TEANECK, N.J. — For Teaneck's Daniele Dario, it started with a watch.
A biodegradable one, particularly. A gift from his mother back home in Venice, Italy, when he was 6.
She explained that the watch was made from recycled materials, which was better for the planet than using plastic or other artificial materials.
When Dario moved from to Teaneck in 2008, he remembered the watch.
Well, he remembered the lesson he learned from his mom at such a young age: reduce, reuse, recycle.
What Dario noticed when he immigrated was how much energy was being wasted. It was quite different from the Italian way of life — with recycling bins for glass, metal and plastic on practically every corner.
Here, he saw gas-guzzling SUVs. No recycling bins on corners — just trash cans.
But mostly, Dario saw an opportunity to help.
"I'm proud to be an American," he said, "but we're among the top three countries that create the most pollution in the world."
After analyzing the market and learning about the specific energy needs in the region, Dario founded Residential Energy Improvements, LLC on Catalpa Avenue in 2014.
"'Maybe I can make a little bit of a difference,'" he thought.
Maybe I can help the community a little bit.
Dario first became an energy analyst, and then a home energy performance contractor.
He now visits houses from Tenafly to Short Hills, to perform comprehensive home energy audits — from the outside in, top to bottom (SEE VIDEO ABOVE FOR MORE).
While on scene, he aims to educate clients on how to save money and be more environmentally conscious of the earth's limited resources.
What most people don't know is that New Jersey offers up to $4,000 in grants to residents that cover all of Dario's services.
Dario will tell you right off the bat that converting from oil to gas is not only cleaner for the environment, but will save residents up to $3,000 per year.
He spends between 3 and 4 hours inspecting a home's insulation, air-sealing, heating system, air conditioning, mold and CO (carbon-monoxide) levels.
He sees a house as its own eco-system. Each part is somehow related to another, and fixing one problem may cause another in elsewhere.
"You shouldn't just call a plumber, or the air conditioning guy," said Dario, father of two. "Everyone will quote you for their services without checking the rest of the house."
Improving a home's insulation — "making it tighter" — could create mold due to poor air circulation. Think checks and balances.
Dario sees a frightening number of gas leaks, and an even more terrifying elevation in CO levels.
"I just finished a house in Clifton with CO levels so high that if there was a leak, it could kill someone in five minutes," he said.
Now is his busy season.
"People move into a new home," he said. "Then they realize in the winter that it has very bad insulation."
That's typical for the older, bigger houses made with wood, Dario said.
Dario hopes to see even more geothermal and self-sufficient houses.
He knows that'll take time but in the meantime, he's enjoying helping people save money and be more comfortable in their own homes.
"Our homes are where we live," he said. "Our home is our environment."