Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 16, 2018

Green Building Supply

First of its kind when it was founded in 1991
By Vicki Tillis, Ledger lifestyles editor | Aug 03, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Green Building Supply began in Fairfield 27 years ago, and moved into its current location at the corner of Burlington Avenue and South Second Street 4.5 years ago.

Joel Hirshberg, president of Green Building Supply, wishes there were more stores like his – even though it would mean more competition, he knows it would mean more people would be getting safer, heathier home components and supplies.

Green Building Supply was founded in 1991 by Joy Hirshberg and her husband Joel.

“It was the first green building supply store in the United States,” said Joel Hirshberg, adding that a similar store opened the same year, but has since gone out of business. Now, he estimates there are probably two to three dozen green building supply stores scattered across the country, but he wouldn’t mind more because it would mean more people would have easier access to safer, healthier, nontoxic products.

That’s the mission of Green Building Supply: to supply nontoxic, healthy products, explained Hirshberg.

Hirshberg said there are all kinds of chemicals in everyday items, including carpet, paint and more, inside a home. While the chemicals are not healthy or safe for people, there are some people who are even more sensitive to those chemicals and the fumes they emit and suffer watery eyes, itchy nose and other symptoms. Some people just give up and suffer. Others move into a hotel and hope the fumes go away – which can take sometimes take months or years. Others end up tearing out the improvements they just made to their homes.

“If you are sensitive, you need the safest thing you can get, but that safest thing doesn’t mean it’s safe for you,” said Hirshberg. “Everyone’s tolerances are different. There is never a product everyone can use. You have to test it.”

Green Building Supply tests the products and supplies it offers, but Hirshberg said it is still important for clients to test them for themselves. Green Building Supply gives free samples to clients with instructions on how to carry out a test.

“If you start out this way, your chances for success are a lot higher,” he continued. “You don’t know what is safe for you until you try it.”

According to Hirshberg, there is hardly any regulation at all of building materials. He said people researching products for their home can’t rely on a product’s label because there are no labeling laws.

“A can of paint can have 500 to 1,000 chemicals in it, but the label will only list the ones the government defines as hazardous,” said Hirshberg. “It’s not good enough to see a pretty label. You have to go on websites and read spec sheets. People need more knowledge, and companies are becoming more transparent, but do your homework. Here, we do the homework for you. We know how products are made. We test products. We use products. Over the years, we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work.”

Green Building Supply sells thousands of products from floor to ceiling that are all nontoxic and perform as good or better than their toxic counterparts and are not always more expensive, said Hirshberg, pointing out roof tile made from recycled rubber by a company in Washington, Iowa, and interior wallboard made from compressed FDA-approved food packaging, like cereal boxes, by a Des Moines company.

“You don’t have to be sick to use our products,” said Hirshberg.

Green Building Supply also offers products like windows, doors and all the hardware, and more, which is a way to make a house healthier through energy efficiency and safety.

The Green Building Supply building has more than 80 solar panels installed on its rooftop and will soon become 100 percent solar powered. Hirshberg pointed out the store is lit by energy-efficient LED lights, and the store sells all kinds of LED bulbs.

“Just come in and browse,” invited Hirshberg. “A lot of people don’t know what we do. Are you building or remodeling? Come here first and see what’s available. We offer free design and free consultation.

“We can help solve problems,” he continued. “’How do I fix my deck? It’s peeling.’ ‘How do I refinish my floor? Clean my floor? Repaint my interior or exterior?’ We deal with questions every day.

“I like it when people ask questions. We build relationships and they come back year after year.”

Hirshberg said although Green Building Supply started 27 years ago in Fairfield where there was an early demand of safer products, most of its business is not in Fairfield, but spread across the United States.

“We started here because we live here,” explained Hirshberg. “We love the community and we participate in many local events.”

The business was located near Everybody’s Whole Foods on North Second Street for many years until it relocated to 4.5 years ago to the corner of Burlington Avenue and South Second Street into a historic brick building that had at times seen uses as a church, a clothing store, a furniture store and more. The building was restored and transformed into a beautiful 5,000-square-foot showroom, where Green Building Supply not only displays its offerings, but often hosts community events, such as the monthly taping of “The Green Gourmet,” a cooking show and Fairfield First Fridays activities.

The number of people building green increases every year. Hirshberg said he knows this because their own business has grown better and bigger every year.

“This is our way to green the world,” he said.




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