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When you walk into Green Energy Design and Green General Store the first thing you notice is two businesses sharing one space blended seamlessly through a commitment to sustainable living. Therein forms the symbiotic relationship between a progressive office atmosphere and a vibrant, colorful retail store. One side is host to Green Energy Design, headed by Ryk Lesser, where he runs a growing business dedicated to alternative and green energy. The other side, run by Ryk’s wife Andrea (Andi) Tassencourt, is full of unique fabrics, pottery, and jewelry from around the world. The story of how this marriage of retail and office space came to be began when Andy and Ryk themselves tied the knot.
When Andi and Ryk married in 2005, they were living in Santa Cruz, California. Ryk, with a background in architecture, had more and more clients seeking out green energy alternatives like solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling systems. “With things like global warming and soaring energy costs,” says Ryk, “I thought my design knowledge along with focus in geothermal and solar energy would be a good fit.” Andi, an artist specializing in textiles, had been both an office manager and manager of several retail stores. With her extensive knowledge of the retail market she felt the time was right to realize her dream of opening a shop of her own. As a new chapter opened in their lives, they decided the time was right to buy a home and perhaps take control of their destiny by starting a business promoting responsible, sustainable living.
Buying a home in the Santa Cruz was not an option for them so they set out to find a place with a similar feel. “I used to come down to the Eastern Shore sailing when I was a kid, but I hadn’t been here in years,” says Andi. She was reminded of the area by a cousin who knew she and Ryk were looking for a place on the water. “We found a house we liked and the whole thing was cemented,” says Andi. They made the decision to move across the country and start their own business.
They liked the idea that the Eastern Shore is a defined a geographical area in which they could concentrate their energies. “There was a niche that wasn’t being filled,” says Ryk, “so when we moved here we specifically started to focus on green energy.” Now Green Energy Design is flourishing, installing solar panels and geothermal units for both new and existing homes and businesses.
The past twenty years has seen a significant increase in the efficiency of solar panels, with an increase in demand for solar systems. As a result, the purchase and installation costs have come down. However, there is an alternative to solar ownership—solar leasing. When people decide to lease, they usually incur limited upfront costs as well as a fixed monthly payment. “Leasing may be a more attractive option because it is a less expensive way to benefit from solar power,” says Ryk. Green Energy Design offers both options to clients..
Those who have high oil bills and are weary of the constant state of flux in the oil market might want to consider switching to a geothermal system. Geothermal works by taking the air from your home and forcing it into the ground. It easily and efficiently absorbs both hot and cool temperatures requiring less energy to maintain a comfortable home. “These systems take about 5-6 years to pay off,” says Ryk, “but a lot of our customers come away with energy costs cancelled out by their gains faster than they might have thought possible.”
The idea of promoting sustainable living carries through to Green Energy Design’s retail business, Green General Store, run by Andi. “Because of the whole green aspect to the business I started selling the 'green lifestyle,' with things like stainless steel water bottles” says Andi. Over time though, she gradually made the move to promoting sustainable growth in countries where people sometimes find it hard to make a fair, living wage. She now works with fair trade groups like SERRV and 10,000 Villages. These organizations insure that workers in underdeveloped countries receive not only a fair wage, but work in healthy, safe environments. More recently she has been seeking out women’s cooperatives. “The idea of reaching out to other women in the world,” continues Andi, “making sure they have an income and that they are able to make something they are proud of really appealed to me.”
Ryk Lesser and Andi Tassencourt’s journey dedicated to sustainable living—whether through the environment or fair trade—is an intriguing one. “We knew Talbot County would be a great place to live with a lot of potential for solar and alternative energy,” says Andi. Easton is now a little bit greener thanks to these two.
*Correction from Ryk about the geothermal process: "The process does not involve forcing the interior air from the house, into the ground, but instead, it takes the heat from the interior of the building and transfers it into the ground via a series heat transfer wells. The heat from the house is transferred from the house using a closed circuit of fluid ,(glychol) which is pumped through the ground using vertical wells. The glychol fluid is the medium which absorbs heat from one space and dissipates that heat in another space (the vertical well). It maybe a technical point that most readers might miss but that's a bit more accurate."