Four Questions with Ryan North

by Wendy Gabriel

Ryan North
and his wife Tina operate Twin Cities Green, an eco-friendly store in Twin Cities GreenUptown Minneapolis. In addition to being an eco-entrepreneur, Ryan is also an actor, producer/director, web and graphic designer and a dad.

How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?

Since opening our first shop in 2006, my wife and I have tried to incorporate sustainable/green practices into our personal and business lives.

Everywhere you look in the shop you’ll find evidence of our commitment to being green. Our floors are made from recycled tires, the paint on the walls is low VOC, we use CFLs in our lighting, our computers are second hand, our checkout counter is made with old doors and kitchen cabinets, and we tear up all of our paper for scratch pads.

In our personal lives we’ve gone down to one car, we live in a very walkable neighborhood, we recycle our cans, plastics, paper, etc, we try as much as we can to buy organic produce and shop at farmer’s markets, we pick up trash, practice green lawn care, we don’t eat red meat, use CFLs at home, we try to be smart about energy and water use, and biggest of all, we try to instill these green virtues in our nine year old son… the future of the green movement!

Can you pinpoint the moment you realized you needed to live a more sustainable life?

Tina has, for a very long time, practiced sustainability; I can’t say the same. I always tell people that when Tina and I met, I was throwing away my cans and kind of made fun of her environmental concerns. Look at me now! It just goes to show you that it’s never too late to make some changes when it comes to your own impact on our world. When we opened “Re Gifts” in 2006, we definitely kicked up the greenness a few shades, or a lot of shades!

How do you educate your patrons to become ambassadors of the green movement?

I have always considered the products we sell to be inanimate ambassadors of the green movement, especially when they are given as gifts. When you give something from Twin Cities Green (even a gift certificate) you’re not only giving a gift that will be treasured, but you’re making a mini-statement. It’s an opportunity not only to introduce someone to eco-alternatives, but a chance to tell them why you support this kind of shopping choice. Within the shop, Tina and I are uber-educated when it comes to speaking about our products. The choices we make when it comes to carrying something in our shop are the result of days, weeks, and sometimes months of research. We also have a resource/learning center in the back of our shop, created by Do It Green! Minnesota – a wonderful non-profit organization. They keep the resource center stocked with pamphlets, books, magazines, and media. They also host free workshops, all for our customers and the community at large to educate them on making sustainable choices.

I also host a weekend radio show called, “Everything Green.” The show airs every Saturday from noon to 1:00 CDT on AM950, KTNF.

What is your favorite green product?

My favorite green product, right now, has got to be our wool-filled mattress toppers. It’s like laying down on a cloud! They’re covered in organic cotton, so soft, and made right here in the Midwest! Wool is great to sleep on. It regulates your temperature and wicks moisture away from your body as you sleep. And for someone who waits to turn the AC until the middle of the summer, moisture-wicking is pretty vital!

Read more in the Four Questions series:
Four Questions with Adam Shake
Four Questions with Dr. Alan Greene, part I
Four Questions with Dr. Alan Greene, part II
Four Questions with Dr. Alan Greene, part III
Four Questions with Lisa Mills Sutherland
Four Questions with Melissa Kushi
Four Questions with Dr. Marti Erickson
Four Questions with Linda McNair
Four Questions with Beth Terry

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  1. Mrs Green’s avatar

    I love your interviews; Ryan and Tina sound like a great team and I’m loving the idea of their recycled floors!

  2. graceonline’s avatar

    Thank you for publishing this interview with Ryan North. It’s helpful to get more of the back story and learn a bit of their philosophy and how they manage a green lifestyle. I checked out the Twin Cities Green online store and wish we had one like it here in San Francisco, since I’m trying to buy locally whenever possible now.

  3. MagicBrad’s avatar

    I talked with Ryan briefly at the Living Green EXPO about their Compost Tumblers, and have been in the store a couple times. It’s a great place to fin anything “green”.

    I am producing a HOME Improvement and Design EXPO at the Minneapolis Convention Center this fall (2009) and organizaing a “Green Pavilion” area. Anyone “local” to the Twin Cities area is welcome to attend and/or exhibit. I’ve got some special rates for environmentally friendly products, services and organizations.



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