architecture, architect, charlotte, nc, design, graphic design, web design, 
sustainability, sustainable consultation, green building, sc, south carolina, carolina, north carolina, eco, ecofriendly, green, designer, interior design, urban design, house, 
residential, commercial, aia, industrial, office, archive, testimonials, testamony, client,
GIY, g.i.y., blog, clients, containers, container, shipping containers

circa 2010
Elena M. Michel, Msc.


GIY™ is the official Second Eden Studio blog that empowers you to green it yourself! We strive to inspire and enrich your life both at work and home. GIY offers exclusive stories from green collar professionals, sustainability trends, and green building inspirations near and afar.

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Goodwill Hunting

Posted on April 28, 2014 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I try to avoid being stereotype as much as possible, but as an Italian-American woman who lives at home with mama, I do so love shopping! However, as an environmentalist, I am acutely aware of the embodied energy that the products in our stores accumulate. I certainly wouldn't like to promote a generational stereotype as a throw-away-culture.

Thrift store shopping is my remedy. Aside from the fact that we all love a good deal, my environmentalist guilt is minimalized:


  • Clothes  ~  Don't settle. If there are rips, stains, wear-and-tear, put it back on the rack. Don't bother with ill-fitting clothes unless you have the inclination to make alterations. I do enjoy sewing, and I have found some great vintage clothes perfect for slicing and dicing into new creations; some buy sweaters simply for the yarn to knit something new. Most thrift stores have a no return policy, so be prepared to visit the fitting room. 

  • Furniture  ~  Quality is key. Particle board and laminates must be in pristine condition as modifications are limited. Metals and solid wood are better quality. Thrift stores are perfect If you have the skillset or inclination to restore furniture; if not, ask yourself if a good cleaning will make the piece just right. Be choosey with shape, design, quality, and aesthetics.

  • Games/Toys  ~  Avoid board games and puzzles when all of the pieces cannot be accounted for or not in their original packaging. Avoid stuffed animals piled in big bins to avoid risk of bedbugs, allergens, and molds. Don't forget to sanitize before your kids play with their new-to-them toys.

  • Household  ~  I have found the most remarkable and unique vintage decor for my home at thrift stores. I have a particular weakness for quality made pottery; don't hesitate to use your smart phone to research a signature or stamp. A little bit of knowledge about identifying crystal verses glass, bone china verses ceramic, silver verses painted metal, or silk verses cotton. YouTube can be a quick resource to identify the differences. 

Don't like it... love it! Thrift store shopping is just like shopping anywhere else. What's your favorite thrift store find?


Being Green Is Eco-logical + Eco-nomical

Posted on April 21, 2014 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Once upon a time… being green conjured up images of unshaven face, soiled shirts, and twig nibbling. Today, sustainability is a streamlined word at the forefront of the economy as well as the environment. Sustainability for small and medium businesses offers an opportunity to cut costs as well as reduce their environmental impact.

Has your small or medium business ever though, “gee, once the economy picks up, we’re gonna start being more green!?” Nevertheless, there’s no time like the present. Being eco-friendly is economically friendly.

Getting started doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Being sustainable can cost nothing or something – it’s all down to your budget. Here are a few tips to help your business get started:


  • Beverages: Ask employees to bring their own washable mugs instead of providing disposable cups, provide an electric kettle and jarred ingredients for coffee and tea to reduce individualized packaging, and encourage reusable water bottles.
  • Recycling: Provide a recycling bin next to your garbage bin. Attach a list of what is recyclable.
  • Paper: Reduce paper consumption by printing double sided, email rather than print memos, and provide washable cloth towels in the kitchen and restroom rather than paper towels.
  • Electricity: Switch-off computers on evenings and weekends, switch-off monitors at lunchtime and during meetings, and utilize natural daylight rather than lamps during the day.
  • Ventilation: Open the windows instead of using air conditioning. Grow house plants to naturally clean the air.
  • Transport: Create a carpooling program, use public transport, and encourage cycling to work.
  • Water: Place a brick in the toilet’s tank.



  • Energy: Use energy efficient light bulbs, replace and recycle old electricity hungry office equipment for new Energy Star equipment, and use LED lights and desk lamps where ever possible.
  • Transport: Provide public transport incentives, carpooling incentives, and install a bike rack.
  • Water: Install motion sensitive faucets in the restrooms or a similar water saving tap accessories. Replace old toilets with dual flush toilets that use fewer gallons of water.



Every office is different. It is always best to consult with a green professional before making any major investments. There are different types of green professionals to achieve your goals:

  • Energy Auditor: Energy auditors focus on reducing energy costs.
  • LEED: Certified LEED consultants specialize on projects for new buildings, extensions, and refurbishments.
  • Technology Installer: Technology installers (renewable or low carbon) promote the products they represent. It is recommended to get a second opinion from a non-bias consultant before majorly investing.
  • Green Consultant: Green consultants consider all aspects of sustainability including your premises, energy, carbon, transportation, suitable technologies, water, materials, ecology, and more.


The more green your business is, the more green in the bank. And don’t forget, sustainable businesses have earned ‘boasting rights’. It feels good to say to peers, employees, clients, and especially potential clients that your company is doing all it can to environmentally friendly.


Teaching Kids Eco Responsibility

Posted on April 14, 2014 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Most parents agree children need to be charged with some form of personal responsibility to instill independence and problem solving skills. On top of the worthwhile burdens of household management, homework, healthy meals and daily dramas, where do we find time to consider which tasks our children can confidently under take?

One not-so-obvious answer is sustainability. Whether you feel being green is a fad or here to stay, sustainability is an fantastic opportunity to put your children in charge of that "something" they require to feel confident in their household contributions. Putting your children in charge of your household's green agenda builds knowledge and good habits for kids, as well as parents.

Children are like our own personal 50 gigabyte key drives. They remember everything, "Mom, you promised!" or, "Dad, you said I could!" Put those young minds to constructive use by charging them with the important role of Eco Police. When empowering your little officers to upholding Mother Nature's laws in your kingdom, their duties can include:


    • Choosing reusable fabric napkins at the store and making certain they are always used at dinnertime in place of paper napkins.
    • Refolding any paper napkins or paper towels that are only slightly dirty for use a second time.
    • Choosing their own personal reusable lunch bag, rather than using disposable paper bags.
    • Placing a large mixing bowl in the sink when washing fruit and vegetables to capture good tap water for watering house plants.
    • Switching off the faucet when brushing teeth.
    • Making certain all the light bulbs in your home are energy efficient.
    • Turning off lights and electronics in unoccupied rooms.
    • Choosing board games or playing outside, instead of watching television.
    • Learning to read and operate the thermostat to help the family conserve energy by not overly cooling or heating the house.
    • Checking labels at the grocery store to determine if your food is organic or produced closer to home.
    • Recycling aluminum, plastic and paper, and carrying the bins to the curb on garbage day.
    • Making certain cell phone chargers aren't plugged in when not in use.
    • Hanging clothes on a drying line, rather than using an energy greedy dryer.

Give your children room to indulge themselves in their new role. Use a cereal box to cut out a badge shape and let them decorate it with crayons and glitter. Create a reward system that can be documented on a reusable dry-erase or magnetic chart. Each task your little Eco Police complete is another gold star toward achieving a visit to a nature center or indulging in organic ice cream.

Green living does not have to be another burden added to your to-do list. Sustainability is a learning opportunity that can enrich your family's lifestyle. A green lifestyle is one of the most sincere and fruitful life lessons we can teach our children. ~EM