet our strict standards, then we won’t sell it.” Homeowners and contractors alike routinely turn to the Reiths and their staff for information and support before, during, and well after the time of purchase.
“For customers who want to upgrade their home but don’t have the time or the ability to do it themselves, we offer certified installation services for everything that we sell,” Tyler adds.
Giving Back to the Community
The Reith family continues to support the community in many ways. For the fourth year, they will be sponsoring the Northwest Green Home Tour, taking place from 11am to 5pm on April 26. Presented by the nonprofits NW EcoBuilding Guild and Built Green, this free event invites the public to tour sustainably built and remodeled homes in the Seattle area. (See next month’s issue of Natural Awakenings for the official tour guide.)
Greenhome Solutions will be hosting an open house on April 26, and tour goers are encouraged to stop by to claim exclusive discounts on select products. (Customers have up to 30 days to redeem.) Visitors can also look forward to giveaways and get answers to any questions they might have about green building products they might have seen on the tour.
“Homeowners are definitely becoming more aware of the impact their material choices can make on the environment, and there’s a definite shift toward wanting to do better,” says Tyler. “That’s why it’s so important to us to help make educational events like the Green Home Tour happen, so that people have the opportunity to see why choosing sustainable materials makes so much sense from so many different perspectives . . . durability, value, protecting the planet, and protecting your own family’s health.”
For more information, visit GHSproducts.com or NWGreenhomeTour.org.
An ecologically sound wonder material, bamboo grows to maturity in under six years, making it a great choice for flooring, work surfaces, and cabinetry. Greenhome Solutions carries a full range of long-lasting bamboo products from Teragren, a world-renowned company based on Bainbridge Island. Greenhome Solutions also offers Rubio Monocoat, an extremely durable, zero-VOC oil finish that keeps bamboo and hardwoods alike looking and feeling natural.
A Sea of Cork
Cork is another rapidly renewable flooring material, which is rapidly gaining popularity. Greenhome Solutions has more than 100 varieties of cork flooring to choose from, many of which can be refinished, making them extremely durable and capable of lasting a lifetime.
Photos by Derek Price