As executive director of CELF, Ginsberg knows well the environmental benefits of using sustainable materials, installing energy-efficient windows, and picking a contractor able to recycle the construction debris. The 800-square-foot addition, completed last year, also features bamboo flooring and blinds, an Ice Stone-branded, recycled glass and concrete sink top, a Kohler dual-flush toilet, and Forest Stewardship Council-certified maple cabinets.
Ginsberg lives as green as possible. When not advocating for the integration of green thinking in school curricula, she air dries the laundry and tends a vegetable garden, which has several raised beds of potatoes, beans, and lettuce. “Having a vegetable garden is as local as you can eat,” Ginsberg says.
But she was not always this eco-minded. After moving into the house in the early 1990s, Ginsberg and her husband Peter did several remodeling projects and renovations—none of which were green. “At the time we really didn’t know much about green building,” Ginsberg admits. “I wasn’t a convert until later.”
As she and Peter raised their children, Greg (11), Maddi (15), and Will (16), the focus was on comfortable living. Then, in 2002, Katie had an epiphany after Will came home from school on Earth Day to tout the need for being stewards of the Earth. “It was great to see,” Katie says. “We were recycling more, and thinking more about the environment. But it wasn’t long before the recycling wasn’t making it out to the street, and I thought that this is something that needs to be taught every day—not just on one day, once a year.”
That’s how CELF was born. The foundation now has an active board of directors that includes Sarah Hodder, a former NBC producer, and Jon Jacobs, who serves as the criminal enforcement counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency.
CELF’s mission is to instill awareness of the environment at an early age to create a sustainable future. The task is daunting, but several CELF programs are seeing success. The Ecological Footprinting program, for example, had school kids measuring the eco-footprint of their schools, creating a baseline report, adopting changes to reduce the carbon footprint and then measuring the improvements—in one case a double-digit carbon reduction. Much of the success of CELF can be chalked up to Ginsberg’s prior career as an advertising executive in Manhattan. She’s a Madison Avenue power broker who has become a formidable force on the green education front.
To bring together the interior design of the addition, the Ginsbergs tapped the talents of Cheryl Terrace, founder of New York-based Vital Design Ltd., which has been offering clients eco-designing and decorating options since 1997. Terrace—an avid environmentalist with a deep rooted reverence for nature, vegetarianism and yoga—incorporates fair trade in her design practices as well as the use of nontoxic, natural materials. Terrace urges clients to choose locally crafted goods over mass-produced, and believes it is a relatively simple decision for most people. “Given a choice between supporting an artisan or some big box store, which would you choose?” Terrace says that eco-decorating is “just about connecting the dots, and knowing that we are all interdependent. The choices we make have far reaching effects.”
As a result, the spaces Terrace creates are unique in design and furnishings, but they all have a feel-good, look-good aspect. With the Ginsbergs’ office addition, it became clear in the design process that the space should also serve other purposes beyond being just a work space. “Our homes are an extension of ourselves,” Terrace explains of the design inspiration behind the Ginsbergs’ addition. “This is not just an office. It’s also a family room. I believe all rooms should ‘nourish’ us. I don’t design with anything too precious. Our spaces should serve us on many levels. Design elements should include what is soft, touchable, comfortable, and ‘feel good’ in varying textures, and they should be in simple shapes and forms that remind us of our roots while creating a soothing, organic expression.”
Ginsberg says the green addition had its share of surprises and challenges, as well as disappointments. In regard to lighting, for example, LEDs—Katie Ginsberg’s top choice—were not readily available in the market. But she tried to make up for not installing LEDs in other ways. “For all of the construction debris, we used Taylor Carting and Recycling,” Ginsberg explains. “The principal facility, located approximately 70 miles north of New York City in Montgomery, houses one of the most unique construction and demolition recycling operations in the world. Over 95 percent of the waste they receive is converted into valuable end products.” In addition, Ginsberg had radiant heat installed, “which will afford us a significant energy savings,” she says.
In the yard Greg is playing badminton with a friend. Ginsberg is thankful to see her son outside in nature instead of glued to a screen. “The addition is just another part of our green pursuit,” she says.
Resource List Interior Design VITAL DESIGN, LTD. (917) 226-2391, vitaldesignltd.com Construction Debris Recycling Taylor Global Recycle Group taylorrecycling.com Recycled Glass and Concrete Vanity Top Ice Stone icestone.biz Desk and File Cabinet Tops Caesarstone Ecofriendly, ISO 14001-certified caesarstoneus.com Sustainable Bamboo Flooring Smith & Fong Co.’s Plyboo plyboo.com Dual-Flush Toilet Kohler kohler.com Interior Paint Benjamin Moore Aura benjaminmoore.com/aura Built-In Office Cabinets Made from FSC-certified maple fscus.org Built-In Office Cabinet Construction John Levetown Plumb & Level Contracting Inc. New Fairfield, CT; (203) 312-0580
A/C Compressors Tempstar Energy Star rated, 14 SEER tempstar.com Wool and Silk Rugs Antique Rug Galleria, Southampton, NY antiqueruggalleria.com