Entrepreneurial mom goes green

by showing them simple, inexpensive ways to enhance the indoor air quality of their home, conserve electric and water consumption, and save time and money. She also donates one percent of her sales to environmental groups around the world, which reinforces the growing alliance between businesses and ecology.

How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one, but don’t bother. I’ll just sit in the darkness. I don’t want to be a nuisance to anybody.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

This funny stereotype might apply to some older generations of Jewish women, but certainly not us modern moms, at least none who’ll admit to it.

Beth Koritz is one Jewish mom who knows how to install a light bulb with her eyes closed.

She also can explain the difference between a compact fluorescent light (CFL) and a light emitting diode (LED) and teach consumers everything there is to know about the cost savings of energy efficient lighting.

As the founder of Green It! Home Consultants, Koritz uses her expertise as a custom homebuilder and her passion for the environment to light the way for St. Louis homeowners, as well as area businesses and schools, to live a greener life and help create a healthy planet.

“For six years I designed high end homes, and it upset me to watch the dumpsters fill up so fast with waste and know that it was going straight to a landfill,” says 46-year-old Koritz, who lives in Creve Coeur and takes her office everywhere she goes. “I knew it was time to do something else.”

Her timing is everything, considering the United States uses nearly a million dollars worth of energy every minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Even though Americans comprise less than five percent of the world’s population, we consume about 25 percent of the world’s energy resources.

Sounds like a lofty mission to save Mother Earth, but this earthy mom of two teenage daughters, Kyra, 14, and Cady, 17, is well on her way to making a name for herself in the green industry.

Since she launched Green It! Home Consultants in December, Koritz has already helped people breathe easier, literally, by showing them simple, inexpensive ways to enhance the indoor air quality of their home, conserve electric and water consumption, and save time and money. She also donates one percent of her sales to environmental groups around the world, which reinforces the growing alliance between businesses and ecology.

In sync with the longstanding Jewish tradition to protect the creation of God, the natural world, Koritz uses a holistic approach to slowly but surely change the way people think about how their small actions today impact the wider community tomorrow.

“We can’t repair the earth we’ve broken, but we certainly can slow down the damage. Something as simple as using cold water instead of hot water to wash our clothes saves energy, and the clothes still come out just as clean,” says Koritz. “People think that recycling their aluminum cans is like a spit in the ocean, and it doesn’t amount to anything. But if you quantify one soda can for each person in a country of billions, it makes a difference. Just like in an election, all those single votes add up to huge numbers.”

Similarly, a leaky faucet is no drop in the bucket. A running faucet puts three to five gallons of water down the drain every minute it’s on, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a faucet that drips 10 times a minute is the equivalent of almost 300 gallons a year.

“One of the reasons why people don’t do anything to conserve is because they feel like they have to jump right in instead of dipping their toe in the water. It takes baby steps today and another baby step tomorrow,” she says. “Sometimes it’s as easy as replacing an aerator on a dripping faucet or filling up the dishwasher before you run it.”

As an eco-consultant, Koritz covers it all: appliances, light bulbs, faucets, door and window seals, furnace filters, programmable thermostats, water heater wraps, low flow aerators, insulation, ventilation, and yes, even toilets. In fact, on a recent energy inspection of my own house, Koritz explores the nooks and crannies of every room and types notes into her laptop computer. Like a Girl Scout on a scavenger hunt, she searches for all kinds of leaks, phantom power, dirty filters, and other signs of wasteful energy and dollars. When she opens my freezer door, she hits the jackpot.

“Look how empty this freezer is!” she exclaims. “A freezer has to work harder to keep empty space cold, but you can fill it with cardboard boxes to make the appliance more energy efficient.”

At the end of the survey, Koritz drags her plastic rolling cart with drawers into my kitchen and pulls out an array of products, including surge protectors, low flow showerheads, and 60 different kinds of light bulbs. She also shows me a line of biodegradable cleaning products that are so natural you can drink them.

“The misconception is that doing things green is more expensive than the conventional way. Often a green home costs the same or less than a standard home, plus you end up saving so much money in the long run. That’s why I think my business will grow in this economy because my clients quickly make back what they spend,” she says.

For example, energy efficient lighting can save 70 percent on an electric bill and a low-flow showerhead saves an average family $230 a year in energy costs and 7,600 hundred gallons of water a year.

“The shut off showerhead with built in thermostat is one of those $40 investments that pays for itself in about eight weeks,” says Koritz, who learned the nuts and bolts of the construction business when she was in high school and managed her father’s home improvement store Build Mart in Crystal City, Mo.

A former camp director at Shaare Emeth Congregation, Koritz spent 14 summers at Camp Sabra and developed a love affair with nature.

When it comes to conserving the earth’s natural resources, this working parent who is still most comfortable in blue jeans and cowboy boots is motivated to succeed because future generations, including her own daughters, depend on it. Teaching children to respect the world and do their part in saving the environment starts at home.

“With teenagers just getting them to turn off their lights is a big challenge,” admits Koritz. “They are more aware because of the tiny choices we make as a family everyday, like when we use cloth napkins instead of paper and when we turn off the sink to brush our teeth.”

Teaching children about the environment is key, which is why Koritz also reaches out to schools with green initiatives.

“It depends on how deep the school wants the green to go, from using recycling cans in the hallways to purchasing sustainable products that come from post-consumer recycled paper,” says Koritz, who can show teachers how to integrate the subject of the environment into everyday curriculum.

Environmental awareness is a basic Jewish value and the theme of the upcoming holiday Tu B’Shevat, which is the birthday of the trees in Israel.

“We are all responsible for taking care of our earth,” Koritz notes, “and I get to help people achieve that.”

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she is recycling pizza boxes out of her trashcan. To sign up for a free report on “Busting the Top 5 Myths of Greening Your Home,” go to www.greenithc.com.