Finding a Way Forward: Eco Achievers

Lindsey Elton is the co-owner and President of Eco Achievers, a company that helps new and existing buildings achieve green certifications like LEED, ENERGY STAR, NGBS, and Passive House. Eco Achievers is based outside of Chicago, where Lindsey’s four colleagues live, and where about 75% of their business is.

She began working remotely out of the Green Garage after she moved home in 2019 to open their Detroit office, which was a longtime dream of hers. This was also the same time that she and her colleagues purchased the business from its previous owner—a move that brought simultaneous excitement, opportunity, and a whole new set of anxieties.

Lindsey says that as a small business “without a lot of backup,” her tight-knit team entered the COVID19 crisis prepared for the worst, having difficult conversations about the company’s bankroll and how much money each of them needed to keep their heads above water. But by March, it was clear that the national construction industry wasn’t slowing down, and by April, Eco Achievers sent out their highest number of proposals ever. June followed that with the highest numbers of signed contracts since their new company began.

While they have been working consistently since early in the crisis, Eco Achievers has had to make some significant changes to their operations these last months. For instance, green building certification typically requires a number of site inspections and testing, but they’ve chosen to suspend visits to several of their occupied projects, like nursing homes and affordable housing developments, that are just too densely populated to justify the risk that their visits would present. Mid-construction new builds are a bit easier, since they’re generally open air construction sites, but Lindsey says that they’ve had to make changes there, too, donning masks and gloves for every visit and scheduling visits at the end of the day, or on weekends, to reduce contact with other workers on site.

Lindsey mentioned that two of her colleagues have had babies since the crisis began, and that given her team’s growing family obligations, another colleague has stepped forward to handle the lion’s share of site visits (a workload previously shared by four people). Lindsey herself had been going back to Chicago one or two times a month to support the team and projects before the crisis, but given the risks associated with travel, she’s only been back once since February.  

Lindsey is getting used to spending more time at home in Detroit, and to taking more video calls than ever at the Green Garage. She says that her whole team is focused on the blessing of having work and being able to spend more time with their families at home, “even if it’s chaotic, and they want to pull their hair out at times.”

“We’re just so grateful that as a new business, we’ve been able to stay the course,” she says. “Because failure isn’t an option. Sinking isn’t an option. You have to be ready to do whatever it takes to get through this.”

This is part of a series looking at how Green Garage businesses-in-residence are moving forward during the COVID19 crisis. No one story is intended to paint a complete picture, but taken together, we hope that they will illuminate, in a helpful way, the struggles and successes of some Detroit businesses during these extraordinary times.

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