With just over two years of service to the Leesburg community, Little Tree Huggers LLC has just received its second sustainable business award. 2016 earned them the Loudoun Sustainable Business Challenge Platinum award and this year they were awarded the County’s top award: the Loudoun Sustainable Business Excellence Award on October 19, 2017!

Little Tree Huggers LLC is Loudoun County Virginia’s first bilingual eco-green preschool with the goal of encouraging children to connect with nature, care for the environment, and celebrate and respect the diversity of our multicultural world. With a carefully planned farm-like setting, historic bank barn and chicken coop, plus plenty of surrounding wildlife, Little Tree Huggers is committed to offering daily opportunities to learn about and care for the environment. Lia D. Johnson, the founder and Director is passionate about the arts, embracing all cultures and taking care of our planet. With a quarter century of experience in early childhood education, Johnson is convinced that experiencing and learning about nature and the environment are integral to creating the culture of environmental stewardship our planet needs to survive. In her acceptance speech at Rehau North America in Leesburg, Johnson told the assembled group “yes we have solar, we have geothermal but what it’s really about is the children and our responsibility to teach them by setting the example.”

Little Huggers LLC accredited as Audubon at Home Wildlife SanctuaryAs early as December 2015, Johnson was quoted as saying they were striving to become the first carbon neutral pre-school in the area. “We believe that an eco-green environment is essential for healthy minds and bodies. We do our part daily to sustain the planet, celebrate the wonders of nature and set the example for other households and business in the area.” In order to achieve this goal, the Johnson’s had their property accredited as an Audubon at Home Wildlife Sanctuary by the Loudoun County Nature Conservancy and converted their oil burning HVAC system to geothermal. They started with a solar panel providing ventilation for their chicken coop and immediately started looking for partners to assist with the expansion of their sustainable business vision

The challenges were daunting because it wasn’t only a 4,200 square foot preschool and home that needed to be carbon neutral, the property’s centerpiece – a 200 year old bank barn needed to be heated and cooled as well. Nothing was left off the table as the Johnson’s embarked on this journey. They even contacted local colleges and universities to see if a combination of solar, wind or even a micro-hydroelectric system would do the trick. Early on, however, it became clear that the first step was to convert their oil burning hvac system to geothermal. Solar is more widely known and marketed. However, the return on investment for geothermal is far better than solar in this region due to the low cost of electricity and limited sunlight compared to other parts of the country.

North American Geothermal, therefore, became Little Tree Huggers’ first sustainable business partner. And, although the savings were appreciable, the Johnsons felt strongly enough about setting the example for the local community that they went about restoring their bank barn with a combination of Amish Craftsmanship from Sylvan and Stoltfus Builders and the modern expertise of Window Nation who installed replacement windows, doors and insulated siding around the entire structure. The barn may have been on its way to being insulated but the heating and cooling challenge scared away more contractors than it attracted. Modern Mechanical finally came through with a high efficiency Mitsubishi mini-split system. The final challenge was solar and for this challenge the Johnson’s partnered with Prospect Solar to design and install a 32 panel solar array on the school’s 200 year old back barn at the end of 2016.

The results of all these efforts have been astounding! The twelve month operating cost to heat and cool the 4,200 square foot house and school with geothermal was only $576 and, with close to 11,000 kWh hours of solar energy production, average total energy cost over the last eight months has been right at $100 per month to heat, cool and power over 6,500 square feet of facilities! As the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce says “Go Green to Save Green.”

Little Tree Huggers brings together the best of the early childhood educational endeavors Johnson has worked with over the years. As a result, lessons in art, math, science, history, and Geography, as well as regular story time are held as much as possible outdoors. The preschoolers, aged three to six, are also taught Spanish daily, as the Argentine native incorporates Spanish into the daily curriculum. Another part of LTH’s mission is to expose the children to the various languages and cultures represented in each class. Children are encouraged to prepare projects highlighting family histories and backgrounds; and parents are further involved by participating in LTH’s Community Hero Program, a program throughout the year, which involves parents sharing their talents and family backgrounds with the children.

An average day has the children spending much of the time, rain or shine, observing over 20 native birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects needing help due to loss of habitat as well as helping out on the working farm. They feed the animals — two ponies, two alpacas, three goats, a dozen hens, two ducks and two guinea hens — and help clean out the pens and put down fresh straw. In the mornings, they observe the abundance of flora and fauna as they pass the school’s windflower and pollinator gardens, beautiful forest glade, bridge and stream, on their way to the chicken coop to collect eggs – which in turn become the basis of a tasty cooking lesson later in the day. Lunches are spent further observing their surroundings and discussing the best ways to reuse, recycle or compost any waste. During playtime, the children’s creativity leads the way. You won’t see a multi-thousand-dollar playground at Little Tree Huggers. Instead, the children have access to a recycled wood tree house, green house, teepee, log cabin, nature observation deck, an obstacle course made out of natural stones, logs and branches, wooden blocks and lots and lots of free space. “Nature is what provides the opportunity for creative learning,” Johnson says.

As far as risk is concerned, LTH strictly follows Virginia Department of Social Services guidelines, maintains a student/teacher ratio of 6 to 1, and regularly involves parents in activities. In addition, as the curriculum is cumulative, progressively encouraging interaction with the animals and fostering responsibility, LTH offers a year round program for full time students, with a minimum of 6 hours a day and two weeks off in July. Tuition starts at $960 a month for six hours five days a week and goes up to $1,200 for ten hours a day five days a week.

Many of us would love to turn our attention to spring now that the holidays are over and the days are just a bit longer, but the truth is, there is still a lot of winter left to be had.  Here at Window Nation, we are not just concerned about buttoning up your home or business with new windows, doors, and siding in order to keep you warm and cozy all winter long, but we are also very concerned about buttoning up coats on all the kids in Cleveland and keeping kids warm all winter as they travel to and from school and enjoy playtime in the cold outdoors.  This is why we support the worthy organization, Coats for Kids in Cleveland.
As you know, Coats for Kids collects new or used coats in good condition in order to distribute them to children that may not otherwise be able to have a jacket to wear during these cold days.  It is a sad fact that in today’s economy many families struggle just to keep a roof over their heads and can’t afford the luxury of new coats for their children.  This is of particular concern to those of us here in the Cleveland area as we watch the temperatures drop and the winds howl.  Window Nation is a proud supporter of this worthy program and hopes you will be too.
While it is true that the ‘official’ collection campaign for this winter has ended, you haven’t missed out on the opportunity to donate to such a worthy cause.  The collection bins were gathered up on January 13th and stored away for next fall, but there is still time for you to donate those new or used coats to the cause.  You may not be aware that there are year-round sites at Armbruster Moving & Storage in Brunswick and in the 4th floor lobby of the iheart Media Cleveland office at 6200 Oak Tree Boulevard in Independence.  True, these locations aren’t as convenient as those drop boxes at the mall, but when you look outside and see that snow and ice and hear that wind howling and think about a child shivering in the cold, well, it just doesn’t seem all that inconvenient anymore.
Remember, if you want to donate to a worthy cause or if you are in need of a new coat to button out the cold, Coats for Kids Cleveland is the place to go.  Help us give back to this community that we all love by supporting this worthy organization and the work that they tirelessly perform by donating a coat for a child in Cleveland that is in need.

There are a lot of home improvements that can make your home much nicer to live in. If you like to cook, a fully remodeled kitchen may be right up your alley. If you have more than two children, it is always good to have a second bathroom. But improvements like these can cost a lot of money, and often, they do give you a return on that money. Adding a $75,000 kitchen to a $100,000 home is not likely to yield a $75,000 return in value. Here are a few remodeling ideas for 2016 that will not only make your home feel new again, they will also justify the cost by giving you the best value for the money spent.

Bathroom Remodel

When you replace the tub, toilet, sink, vanity, tile, and fixtures in a bathroom it doesn’t just spruce up the place, it adds value to your home’s equity. If you’re looking for a home improvement project that will give you the most bang for your buck, this is a good way to go.

If you’re looking for something to do that will be less expensive than a full remodel, there are some quick things you can do to spice things up and add value. Putting new paper on the walls or laying down a fresh coat of paint can make that bathroom feel fresh and new. Adding a re-glaze to your tub will give it a like-new finish for around $350. And, getting rid of old caulk around the tub with a softener like CAULK-BE-GONE®, and laying down some new caulk for a clean, fresh look, is a great idea for very little cash.

Replacement Windows

If you’re looking for more convenience, lower energy bills, less sound from passing traffic, and more light getting into your home, window replacements are a perfect investment. Not only will that investment pay for itself over time, it will add to the equity of your home immediately, by making the interior and the exterior of your home more appealing and increasing the feeling of newness. Nothing makes a home feel old like windows that don’t work right or look like they’ve been painted eight times.

Updated Front Entry Door

Another great exterior improvement is a new entry door. According to a 2015 remodeling Impact Report, a new steel front entry door can recover 75% of its cost at resale. Not only will you make most of your money back, you’ll also sell your home faster with an inviting entryway.

Landscaping

According to figures from the American Nursery and Landscape Association, the cost of landscaping can weigh in at a few thousand. But these costs will more than makeup for themselves when you go to sell your home. Landscaping has strong curb appeal and can significantly decrease how long a home stays on the market.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is always a good upgrade. Not only will you feel like you’re living in a new home, you’ll almost completely recoup your investment and add protection that will protect the value of your home.
If 2016 is the year you decide to make your Ohio home feel like new, for not a lot of money, we can help you with that. At Window Nation, we offer the absolute best bang for your buck when it comes to vinyl siding, replacement windows, and entry doors. Stop in to our showroom and start envisioning what your new home will look like in 2016.