Author Archives: Monica Michael Willis

Monica Michael Willis

About Monica Michael Willis

The former features director at Country Living magazine, Monica Michael Willis writes frequently about design, gardens, and environmental issues.

Visiting the Newly Renovated Theodore Roosevelt Memorial

After a three-year overhaul, the American Museum of Natural History welcomes the public to its newly restored Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and Hall of North American Mammals.

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Renovation

John Russell Pope won the competition to design the American Museum of Natural History’s Central Park West facade. Photo: AMNH

This past Saturday, the American Museum of Natural History unveiled its newly restored Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and Hall of North American Mammals. The $40 million project included the restoration of the museum’s main entrance and grand main hall, as well as of its world-famous dioramas of animals in their natural settings.

Unlike Presidents such as Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, whose monuments dot the National Mall in Washington, D.C., it was decided in 1924 that New York State would honor its most famous native son with a memorial at the American Museum of Natural History. The museum, which Roosevelt’s father helped found in 1920, has long had an association with the 26th President, an avid naturalist who was born and raised in New York City.

“Most Americans are familiar with Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy as President of the United States, but few fully appreciate his lifelong passion for conservation and the American wilderness,” says David Hurst Thomas, curator in the museum’s Division of Anthropology.

Teddy Roosevelt Memorial Renovation

Roosevelt poses on a 1903 trip to Yosemite with naturalist John Muir.

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6 Pumpkin Festivals Not to Miss

Celebrate fall’s arrival at one of these fun, family-friendly events.


Where: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
When: Through November 11

Pumpkin Festivals - The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze

The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Van Cortland Manor is a historic 18th-century riverside estate in the bucolic Hudson River Valley. On select evenings through November 11, visitors are welcome for the Great Jack o’ Lantern Blaze, a breathtaking display of more than 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated jack o’ lanterns. During the event, the Manor’s sloping brick paths and heritage gardens are transformed into a Halloween wonderland, complete with synchronized lighting and suitably creepy sound effects. There’s the Tunnel O’ Pumpkin Love, plus flying ghosts, slithering snakes, a giant spider web, and super-sized dinosaurs, all made of fiery carved gourds. Advance tickets required. For details, visit Historic Hudson Valley.

Pumpkin Festivals - Van Cortlandt Manor

Historic buildings eerily lit are highlights of The Great Jack 'o Lantern Blaze.


Where: Keene, NH
When: October 20

Pumpkins Festivals - Keene

This year marks the 22nd annual Pumpkin Festival in Keene, NH.

On Saturday, October 20th, make your way to downtown Keene, NH, for the city’s annual celebration of all things pumpkin. The festivities include the Great Pumpkin Mile road race, live music, a giant Ferris wheel on Main Street, a children’s costume parade and pumpkin bowling. The food court offers everything from pulled-pork sandwiches and fried pickles to pumpkin whoopie pies, cheesecake, donuts and even pumpkin ale made by regional breweries. Perhaps the main attraction, however, is the enormous pumpkin tower on the central square, made up of jack o’ lanterns artistically carved by residents and visitors to the festival. Last year, the festival broke its own world record by displaying a whopping 16,186 glowing jack o’ lanterns at the event! To learn more, visit Pumpkin Festival 2012.

Pumpkin Festivals - Town Square in Keene, NH

Keene, NH. Photo: newenglandphotos.blogspot


3. Green Bluff Growers’ Harvest Festival
Where: Spokane, WA
When: Through October 28

Pumpkin Festivals - Punkin Chunkin

The 'Punkin 'Chunkin event at the Green Bluff Growers' Harvest Festival in Spokane, WA

Every weekend through October 28, families from eastern Washington State and neighboring Idaho head to the annual Harvest Festival. Situated 15 miles north of Spokane, the event is put on by the Green Bluff Growers, an association of 30 or so small family farms and businesses in the area. If you go, swing by Knapp’s Farm to play in the straw maze, wander the expansive pumpkin patch, and watch the Punkin’ Chunkin’—an amazing contraption that catapults pumpkins hundreds of feet into sky. Later pick pumpkins and apples at one of the many orchards, navigate the corn labyrinth at Siemers Farm, and sample the irresistible cinnamon-dusted pumpkin doughnuts at Harvest House. For more  information, log onto Green Bluff Growers.

Pumpkin Festivals - Green Bluff

Pumplin Patch at Green Bluff. Photo: Flickr / eli


Where: Circleville, OH
When: October 17 to 20

Pumpkin Festivals - Prize Pumpkins

Enormous prize pumpkins on display at the Circleville Pumpkin Show, OH

Nicknamed the “Greatest Free Show on Earth”,  the Circleville Pumpkin Show has been going strong since 1903. A celebration of local agriculture, the four-day extravaganza gets underway on October 17 with the giant pumpkin weigh-in—last year’s champion tipped the scales at 1,436.5 pounds!—and the charming Little Miss Pumpkin parade. The jam-packed schedule also includes six more parades with floats and marching bands; bluegrass, gospel, country and classic-rock concerts; a pumpkin-pie eating contest; quilting and wood carving demos; a hog-calling competition; midway rides and games; and much, much more. Feelin’ hungry? Dig into pumpkin-inspired specialties like waffles, chili, pizza, cream puffs, brownies, taffy and elephant ears. And don’t miss the world’s largest pumpkin pie. Six feet in diameter and weighing over 400 pounds, it’s made each year by Lindsey’s Bakery, a local landmark on Main Street. To find out more about the festivities, visit Circleville Pumpkin Show.

Pumpkin Festivals - Lindsey's Bakery Pumpkin Pie

The World's Largest Pumpkin Pie at Lindsey's Bakery in Circleville, OH


Where: Statesville, NC
When: November 3

Pumpkin Festivals - Pumpkin Smashing Event

Pumpkin smashing event at the Statesville Pumpkin Fest, NC

The first Saturday in November, head 40 miles north of Charlotte to historic downtown Statesville for the 10th annual Pumpkin Festival. The family-centric event features 60-plus vendors selling arts and crafts, a Classic Car Cruise-In (all vehicles predate 1972), 5K race/walk, skateboard competition, and everything from pumpkin bowling to pumpkin painting to pumpkin smashing, where contestants young and old use wooden mallets to pound the orange gourds to mush. For details, visit Statesville Pumpkin Fest.


Where: Phoenix, AZ
When: October 25 to 28

Pumpkin Festivals - Phoenix

The Great Pumpkin Festival at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ

This kid-friendly event sponsored by the Desert Botanical Garden lets youngsters growing up in the desert experience an old-fashioned fall festival. Catch a ride on the hay wagon leading out to the pumpkin patch (kids 12 and under can pick a free pumpkin), then check out the farm animals at the petting zoo, wander the Amazing Hay Bale Maze, or enjoy live country-western music. Crafts and games are also scheduled. Entrance to the Great Pumpkin Festival is included with paid garden admission. To learn more, log onto The Great Pumpkin Festival.


For more on pumpkins and festive Halloween decor, consider:

13 Easy No-Carve DIY Pumpkins
Bob Vila’s First Annual Pumpkin Carving Contest
52 Unexpected and Amazing Ways to Decorate Pumpkins

“Green” Paint: Sherwin-Williams Emerald

With its new eco-minded Emerald paints and ColorCast Eco Toners, Sherwin-Williams gives homeowners more high-performing, zero-VOC options.


This summer, Sherwin-Williams broadened its eco-friendly offerings with the introduction of its high-end Emerald interior and exterior paints.

The company, which received the EPA’s prestigious Presidential Green Chemistry Award in 2011, plays up the “beauty, washability, and sustainability” of the new zero-VOC line. The finishes emit few odors during or after application and have built-in antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew on the paint.

The interior paints also received Indoor Air Quality Certification from GreenGuard, a third-party nonprofit certifying products that meet strict chemical emission limits, and which contribute to healthier indoor air.

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Seattle Bans Plastic Bags at the Checkout Counter

Seattle Bans Plastic Bags

Photo: Flickr mtsofan

In a bid to reduce waste and keep plastics out of the nation’s waterways and oceans, Seattle joins a growing number of cities pushing to eliminate plastic grocery bags for good.

On July 1st, the ban on plastic bags adopted by Seattle’s City Council in December of last year officially kicks into gear. Seattle—which passed the legislation at the urging of environmental groups working to protect marine life in Puget Sound—joins a growing number of progressive cities that prohibit retail stores from offering single-use plastic bags at the checkout counter.

Related: BYOBag: 6 Smart Reusable Shopping Bags

According to Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle recycles just 13% of the whopping 292 million plastic bags it uses each year. By encouraging citizens to switch to reusable canvas, string, or fabric bags, the city hopes to reduce waste at the source and curb plastic debris that ends up in local waterways.

Plastic bags first appeared in America’s supermarkets in 1977. Today, according to the National Resource Defense Council, the average American family brings close to 1,500 of the flimsy grocery bags home each year. And nationwide roughly 100 billion of the bags end up in landfills annually.

Sling-reusable-shopping-toteWhile plastic bags are now banned in Seattle, stores can continue to offer recyclable paper grocery sacks (with a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled fiber) as long as they charge a minimum of a nickel per bag—a fee that officials hope will encourage consumers to carry reusable bags, not just switch from plastic to paper. Currently, clear plastic bags used to protect produce, flowers, and deli meats—as well as dry cleaner and newspaper bags and household garbage bags sold in boxes—will be exempt from the ban.

Three other cities in Washington State, including Bellingham and Edmonton, have already banned plastic bags, as have Seattle’s West Coast neighbors San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. Los Angeles, America’s second-largest city, joined the ranks on May 23, 2012, when the City Council voted 13 to 1 to phase out single-use plastic bags citywide by spring 2013. Other plastic bag bans currently in place include Westport, Connecticut; Brownsville, Texas; the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai; and North Carolina’s Outer Banks, among others.

Related: 20 Ways to Go Green Today

“From our conversations with local retailers, and from what we have seen in other Washington cities that have adopted bans on throw-away plastic bags, we are expecting a smooth transition when the new law takes effect, said Seattle Public Utilities program manager Dick Lilly.

“Most major stores, particularly grocery and drug stores where about 70% of plastic bags originate, are already selling moderately-priced reusable bags to help their customers,” Lilly said. “And some stores are planning to give customers free bags during the first couple days of the plastic bag ban.”

Want to kick your plastic-bag habit? Click here to see a slideshow of some of our editors’ favorite reusable shopping bags, from classic string totes to sturdy canvas carry-alls designed to last for years.

For more on ‘green’ living and sustainability, consider:

Learning to Love Recycling
20 Ways to Go Green Today
7 DIY Recycling Centers for Small Spaces

DuPont’s Drive to Zero

DuPont Drive for Zero

DuPont's bins for recycled Corian

In a major push to green its global operations, DuPont Building Innovations, the makers of Corian and Tyvek building materials, eliminated 81 million pounds of manufacturing waste a year—and made trips to the landfill obsolete.

Some companies don’t fool around. Back in 2009, DuPont Building Innovations—manufacturer of Corian and Zodiaq solid surfaces and Tyvek building products—decided to alter its eco-footprint in a very big way.

The company announced its Drive to Zero landfill initiative and set as its goal the elimination of all 81 million pounds of waste it sent to landfills each year. No small order, considering that the company’s 15 production facilities span the globe from Buffalo, New York, to South Korea to Guangzhou, China.

For the past three years, “we’ve been on a sustainability mission,” said company president Timothy P. McCann, who notes that collaboration with supply-chain partners was key to tackling the company’s zero landfill goal.

As part of the initiative, everything at DuPont Building Innovation’s global manufacturing sites—from unusable raw materials and product scraps to construction debris, manufacturing byproducts, and even food waste from the company’s cafeterias—has become fair game for reuse or recycling.

Sanding waste from the shaping of Corian and Zodiaq now gets new life as a filler replacement in concrete, while crushed scrap Corian is used in landscaping stones and as a sub-base material for roadways. Once viewed as disposable, shipping pallets are now routinely repaired and reused. And Corian that doesn’t meet the company’s manufacturing standards gets ground up and incorporated into new sheets of solid surfacing.

DuPont Drive to Zero

DuPont Corian® Terra Collection

Indeed, the company’s Corian Terra Collection has also benefited from the zero landfill initiative. Five of the 33 colors in the line (white jasmine, rice paper, raffia, silver birch, and dove) contain at least 20% pre-consumer recycled resin content, a boon for renovators and builders looking to earn LEED points for material and resources with recycled content.

This spring, McDonald’s (which uses Corian solid surface materials in its North American fast food franchises) presented DuPont Building Innovations with its first-ever Supplier Sustainability Award.

“When we launched our three-year Drive to Zero landfill initiative, we knew that being environmentally responsible was the right thing to do for DuPont and something our customers would value,” said McCann. “This award is evidence that one of our most important customers does, indeed, appreciate our work to become a more earth-friendly business. I’m proud of the fact that through our efforts to completely eliminate landfill—not just reduce it—DuPont Building Innovations has created a new standard for our industry.”

For more on sustainability and green building, consider:

Learning to Love Recycling
7 DIY Small-Space Recycling Centers
The Meaning Behind “Green”: Guide to Certification Labels

Learning to Love Recycling

Rubbermaid Recycling Containers


Thanks to a new crop of thoughtfully designed Rubbermaid recycling products, corralling kitchen recyclables has never been easier.

Fact: According to the EPA, Americans are recycling more than ever. In 2010 alone, homeowners helped keep 85.1 million tons of glass, plastic, paper, and yard waste out of the country’s bulging landfills.

Confession: I’d like to say that I get great joy from recycling, but the reality is I hate all the clutter. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to do my small part. It’s just that I’ve never had a very good system for keeping everything organized. In my hometown of New York City, recycling has been mandatory since 1989. Like my neighbors, I dutifully stockpile soup cans, aluminum foil, wire hangers, soda pop bottles, and towering stacks of newspapers and catalogs, then haul everything to my building’s basement recycling bins every day or so.

I reside in a relatively small apartment with my husband, two kids, and dog, so the ever-present bags of bottles and cans and stacks of newspapers and magazines drive me crazy. I like neat. I like clean. But I don’t have room for the spiffy built-in recycling bins or the oversized plastic storage containers my lucky friends with garages and garden sheds recruit for sorting aluminum, glass, and paper.

Rubbermaid Recycling Products


Solution: Enter Rubbermaid’s clever new Hidden Recycler and 2-in-1 Recycler, both of which are bound to thrill space-challenged recyclers everywhere. My personal favorite is the Hidden Recycler, a five-gallon, soft-sided fabric bag with a lid and sturdy plastic handle, which attaches to the inside of most cabinet doors. Made from recycled materials, the durable waterproof bag keeps up to 36 cans tidy and out of sight, plus the bags can be detached from the frame and machine-washed when dirty. Best of all, the whole contraption costs just $15.99.

Rubbermaid Recycling Products - Enviro


The 2-in-1 Recycler is pretty sleek, too. The receptacle, which takes up 25 percent less floor space than most double recycling units, is divided into two containers. There’s a top bin with a lid as well as a second tilt-out bin on the bottom that makes it easy to separate recyclables from regular trash or to simply keep recyclables organized. Reasonably priced at $39.99, the trash bin also features Rubbermaid’s trademarked Liner Lock system, which guarantees that garbage bags “stay put no matter what.”

If you’re one of the fortunate homeowners with space to spare, Rubbermaid is also debuting its new Stackable Recycler in 20.5-, 24.5-, and 36.5-gallon sizes for both indoor and outdoor use. The heavy-duty units can be interchanged for various sorting jobs and feature hinged front doors that snap shut for secure transport. Prices range from $16.99 to $24.99.

Where to Buy: The new Rubbermaid recycling products can now be purchased online at and Look for them in stores nationwide starting March 15.


Christmas Tree Recycling - Treecycling

Photo: Cross Timbers Gazette

With the fun and excitement of the holidays behind us, it’s time to do what seemed unthinkable only a couple weeks ago–unstring the lights, remove the ornaments, and figure out what to do with the Christmas tree. If you have an artificial one, the solution is simple: pack it away for next year.  If, however, you are one of the 30 million households that have a real evergreen, consider disposing of your holiday treasure (“It was the best tree ever, wasn’t it?”) in a way that will not only be earth-friendly, but useful. For the record, a tree carted off to a landfill will take up a lot of space–and for quite some time, since the lack of oxygen makes decay a painfully slow process.

The solution: Treecycling.  Most communities around the country have a Christmas tree recycling program in place where discarded Christmas trees are chipped into mulch for gardens (including yours) or shredded for use on paths and hiking trails.  In areas where soil erosion is an issue, discarded Christmas trees can be effective sand and soil barriers and help aid sedimentation management.  You can even put the tree in the backyard to become a bird feeder and sanctuary or, if you have a fish pond, submerge it where it can serve as an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.

Where to begin?  The National Christmas Tree Association–together with, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based conservation group–offer a zip code locator to help you find a suitable treecycling solution near you.  Check it out and start the New Year off right–and green!

For more on sustainability, consider:

The Meaning Behind GREEN
Salvaging Starbucks for the Holidays
Nest Learning Thermostat: Digital-Age Home Temperature Control

Fighting Hunger—Can by Can

Canstruction "Loaded Dice" Gensler-WSP-Flack + Kurtz

"Loaded Dice" by Gensler and WSP-Flack+Kurtz. Photo: Annabel Willis

At the 19th Annual Canstruction Design/Build Competition—an art show and food drive benefiting City Harvest—some of New York City’s finest architects, designers, and engineers create whimsical sculptures made entirely from canned goods!

Last Thursday night, 25 teams of volunteer architects, designers, and engineers gathered at the World Financial Center to kick off Canstruction, an annual building competition and food drive sponsored by the Society of Design Administration and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Instead of bricks and mortar, the design wizards worked into the wee hours of the night creating giant, self-supporting structures using canned goods ranging from green beans and Spam to pineapple rings and black olives.

Related: CANstruction: A Can-do Design Competition

By dawn, everything from super-sized footwear (“Giving Hunger the Boot”) to a clock tower (“Time to End Hunger”) to a marvelous rendition of the Brooklyn Bridge, aptly titled “Suspending Hunger,” had taken shape. There was a curvaceous sea horse made of alternating layers of blue and gold tins of tuna, and gigantic dice that required five tons of canned goods to complete—enough food to provide a “square” meal for more than 5,000 people.

To exemplify the need to stomp out hunger, one group took Alexander McQueen’s iconic lobster claw shoe—famously worn by Lady Gaga—as their inspiration, cheekily reconstructing the high-heeled bootie out of 1,200 cans of Le Sueur peas and carrots. Other standouts included an enormous rendition of the popular Angry Bird game character, a CANtainer ship, and the TiCANic. And for the first time in the New York City event’s history, a group of 19 students from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Manhattan competed under the mentorship of architect Sandra Forman. Their entry, “Strike Out Hunger,” included jumbo bowling pins and a bowling ball, and included 4,041 cans. “The kids started working on the project in August, and they did a lot of fundraising, including selling a t-shirt they designed themselves, to raise the money to buy the canned goods,” said music teacher Yeou-Jey Hsu, the students’ advisor on the project.

A nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1993, Canstruction currently sponsors competitions in more than 100 cities across America and abroad. Since its inception, the group has donated more than 10 million cans of food to organizations working to fight hunger. At the conclusion of the New York City event, all canned goods will be given to City Harvest, making it the largest one-time donation the hunger-relief nonprofit receives annually.

Located at the World Financial Center at 200 Vesey Street in Battery Park City, the Canstruction Design/Build Competition is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until November 21. Admission is free, but attendees are asked to bring a can of food to contribute. To learn more, visit the canstruction site.

For highlights from the New York City Canstruction Competition, check out this CANstruction: A Can-do Design Competition slideshow

Happy Birthday Bon Ami!

Bon Ami Cleaning - Advertisement 1


For 125 years, this hardworking household cleanser has been keeping America’s kitchens and baths sparkly clean—without harsh chemicals or dyes.

Bon Ami Cleaning - Advertisement 2

Photo: Bon Ami 1940 Advertisement

I bought my first can of Bon Ami powder cleanser when I moved to New York City two decades ago. I’d just rented a studio apartment and wanted to give it a good clean, but I didn’t want to use chlorine bleach or toxic chemicals to get the job done.

Related: Cleaning Green: Eco-Friendly Products for Your Home

Up until that point, I’d been mixing my own vinegar-based cleaning products, but my new digs called for something stronger to get through the thick layers of accumulated grime left by the previous tenant. The man at the hardware store suggested Bon Ami when I vetoed some harsher brands, and my enduring relationship with a cleaning product was born.

It took a little elbow grease, but the powder lifted the greasy gunk off the ancient stovetop, and erased the stubborn soap scum on my chippy claw-foot tub, all without leaving a gritty residue. And best of all, the powdery powerhouse was cheap and worked way better than my earlier eco-friendly concoctions.

Bon Ami Cleaning - 1886 Formula

Photo: Bon Ami 1886 Formula

As I’ve come to find out, Bon Ami’s fans go way back. In fact, 2011 marks the family-owned company’s 125th year in business. “A lot has changed over the years. Bon Ami’s weathered the Depression, the chemical revolution, and endless fads, but our commitment to products that are effective, ecological, and affordable has remained a constant,” says Carolyn Beaham West, a fifth-generation family member and spokesperson for the brand.

Indeed, a 14-ounce can of their workhorse scrub still costs less than a buck in supermarkets and hardware stores. And the cleanser’s formulation—coconut and corn oils, a little bit of baking soda, a touch of soda ash, and gentle abrasives like limestone and feldspar, a waste product of quartz mining that would otherwise go to the landfill—remains as pure and simple as when it was first develop in 1886.

To meet growing demand for its earth-friendly products, the Missouri-based Bon Ami recently expanded its line to include dish soap, all-purpose cleaner (good for everything from floors and walls to vinyl car seats), and a liquid cleanser that’s easier to apply to vertical surfaces like shower stalls and bathroom walls, where soap residue and hard-water deposits can be a problem. Packaged in bottles made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic, the new cleaners are also free of phosphates and chlorine. Plus they boast a fresh tangerine-thyme scent that’s derived from essential oils, not artificial fragrances—a boon for anyone with chemical sensitivities.

Bon Ami Cleaning - Products

Photo: Bon Ami

As my relationship with Bon Ami has matured—and my address has improved— I’ve come to rely on the inexpensive cleanser for a lot more than cleaning tubs, sinks, and countertops. I’ve used it to scrub the oxidation from metal fireplace tools scored at an antiques fair, to give my stainless pots and pans like-new sparkle, and to spruce up crusty outdoor grills and plastic patio furniture. I’ve even been told the powder makes a pretty good silver polish when mixed into a paste with water. I’ll let you know how it works if I ever get around to shining up my great-grandmother’s sterling tea set.

To learn more, visit Bon Ami.

For more on green, consider:

Prevent Mold and Mildew
Green Bathroom Makeover
Quick Tip: Improve Your Home’s Air Quality

A New Generation of Fabric Storm Shutters

Fabric Storm Shutters

Photo: Monica Michael Willis

Lightweight, strong, and easy-to-install, today’s fabric storm “shutters” are manufactured to withstand the force of a Category 5 hurricane.

A few weeks back, during a trip to New Orleans, I had the opportunity to tour Brad Pitt’s Make It Right building project in the Lower Ninth Ward. Cesar Rodriguez, the nonprofit’s Construction Service Manager, served as my very informative guide. It was exciting to finally get a firsthand look at the 75 colorful LEED-certified dwellings that make up the first phase of the rebuilding initiative. Of the houses’ many forward-thinking features, I was especially curious to learn more about the new generation of fabric hurricane “shutters” that come standard in all of the Foundation’s “green” homes.

Made of a super-strong ballistic nylon—similar to what automakers use to fashion airbags—the fabric panels are a far cry from the cumbersome metal shutters I grew up helping to install whenever bad weather threatened my South Florida home. Besides being easier to set up, the fabric guards get high marks for sustainability, especially when compared to the plywood many homeowners use to board up their windows, then send straight to the landfill once the storm clears.

“Given what happened to the Lower Ninth Ward in the wake of Katrina, it was really important to Make It Right to offer homeowners a safe approach to preventing future hurricane damage,” says Cesar Rodriguez. “All of our houses are elevated five to eight feet from the ground, and many of the residents are elderly,” notes Rodriquez, a combination that makes installing heavy metal shutters or nailing plywood planks to doors and windows a laborious, costly, and potentially dangerous endeavor.

AstroGuard, the company that manufactured the lightweight hurricane panels for Make It Right’s first 75 homes, numbers among a growing number of firms now offering this simple-to-install alternative to traditional storm shutters. Based in Florida, home to the country’s most stringent hurricane building codes, AstroGuard guarantees that their super-strong panels will protect against wind, water, and flying debris generated by a Category 5 hurricane (Katrina was a Category 3).

Although price estimates depend on the square footage of a home as well as who installs the panels—DIYers can now buy the hurricane fabric and anchoring system at Home Depot—Make It Right spent roughly $1,000 to $1,200 per house to have 15 to 16 door and window panels custom-made and installed, notes Rodriguez. Made to withstand decades of wear and tear, the fabric panels feature a convenient label where homeowners can indicate the dimensions and location of the unit’s corresponding window or door, a helpful tool when a storm’s coming and timeliness counts. And best of all, once the bad weather passes, you simply fold the panels, put them in a storage bag, and store in a closest—where they’ll be waiting, good as new, the next time Mother Nature comes calling.

Fabric Storm Shutters from AstroGuard

Photo: AstroGuard

To watch a video on how to install AstroGuard hurricane fabric, click here.

For more on storm preparedness, consider:

Hurricane Protection for Porches, Windows, and Doors
Quick Tip:  Selecting Storm Shutters
Hurricane Proof Your House