10th annual Green Living Expo helps McHenry County residents grow

CRYSTAL LAKE – As a purveyor of eco-friendly things, Mary Stupen sells science toys, T-shirt bags and reusable diapers.

Yes, that’s right: Diapers mom and dad can count on more than once.

“They’re cloth diapers. These you can wash yourself,” said Stupen, owner of Purple Me Green, a Palatine-based mobile retail shop that sells goods aimed at sustainable living habits.

Purple Me Green was one of 70 local businesses and organizations that packed into the McHenry County College gymnasium Saturday for the 10th annual Living Green Expo, where residents explored the latest in sustainable living, learned about energy-saving ideas and shopped for green gifts.

Standing behind a table stocked with products, Stupen pitched passers-by on her homemade, multiple-use napkins – a product she sews with the help of her children.

“Instead of using paper,” she said, “it’s one way for you to reduce your impact on the environment.”

The Living Green Expo granted visitors access to interactive displays, two fully furnished tiny houses, bicycle demos and giveaways. The point of the event is to expand consciousness in McHenry County, said Kim Hankins, director of sustainability at McHenry County College.

“We want to offer the community a chance to make choices,” Hankins said of residents learning about solar energy, composting, gardening and tiny homes. “We want to really support these businesses that are making the choice to be sustainable.”

The hit of the expo was a tiny home owned by Gilberts resident Kathryn “Kat” Kresic, who rolled her humble, 172-square-foot abode into the expo parking lot and welcomed visitors inside.

McHenry County residents bombarded Kresic, owner of Tinykat, with three common questions.

“Do you live in it full time? How much does it cost? Where do you put it?” Kresic said.

She does not live in the tiny home full time, and she treats it more like a vacation home. She recently traveled to Texas with her home attached to the back of a truck. The tiny home cost her $53,000, and she stores it in a barn in Woodstock.

Living in the tight quarters of a tiny home, Kresic said, makes her want to get outside and stretch – a habit many people take for granted in an age defined by technology and sedentary lifestyles.

“This is a great stepping stone,” Kresic said. “We’re forced to go outside and move our bodies around.”

Other McHenry County residents strolling through the expo found inspiration to get outside elsewhere.

Walking through the gym and eyeballing displays, longtime Crystal Lake resident Susan Fugleberg found a flyer about Monarch butterflies. She had been thinking about planting milkweeds on her property to feed the insects – the flowers of milkweeds offer high-quality nectar to pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

It wasn’t until she found the flyer at the University of Illinois Extension’s display and learned more that she decided to help the butterflies.

“I don’t have a milkweed, but I’m thinking it’s time to bring them in to feed the Monarch butterflies,” Fugleberg said. “I should do something about it next spring.”

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