Virginian Pilot - 26Deec12 - Other than a bar called Greenies across the street and the Chesapeake Bay behind it, there wasn’t much “green” around First View Street in Ocean View before Cheryl Hahn set up shop.
Now, though, a wind turbine rises against the sky at her CozyPure store, and solar panels blanket the building’s front and roof.
Hahn has carved out an environmentally conscious commercial oasis, making an all-natural line of mattresses, bedding and other products while generating all the electricity she needs. If she’s going to run a business that appeals to consumers who care about the Earth, Hahn figures, she might as well do it all the way.
“It’s all part of who we are and what we do,” she said.
Hahn and her husband, who is no longer involved in the business but co-owns their Ocean View Avenue building, always had renewable energy in mind. It took federal energy-efficiency tax credits offered in 2010 and 2011 to help make the necessary investment affordable.
They took out a loan for $160,000 and got $113,000 back in tax rebates. Eliminating electricity bills that had been running $550 per month, they figured, they’d get their money back in about seven years.
Their investments produce up to 38 kilowatts of electricity, “more energy than we need” most months, Hahn said. The green system covers their portion of the building that houses the showroom and corporate office for CozyPure’s parent company, Environmental Resource Outlet Inc., as well as three tenants upstairs.
Environmental Resource is among “a handful” of small commercial customers in Dominion Virginia Power’s territory that generate most or all of their own electricity, said Daisy Pridgen, a spokeswoman for the power company.
“We do not have a lot of customers that do this,” she said. “It’s not very common at all.”
The CozyPure showroom in the restored 1930s-era building looks more like a health spa than a store. It’s set in a backdrop of undyed fabrics, natural wood and pristine cushions.
All CozyPure mattresses are made of latex sourced solely from the sap of rubber trees, primarily in Sri Lanka. A beige cover of 100 percent organic cotton and wool encases each mattress, a large pallet of soft, cream-colored foam with finger- or pencil-width air holes for ventilation.
The product, Hahn boasts, gives indigenous rainforest residents a way to make a living and supports a sustainable resource, leaving the trees to continue growing. Hahn said she takes great care to ensure that the cotton used for covers, sheets and blankets qualifies as organic – from plants grown with no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
CozyPure also offers a vegan line of products using no animal materials. Instead of wool, which is a fire-retardant used in the mattress covers, Hahn found a batting made from the fermented sugars of a starchy plant.
Environmental Resource sells its products through its website and occasional catalogs and is preparing to let other retailers offer them, beginning next year with an organic bedding dealer in Pennsylvania.
Hahn’s interest in green living goes back more than two decades. She and her husband, Richard Hahn, opened Tomorrow’s World retail store at the Janaf shopping center in 1991 and moved to the Hilltop area of Virginia Beach three years later. They sold compact fluorescent light bulbs, low-flow shower heads and organic-cotton clothing at a time when sustainable living and environmental thinking were further from the mainstream.
They offered bedding through a catalog but, after hearing direct feedback from consumers, decided they could come up with better designs themselves. Cheryl Hahn, who once sourced fabrics for a sportswear maker in Philadelphia, initially used other manufacturers to oversee production and put her company’s brand on the goods. Gradually, she took more control over the process.
Now, “I know my container of latex is coming direct from Sri Lanka. I ordered it,” she said. “It’s just being able to stand behind my product 100 percent.”
The Hahns bought the Ocean View building about a decade ago and started their “green” conversion in 2003, installing an underground geothermal system. It provides heating and air conditioning at high efficiency for the 10,000-square-foot space, which a Dollar General occupied before Environmental Resource moved there.
Besides the wind turbine and about 150 solar panels, they put in energy-efficient lighting and plumbing systems. CozyPure is one of almost 1,400 organizations listed in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership, which includes those that buy or invest in a required amount of renewable energy.
Hahn also has submitted documentation to the U.S. Department of Energy for inclusion in its Building Technologies Program database of net-zero energy users. The program’s website lists just 10 such projects across the country and none in Virginia.
“I just wanted some sort of validation that we do do this,” Hahn said. “It ain’t easy being green, as Kermit would say.”