Linda Stengel walks lightly on this earth, seeking ways toward environmental sustainability at home and at work.

A local acupuncturist and massage therapist, she reduces pain using ancient healing methods and makes her own salves and teas from plants in her garden.

Reusing rainwater from rain barrels, she waters her vegetable and herb garden, nourishing them with compost from home-grown worm castings.

Stengel’s latest chapter in green living has been the installation of solar panels on the roof of her home and business space, the former Sheridan Motel at 3624 Sheridan Road.

Stengel and her husband, Dick Kinch, purchased the 1950s-era building in 2010, utilizing environmentally responsible technology and materials to renovate the interior from a motel to business and living quarters. They repainted the walls with primer and paint devoid of chemicals that give off potentially noxious fumes. Carpeting squares are adhesive-free.

To brighten up dark areas like the business entryway and a windowless bathroom, they installed tubular daylighting devices, sometimes referred to as TDDs.

The solar tubes came on board in 2011 after severe winds knocked out power to many homes in Kenosha, Stengel said. Running through the ceiling to the outside, the solar tubes act like prisms that trap and refract light with an effect like a soft-but-bright skylight.

Outside on both sides of the driveway, they planted a garden with herbs including mugwort, camomile, comfrey and peppermint, which Stengel makes into teas and salves. The backyard and a vacated city alleyway support tomatoes, fennel, carrots, onions and pole beans.

In May 2012, the business received a grant from the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network to install a rain garden in the front yard facing Sheridan Road. WIN gave Partners in Health 196 native plants for a 196-square-foot garden. “The plants help filter rainwater through deep roots to return cleaner water to the watershed than regular runoff would,” Stengel explained.

Going solar is the latest chapter in their efforts to go green. In late October, 23 solar panels, covering 498 square feet surface area of the clinic’s roof, were installed.

The project came about when Stengel’s business, Partners in Health, joined 23 other homeowners and businesses in Kenosha and Racine counties in a Southeast Wisconsin Solar Group purchase this fall.

Arch Electric, the contractor for the group purchase, determined that Stengel’s business needed 23 solar panels. This, Stengel said, should generate about 10,356 kilowatts during “an average Wisconsin year.”

“We will have a zero energy bill for sure during the summer months; in fact, we’ll generate enough energy to sell some back to the utility company.”

A few days before the system went live on Nov. 17, Stengel said, “If the sun is shining, we’ll watch the (electric) meter go backwards.”

Stengel was sold on the program after hearing a presentation on the proposed group buy. After tax incentives and rebates, she said it was affordable. The original price for materials and installation was about $25,000; after rebates it came to about $21,000, “about the cost of a fairly inexpensive new car,” Stengel said.

Financial considerations aside, Stengel said, “It was the right thing to do. We can’t keep burning coal in plants any more.”

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