Home health

Our writer plays hard-to-get—not!

Steven Adair hates greenwashing.

Steven Adair hates greenwashing.

Photo By Anne Stokes

SN&R buys a building, wants to make it green and pays Sena: Eco-Warrior Princess to write a weekly column about it.

One of Steven Adair’s favorite things is when customers come into his store apprehensive about the green-building supplies and materials he sells. Some of these people think green is just a catch phrase, or they doubt the product will work as effectively as the conventional version.

But then they give the product a shot and wham-bam, it works out great! Next thing Adair knows, these same customers return to his shop and start touting the merchandise to the next string of green newbies who walk through the door.

“They become little activists and they don’t even know it,” he said.

Adair opened his business Healthy Homes in Fair Oaks in March of this year. He offers home-performance tests, energy consulting, solar design and installation services, and he sells eco-friendly paints, insulation, flooring, countertops and more. I visited the store recently to check out stuff for SN&R to use in the building we’re renovating on Del Paso Boulevard. Because green products tend to be high-quality and durable, they also tend to be a bit more expensive, but we’re hoping Adair will hook us up with some eco-friendly products anyway.

Upon entering the store, I immediately narrowed in on a slab of multicolored recycled glass countertop and initiated Operation Get Free Stuff.

“Ooh, it’s so gorgeous! I love it!” I said in an unusually loud voice about two minutes after meeting Adair. I had intended to play hard-to-get with our material needs, having been forewarned that gushing is not considered an “effective way” to “make a hard sell.” Sorry, SN&R, I probably blew that one for us, but maybe not—Adair seemed excited about the possibility of contributing to our project. After all, he has a deep-rooted interest in sustainable building practices.

Adair grew up north of Fresno on Redinger Lake, which was built by Southern California Edison in 1951. His father worked for the utility company, and the family lived in company housing for $25 a month.

“As more of the hydroelectric plants transitioned to computer operations, the company started downsizing and had no need for the homes, which were liabilities,” Adair explained. So Southern California Edison allowed employees the opportunity to dismantle the houses. The Adair family acquired windows, sinks, oak wood flooring and anything else they could get their hands on, which they stockpiled in the garage.

“When I’d get in trouble, my dad would make me pull nails out of wood and chip mortar off of brick,” Adair joked.

When he was 14 years old, his family built a house completely out of these reclaimed materials, and that’s how his interest in green building began, although back then it wasn’t called by that name, and a whole industry hadn’t yet developed around sustainability in the built environment.

Adair ended up working in construction for 20-odd years, then operated a mold-remediation business. He made plenty of money with this endeavor, but realized “money isn’t everything,” so he sold his business, played golf and fooled around for a while before enrolling in a green-building certification program at UC Davis. This eye-opening experience inspired him to start Healthy Homes.

Business has been good, and more and more customers are stopping by to check out the zero-VOC paint, bamboo flooring, natural concrete stains and whatever else floats their boat. Adair even stocks biodegradable and compostable lawn and leaf bags, and paint rollers made with recycled fibers using no dyes or chemicals that promise to save more than “100,000 plastic bottles from the landfill each year.” He sells doors made from reclaimed lumber that would otherwise be destined for the dump. He hates greenwashing and carefully researches his merchandise to ensure the items he carries really are as environmentally friendly as possible. Healthy Homes is helping Creative Frontiers, a private elementary school in Citrus Heights, go green with a solar-roof system.

“This is really exciting for me,” Adair said of the growth of interest in green buildings.

I think that settles it: If he can gush, I can gush!