Green People: Aaron Winer

Green People: Aaron Winer

Jonathan B.
Jul 23, 2008

Aaron Winer is a green building and sustainability consultant in Portland, Oregon. Aaron has spent the last seven years working at ecohaus, the green building materials retailer based in the Pacific Northwest. He is refocusing his career on communicating sustainability to a new audience.

Q: Can you share a story to illustrate your passion for the broader idea of sustainability?

Sure! A few years ago, the city commissioner who served my district came in to look at flooring. After spending some time talking about options, and checking out samples to ensure design compatibility, he chose...

...a FSC Certified, Pacific NW Native Tan Oak (also called Chestnut). In Oregon, that's a local, sustainably harvested, and renewable resource.

The taxes that I paid on my payroll went towards the commissioner's salary.
By purchasing this flooring from a local store, they were supporting the fifteen local employees who worked for EBS. We, in turn, bought the flooring from a family owned mill in Phoenix, Oregon and supported them. They bought the wood to make the flooring from a number of landowners in our region – supporting them and all whom they do business with. Everyone kept their money close to their community, so clearly the economy was sustained by this purchase.

By using natural wood, the family of the commissioner was not exposed to harmful outgassing that can occur with many of the floor coverings that are popular today, like synthetic carpet and laminate. The wood floor requires minimal upkeep and maintenance... so sustainable choices can benefit the environment, the economy and people.

The best part came a few months later, when I was enjoying an Oregon microbrew at a nearby pub. I glanced around and noticed another customer who was helping to sustain that local business – the commissioner and his wife!

Q: What is next for you?

Well, I am trying to balance two things. I'm planning to enjoy the summer here in Oregon, while also persuing some options for a redefined career. A few things have sparked my interest – I am working with a close friend to define a company that would provide green building and sustainability consulting to homeowners, green building retailers and contractors. We see a real need in the market to provide easily accessible assistance and advise in this industry. Each "customer" has a different need and brings different questions to the table, which keeps things from turning static and less enjoyable for us!

Another project that I would like to be a part of is to introduce a type of green/sustainable certification for both existing homes and smaller remodel projects. LEED certification is great for new construction, but to my knowledge the USGBC does not plan to introduce a program for older homes that have green building and energy efficient improvements done on a smaller scale. Other regional certifications are more energy-focused. I would envision a certification that I could get on my own 1925 bungalow to reflect the value of the environmentally friendly improvements that I have made to the house. In addition to reinforcing that a homeowner has made a wise and cost conscience decision, this type of certification would provide concrete documentation when selling the home. All in all, I know where the path is going- and I am enjoying a little bit of wandering before I start the hike!

Q: Why did you decide to make a change in your career?

Working at ecohaus (previously Environmental Building Supplies in Portland) was an amazing opportunity for me. I really enjoyed learning about green building from such knowledgeable people – both in the store and in the greater community here in Portland. The best part was that we were not thinking about green building, nor planning for sustainable growth – we were on the ground DOING IT! What I saw and did enabled me to take some pretty strong stands on sustainable construction.

For instance, I feel that bamboo flooring is one of the worst choices for a green conscious consumer. It is made far away, using lots of synthetic glues, finished with plastic and aluminum oxides, cannot really be easily repaired, shows scratches easily – and at the end of its life will go to the dump! A regionally produced, sustainably harvested wood floor with a natural finish will perform much better, and can eventually be composted and returned to the earth.

I want to share these kinds of practical experiences and information with others and help apply them to their homes, their businesses and their lifestyle in general.

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