EcoHouse to set up shop in Botanical Garden parking lot

Tour guides explain the many money-saving features of the mobile EcoHouse to a group of visitors. Photo courtesy Queens Botanical Garden-Peter Sylvester
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An environmental group is wheeling its brick mobile home into the parking lot of the Queens Botanic Garden this summer to teach residents how to save energy in their own digs.

The Community Environmental Center hopes to educate by example with its EcoHouse, a full-sized dwelling decked out with the latest in green technology, according to Richard Cherry, president of the Queens-based nonprofit.

“We can bring sustainability to houses and apartment buildings,” he said in a statement. “But unless the people who live in them understand why it’s vital to have nontoxic cellulose insulation behind the walls — or why Energy Star refrigerators are good for the environment — then we haven’t really done our job.”

The biggest chunk of an energy bill is heating, and cellulose insulation can help wrangle costs under control. It’s made from recycled paper and is sprayed into every crevice of a wall before drywall is installed, leaving no air voids.

Not only is it 30 percent to 40 percent more efficient than standard insulations at stopping hot and cold air from getting in or out, it also dissuades vermin from nesting and is fire retardant, according to a report in Fine Homebuilding Magazine.

Cellulose dealers typically win over skeptics — who assume lining your house with recycled paper would turn it into a firetrap — by placing a penny on a pile of the stuff and taking a blowtorch to it. The penny melts, but the insulation simply turns black without burning.

Companies selling Energy Star appliances earn their trademark blue star by offering products that provide all the latest features but suck up less electricity.

The standards are determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and can save homeowners a bundle.

Energy consumers of all ages can learn through the domicile’s interactive tours. LED technology will illuminate energy wasted on lighting, while the latest in water conservation will show how money can basically be flushed down the toilet by the uninformed.

“The EcoHouse is a fun, accessible way for everyone in a family to learn how their home works and how they can save energy, save money and protect the environment — all at the same time,” Cherry said.

The abode will set up shop in the garden’s parking lot this week and will remain through Aug. 30 during the same hours as the garden: Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Admission to the garden is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for students, but anyone visiting the house will likely make that money back by implementing some of the eco-friendly ideas contained within. Admission is free for children 3-12 and for everyone Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Group tours of the EcoHouse are also available.

“This is the perfect partnership,” said Susan Lacerte, executive director of the garden. “The EcoHouse will bring important information to our many visitors about how each of us can live in more environmentally responsible ways.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 8:17 pm, July 3, 2013
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