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Planet People

Three Stories from Folks Living Lives of Sustainability

Article by Jenny Beightol, Michael Beightol, Charlie Shimkus

Photography by Stephen Neilson

Originally published in SW Lake Lifestyle



All American Reclaim upcycles material so customers can use it for years to come.

When he was a kid Andy Michaelis played as much baseball as any of his friends, but he “was always happiest just being in our garage building stuff.”

Now after a career as a local carpenter and living in his hometown with his wife, Eileen, raising a family in a house his father built, Michaelis owns a growing business called All American Reclaim in Lake Barrington.

About 20 years ago a homeowner had an unusual request; she wanted to use recovered barn wood.“Older woods offer so much more than newer cuts,” Michaelis says. “The grain is typically richer, and boards are harder and really straight.”

That client request prompted the next part of Michaelis career. The Great Recession caused Michaelis to go all in on a reclamation and salvage business in Crystal Lake. Hard work and hustle led to more success; over time he needed a bigger building.

Now a walk through All American Reclaim is like a stroll through history. In neatly arranged rows reclaimed lumber and live edge planks soar toward high ceilings. Michaelis’ team includes carpenters and furniture makers who create future family heirlooms for customers. Other salvaged goods - handles, knobs, plates, hinges, brackets and more - invite casual browsers or craftspeople looking for that special something. Artfully displayed antiques, decor and other reclaimed products are upfront in the showroom with delightful treasures at every turn, including many representations of chickens scattered about (just like chickens in a barnyard).

At its core All American Reclaim is an upcycler, taking material out of the waste stream so customers can use it in homes or businesses for years to come.

All American Reclaim serves customers and the trades at its sprawling location at 990 W. Northwest Highway, Lake Barrington. Learn more at or call 224.209.8283.


Planet Protector

Relieve Eco-Anxiety By Taking Three Easy Steps to Help the Planet

From micro-plastics in the oceans to catastrophic fires, our planet is suffering. To ease “eco-anxiety,” there are actions Earth dwellers can take to make a positive impact on their planet’s future.

Eat local: Have you ever considered the fossil fuel used to get that mango to your neighborhood grocer? When you shop at farmer’s markets, not only are you supporting local producers but also lower-impact ways to put food on your table. Many farmers at markets do certified organic growing and minimize the waste and pollution through solutions like on-site composting.  One great option is Green City Market, a year-round market featuring local family farms.

Ditch plastic: Most plastic is never recycled. The plastic used for packaging typically ends up in landfills or in waterways harming wildlife and humans. Thankfully, there are many plastic-free alternatives for your household. Replace shampoo bottles with shampoo bars (found at Lush) and opt for silicone, dishwasher-safe Stasher bags instead of plastic sandwich bags. Startups like Blueland offer eco-friendly kits that include dissolvable tablets of cleaning solution and reusable bottles to help reduce the plastic that gets into the waste stream.

Offset carbon emissions from air travel: Every time we fly, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere trapping heat. Carbon offsets are financial contributions to projects that help reduce greenhouse gases and balance out environmental damage from air travel. is a handy site that makes it easy to convert miles flown into dollars to donate. Cool Effect, a nonprofit bringing the best global carbon projects to one platform, endorses a range of initiatives and makes donating easy. Carbon offsets don’t solve the problem entirely, but until 100% renewable energy fuels air travel, it’s an action we can take to reduce our carbon footprint.

About the Author: Jenny Beightol is a Chicagoan committed to a more sustainable lifestyle.


Energy Consultant

Solar Power Reduces Our Dependence on Fossil Fuels While Protecting the Environment

A home that gets around four peak sun hours is considered a good location for solar panels. In the end it really doesn’t matter whether there are cloudy, rainy or snowy days since the company I work with, Vivint Solar, offers guaranteed production from their systems.

Solar panels work best when facing south and west. North and east facing panels are less effective, but still contribute to overall energy production. Small systems (5 kW) run about $15,600 or $11,544 after a 26% Federal Investment Tax Credit. A larger system producing 10 kW could run $31,200 (or $23,088 after the credit). Note that in 2021 the federal credit drops to 22%. There are also incentives from the State of Illinois.

Because of net metering, a homeowner sends excess power back to the grid and banks it for later use. The electrical grid, however, can handle only a limited amount of this activity; as more people go solar, this limit is reduced. When an area fills up it is closed to additional installations. Solar system leasing eliminates an outlay of cash. If a home meets specific criteria a solar company installs, maintains and insures the panels. The homeowner benefits from cheaper energy.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported last October that ComEd prices rose to their highest level in four years with rates likely to continue rising. Leases give a homeowner fixed, predictable payments with pricing that locks in at the very beginning. You may not realize it, but every one of us pays part of our electricity bill so that others can go solar. That means we all bear the cost of paying for others to go solar every month.

Charlie Shimkus of Solterra Sun can help determine whether a home qualifies for solar panels. Call him at 312.636.9468.

  • Charlie Shimkus (L), with homeowner Bill Moylan.