IMAGE: Lori Hill and John Robinette. Photo courtesy Sister Eden Media.
BY MORGAN FECTO
JAN 26 — There’s two things to know about Lori Hill. She would only give someone a job that she’s done herself, and she wants to make people laugh. As president of Sister Eden Media, she does both.
“These walls are low-flow. Oh, listen to me. I mean low-VOC,” she said in the kitchen of her Central Avenue home, meaning that her wall paint contains fewer volatile organic compounds that are toxic to human health.
She also wants the quick and dirty tips in her videos to answer enduring questions about living sustainably.
“How do I recycle this?” “Why would I take the motel soap?” and “How did I lose my (Eco) Virginity?” are questions that Hill answered for herself before answering for viewers.
The Sister Eden episode How I Lost My (Eco) Virginity?.
“People don’t want to be lectured,” Hill said. “The old way of doing things in the ‘70s was the alarmist statistics and finger wagging, which may have worked then, but today people are like, ‘It’s a free world, I’m doing what I want.’ You just have to get them thinking, and we’re doing that through humor.”
Hill is an eco-minded, former green event planner who’s preached what she’s practiced since 2012 when she launched Sister Eden with her husband John Robinette.
“When we started, we didn’t have any focus. We were just like, ‘shiny object, shiny object, shiny object!’” Hill said. “Then we realized we wanted to make these funny. John got really involved and said, ‘let’s try to do this ourselves.’”
Hill and Robinette’s videos range from product, book, and film reviews, tongue-in-cheek videos from their “Sitcom Series,” and more recently, vlogs about Hill’s day-to-day.
“Boy, have we evolved,” she said. “When I look at our first videos, the ones we don’t even show to the public anymore, it’s like, ‘Oh, God.’”
Today, they’ve launched a new website and easily come by ideas for green content. Finding actual green, however, is still a hurdle.
“We’re not making money yet, still in startup mode,” Hill said. “What we’re really focused on now is gaining followers and possible brand deals with eco-friendly products who support our mission. The one thing that drives me crazy is when you watch movies or TV shows, and so much of it is still bottled water. I’m like ‘Really?’ This is Hollywood and New York, two liberal towns, and they’re still showing people drinking plastic water bottles?”
Sister Eden’s next goal is to insure that the brands that advertise on their YouTube channel have ideals that match theirs. Spreading what they’ve learned to other small businesses is also key.
“We’ve got a talk coming up on the 28th called ‘The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Video for Social Media,’ and it’s for Level Up in Silver Spring,” Hill said. “We’re going to teach people how to make YouTube videos for their brands on the cheap.”
Lori Hill and John Robinette of Sister Eden. Photo by balance photography.
Although many startups on the rise need time to decompress, Hill and Robinette are committed to taking their work home with them.
From the street, their house looks like any other in Takoma Park. The box on their porch labeled “Recycle your corks here!” distinguishes theirs from the other bungalows.
“Don’t throw them away, bring them here! You know you’re not making that cork board,” Hill says to her neighbors. She collects corks from the neighborhood and sends them to ReCork, which uses old corks in consumer products, such as flooring.
Inside, their home is half old charm, half shiny (but not new) remodel. Their sofas are recovered with 50 percent recycled leather and 50 percent faux-leather, their countertops are post-consumer paper treated with cashew shell shellac, and they even reuse their water.
“The beautiful thing about a tankless water heater is water isn’t just sitting there constantly being warmed, but the challenge is, you have to run the water for a little bit before it heats up,” Hill said. “I’m not all about getting into it cold, but I can’t stand running water, so I let the water fill up this bucket, and we use it if we’re soaking dishes or if we’re watering plants or to flush the toilet.”
Hill knows there’s room for improvement in her routine. Along with putting compost bins in all her bathrooms (for hair, kleenexes, etc.), she strives for a zero-waste home, and to keep learning new things to pass on.
“I feel like, leave things better than when they came to you. We have this one planet and we have to take care of it,” Hill said.
Robinette and Hill had this notion in mind when they named Sister Eden.
Hill said: “Everything is ‘mother earth, mother this, mother that,’ and John’s like, ‘How about your sister? Because you’re going to be offering advice, and you trust your sister.’ And then ‘Eden’ is our reference to back before we screwed up the planet.”