I had the great
opportunity to meet with Nate Burger, the owner and founder of
Eco-Handyman. As part of my effort to educate myself on living
a greener life, I contacted Nate to find out if eco-building is a feel-good trend or simply the way to do business now.
(Boulder Eco-Blogger): Tell me a little about your
professional background and how you ended up the Eco-Handyman.
Nate Burger (Nate): My mom was always focused on healthy living. She started a food co-op back East. I started off in corporate America working for Amazon but not deriving much fulfillment. I had always had an interest in sustainability and green-building – making existing homes more efficient. When my mom died unexpectedly I decided to make a change from the corporate world to something I really believed in. I moved out here, and earned my Boulder Green Points certification, and experience in energy auditing of homes. I started my business in the late Spring of 2005 with one handyman, and now I have 6 experienced guys working for me.
BEB: Do you think this is a trend or simpy the way business is headed?
Nate: No, I don’t think we have a choice really. Of course, as the price of gas goes up people become more interested in making their homes more efficient. When the price drops, they forget. But I am seeing even non-green builders moving in this same direction. It extends beyond simply green appeal. You want durability and comfort in your home and good windows, insulation not only make you more comfortable but reduce your energy bills. We’re not really talking about saving the world. I talk to my customers and find of what drives and motivates them. Some are doing it for moral reasons, but many are looking to increase the comfort of their homes.
I also see articles in the NY Times nearly every week about green building or green business. I think humans in general want to improve. We live in a world of plenty here but there really is a cost. I’m encouraged by people in Boulder trying to do the right thing.
BEB: What is the difference in the way you work versus an average handy-man?
Nate: Instead of dumping old cabinets, we’ll take them to Resource2000 and then give customers the receipt to be used at tax time. If a customer has the time, we keep an eye out for used materials. We use adhesives and products that are eco-responsible, like low-voc paints and adhesives as well as Bona floor products, which are super-durable, water-based finishes. We also advise customers on their selection. Everyone wants bamboo floors, but we advise clients on the downside of the product as well. Look at where bamboo grows… in very humid environments. In Boulder these floors will shrink and expand as the humidity levels change throughout the year, not necessarily what you are looking for in a durable floor.
BEB: The common perception is that green building is more expensive. What are your thoughts on this.
Nate: If a product is more durable it will have a lower cost of ownership over the long-term. For example, if you install a small redwood or cedar deck, the cost will be about $1,200 + $150 for the stain, which you will need to apply every year or two. That same deck in Trex will cost you $2000, but you won’t have to spend the time protecting it each spring. The up front cost of the Trex deck is more expensive but longer term it is cheaper and more durable, and made from recycled plastic content. Not to mention that it will save your Sat. afternoons for more fun activities than staining your deck.
BEB: If I have bought the eco-friendly materials, do I still need a green eco-handyman?
Nate: I have some customers, who are not focused on the green aspect of my business but on the quality of the workmanship. I have other existing customers, who don’t bother with a second bid because we have established a relationship with them. They are not saving the world, they simply want good service. My workmen are pre-screened and we have the experience and we take on the small jobs that others may not. That, along with returning phone calls promptly and showing up on time count for a lot in the building trades.
BEB: Anything final thoughts you would like to add?
Nate: Do your research in advance; if you have a job planned for the spring gather your information now. If you have a restrictive timeline, you may compromise on quality. Then go to someone in the Green Builders Guild!