By Lydia Krupinski

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Green Genes is a refreshing eco-alternative to the budding boutiques of Andersonville’s busy shopping district. Situated just south of Foster on Clark Street, this charming shop will be celebrating its one year anniversary this coming week. In honor of their first birthday, Sprout Chicago caught up with co-owner Heather Muenstermann to talk about her little gem.

Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your art.

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desk1A. Originally from Southern California, I moved here in 1994 for a graduate program at U of I.  I earned my Master’s in Art Therapy, fell in love with the city and have been here ever since. Currently, I live in Andersonville, where I have been for 9 years.

Growing up in a creative household, art has always been an integral part of my life.  My work is always changing and evolving, but the consistency is in the techniques I use. I love incorporating scraps and bits of discarded materials into my mixed media collages. I use beeswax as my “glue” for the most part…I really love the ethereal and vintage feel it gives to my work.  While my collages are typically the pieces I make to sell, I also spend a huge amount of time on my personal, visual journals. I have kept these books since the age of 7 and am in the very early steps of exploring publication of some of these books.

Q. How did the concept of Green Genes first come about?

A. My partner and I knew that we wanted our own business, and we had been taking many baby-steps towards being as eco-friendly and green in our home as possible. Through lots of brainstorming, we just stumbled upon the idea of a “green” baby store. It seemed to us that so often, the younger generations are the ones to make big changes. We figured if we could help integrate being eco-friendly at a very young age, that it could become second nature, part of one’s genetic makeup, if you will.

housepillows1Q. How do you define sustainablity as it pertains to your personal life and business?

A. For us, a huge part of it is the local component, particularly in the neighborhood of Andersonville.  For our business, we have built a wonderful repeat customer base, a large percentage of which comes from the immediate surrounding area.  As consumers, we rarely leave the neighborhood.  Even though times are so very tough right now, it’s important for people to put whatever small amounts they can back into their own communities.  That is what helps build sustainability.

Q. Tell me a little bit about the products you carry and what makes them green.

A. We carry a wide variety of products that all incorporate an aspect of being green or eco-friendly.  Our clothing lines are made from organic cotton or bamboo, soy or other sustainable fibers. We carry old fashioned wooden toys, and the plastic toys we carry are BPA free and made from recycled milk jugs. Many of our products are fair trade or made from recycled materials, and we try to carry locally made lines whenever possible. We carry reusable tote bags and water bottles to cut down on contributions to landfills.  Basically everything in the store incorporates some form of sustainability, recycling or being organic.

Q. Currently, what is your favorite product in your shop?

A. Right now I am loving the Organic Lip and Cheek Balm by Erbaviva.  It’s a great, delicious lip moisturizer, but most of my customers use it on the chapped cheeks of little ones during the winter months.  Great for dry skin!

Q.  What inspires you in your day to day life?

A. I am constantly amazed by the kindness and good that really comes from so many people. We can all get so caught up in the negatives, and I make it a personal mission to notice the positive moments in my daily life. It really keeps me going, and nothing pleases me more than to witness an anonymous or random act of kindness; it motivates me to keep doing what we do.

Q.  What do you love most about Chicago?

A. I love the people and the neighborhoods. I went to college in Arizona and inevitably, every time I met a super cool, genuine person, they were from the Chicago area.  I never thought I’d live here for as long as I have, but there’s such an appeal to having this wonderfully accessible big city that is not too overwhelming.

Q. If you could change one thing about the city, what would it be?

A. Recycling, recycling, recycling…so many other countries and cities have been on top of this for so very long; I wish Chicago could find a system that works.

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Q. What advice would you give to people trying to live a greener lifestyle?

A. Reduce, reuse and recyle…3 simple words that are thrown around, but when incorporated into on

e’s life, can be quite impactful.  I think the first step is for people to become aware of their consumption habits, and make the effort towards small changes in whatever way they can.  I firmly believe that every little bit helps.

Q. What is your favorite local restaurant?

A. This is a tough one since the cuisine is so varied in the neighborhood.  Jin Ju is usually my top choice for dining out.

Q. Where do you go in the city to wind down?

A. Sadly, it doesn’t happen too often.  I’ll either take a spa day at Thousand Waves on Belmont or just head east to the lake where I like to sit on the wall and watch the waves crash or the ice float…depending on the season.

Q.  If you could be any vegetable, what would it be and why?

A. I guess I’d be an artichoke.  Aesthetically I think they’re really beautiful, I like the layers and the surprising thistle-y bits on the outside that you have to dig through to get to the delicious tender bites on the inside.  It was either an artichoke or an onion….again with the layers…but onions can make one cry just a bit too much, I suppose.

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Visit Heather Muenstermann and Christina Isperduli at Green Genes, 5111 North Clark Street or on the web at http://www.green-genes.com to learn more.

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