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La Grange

La Grange's EcoManiacs is area's first certified green business

LA GRANGE – There’s a sticker on the door and a certificate the owners received, but most of the evidence is more behind the scenes. 

Or under the carpet, perhaps.

Take the bamboo wood floor EcoManiacs installed as it went through the process of becoming the first certified green business in the Chicago area, as recognized by the Illinois Green Business Association (IGBA). 

The store, which opened in December 2012 at 74 S. La Grange Road, calls itself a green boutique and specializes in toys, books, apparel and accessories made from sustainable materials. The “green” part of the description gained even more weight in early September when mother/daughter co-owners Leah Kroeger and Becca Klinger finished their certification process with the IGBA, a Champaign-based organization that identifies environmental conscious businesses through a set of rigorous requirements. 

EcoManiacs co-owners had planned, not surprisingly, to run an eco-conscious business. But pursuing the IGBA certification – which took almost a year – required a thorough evaluation of everything from their own office equipment to the store’s vendors. 

Kroeger and Klinger had to provide the IGBA information about the supply chain and shipping methods used by their vendors. In some cases, they asked companies to use less packaging peanuts or plastic – and were successful.

“We’re only one little tiny store, but maybe something we say will inspire them to look into areas maybe they hadn’t thought of before,” Klinger said.

Signs that EcoManiacs practices what it sells are hidden throughout the store – and even in the trash. The carpet is made of fabric produced from recycled plastic bottles. All lights are energy-efficient. The store’s computer, printer, refrigerator and microwave are Energy Star-rated. 

Kroeger and Klinger’s desk is a holdover from the location’s previous business and was cut to fit into their office corner. Other items, like a marble slab laid on top of the desk, were salvaged from construction jobs Klinger’s husband worked on.

All packaging materials in the store are recyclable – and even the trash bags are compostable.

“It’s been a really eye-opening experience from the buying and how you set up a store that could be green,” Klinger said. “[Applying for certification] really was reaching out to every possible facet of our business.”

EcoManiacs also offers green-themed workshops and classes, like its regular Crafty Thursday event. Parents bring their kids to learn how to re-purpose materials that might otherwise get thrown away, like turning a cardboard tube into a rocket ship, which the store demonstrated in July. 

“Making green changes in your life really isn’t as difficult as a lot of people think it is,” Klinger said. 

She’s hoping to persuade other business owners to go after the green business certificate, which will allow EcoManiacs to attend conferences to learn more about operating an eco-conscious business. 

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