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Shopping: Green Living 101

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How many college graduates does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, if you consult Brian Torrico. A 2007 graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the nation’s oldest engineering school,  Torrico recently opened the Grenergy Solar Store in Sheffield, MA (he grew up in neighboring Mt. Washington), and he sells a wide assortment of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) that give off a warm glow so you’ll be happy to have them in every room of your house (and in your floodlights outdoors, too.) “They last ten times longer than conventional bulbs and use one-fourth the electricity,” says Torrico. He knows that their higher price dissuades many people from making the switch, but he plans to convert people in his understated and sincere way.

“People need to change their minds about how they consume energy,” he says emphatically.  “The oil companies and big industry have taught us what are acceptable ways to spend money. People who don’t bat an eye about spending $30,000 on an SUV that gets ten miles to the gallon resist spending the same amount to switch to solar electricity.” Torrico is planning to install solar panels on the roof of his store, so customers can see first hand how a solar system works. Indeed, his shop is set up like a mini-museum of clean technology.Rural Intelligence Home and Garden He has all sorts of products for greener living such as AG-40, a lubricant made from canola oil that replaces petroleum based WD-40. He sells Fisher & Paykel’s high efficieny washing machine but not the companion dryer, because dryers are energy hogs. Instead, he sells Shakeresque wooden drying racks that are handmade in Massachusetts.  He not only carries solar hot water heaters and pellet stoves, but he will patiently explain how they work and why they are environmentally friendly.

One of the most innovative items in the shop (which is part of a cooperative group of independently owned Solar Stores)  is the SunMate. “That’s a great product,” he says. “It works much like a black T-shirt on a sunny day.” About the size of a typical door, the SunMate is attached to the side of your house with a southern exposure.  A hole is cut into the wall, and as it heats up a small solar-powered brushless fan sucks out cold air and blows in warm air. “It can heat 750 square feet,” he says. “It costs about $1,750, and if you live in Massachusetts you can qualify for tax incentives.”  As the son of a hard-working electrician, Torrico is both a realist and an idealist, a teacher as much as a salesman. “I want to make a living,” he says, “but I also want to make a difference.”

Grenergy Solar Store
520 Sheffield Plain Road (Route 7), Sheffield, MA; 412-229-0049

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