Author Archives: cramcharran

At the Festival of Ideas StreetFest, we demonstrated how to upcycle old plastic bottles into sub-irrigating planters for your home or office — it’s easy, inexpensive and eco-friendly! Made from 1L, 2L or 3L bottles, these planters are a great way to keep your plants happy without accidental over-watering. So many people asked for the instructions at the demo, we decided to post them here, on our blog!
Def: Sub-Irrigated Planter (SIP) is a generic name for a special type of planter used in container gardening.  A SIP is any method of watering plants where the water is introduced from the bottom, allowing the water to soak upwards to the plant through capillary action (wicking)
What we love about self-watering planters, besides being easy to make, is that we don’t have to worry about over-watering our plants or under-watering them.

 

 

 
MATERIALS NEEDED:

  • Used Plastic Bottle (empty)(1L, 2L, or 3L)
  • metal skewer
  • potting soil
  • permanent marker
  • felt (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Remove the label from your bottle.
  2. Poke a series of holes in the neck and top of the bottle by heating a metal skewer over a gas burner. You can also use a wood burning pen or an electric soldering iron.
  3. Draw a straight line with a permanent marker around your bottle. A 14oz. can is a guide for how high up the bottle your line should be and helps keep your line straight. This is not an exact marker but a guide. The objective is to get the top of the neck to touch the inside of the bottom.
  4. Cut off the top of the bottle where the cap is located to keep the roots from clogging the bottle neck.
  5. Cut 1” of plastic from the bottom of the bottle to make up for the inch of bottle you just cut off. Make sure you cut straight!
  6. Get your soil and plant the top part of the bottle with seeds or your plant. The little holes are for the roots to poke out of so that they can soak up the water you will be putting in the base of the bottle. Don’t worry about the plant roots- they definitely know how to find water!
  7. Put the top of your bottle inside the bottom of the bottle and add water to the bottom part
  8. You’re done. Enjoy your beautiful new sub-irrigation planter.
  9. To water simply lift the top planter section from the bottom and add a measured amount of water, never add so much that it rises to the soil surface. The top ½” to ¾” should be dry. Remember… You are the self in self-watering
  10. For larger plastic containers like 5G water bottles, you can experiment by adding wicking material like polyester batting material (felt). Just pour some potting mix into the planter on top of the wick. Use a finger to push the soil down firmly until the wick protrudes at the neck opening. This will hold the soil in the planter and guarantees contact with the water

Many thanks to Groundworks INC for their help with this demonstration!

Share

YOLO Colorhouse: The Birth of a Non-Toxic Paint Company

November 1st, 2010 | Posted by cramcharran in Environment - (1 Comments)

Virginia Young and Janie Lowe, founders of YOLO Colorhouse.

They say that if you want to change the world, start with yourself–and that way of thinking has led to the creation of many a green business. Portland-based visual artists Virginia Young and Janie Lowe certainly took it to heart: When they saw a need for house paint that wouldn’t give off toxic fumes, they simply went out and started their own line.

The two had just moved from NYC to Portland to have a simpler life, more access to nature and more time for their art, when they started a painting business together to pay the bills. Using their experience as artists, they soon created their own range of set colors to make it easier for their customers to choose colors for their homes.

But as time passed, they noticed that nearly every work day ended with sore throats, headaches and bad moods. They suspected it was the paint’s fault, so they looked into the ingredients of normal, water-based latex paint and discovered the wide range of toxic chemicals it contains—many of which are known to cause the exact health problems they were experiencing.

They began working on their own line of zero-VOC paints right away, starting with simple formulas of clay and rice paste, which turned out to be both unpredictable and too costly. So they moved on to working with chemists to produce paints that offered the price point and performance they and their customers needed, but without any of the toxic chemicals found in traditional paints. They managed to formulate a range of paints without carcinogens, phthalates, formaldehiyde, VOCs, or air pollutants of any kind, and thus YOLO (from YOung and LOwe) Colorhouse was born. They now offer over 125 colors in 4 lines–for interiors, exterior work, kids’ rooms and general use.

Along with its generous selection of other low- and zero-VOC paints, Green Depot carries the entire YOLO Colorhouse line.

Share

How Green Is That Carpet? Green Label Plus Can Tell You.

October 28th, 2010 | Posted by cramcharran in Environment - (0 Comments)

Sometimes it seems like every day that we learn about some new thing to be afraid of in our homes—items we thought couldn’t be more innocent, like baby bottles, turn out to be made of toxic materials. Fortunately, though, it’s not that hard to find healthy and eco-friendly alternatives to those that aren’t so friendly. Eco-labels can be a huge help, if you know what you’re looking for. We wrote about a few of the most highly regarded ones to keep an eye out for here, and here’s one more: CRI Green Label Plus. CRI is the Carpet and Rug Institute, and Green Label Plus is their voluntary certification for sustainable carpeting.

Many brands of commercial and residential carpeting produced in recent decades have been proven to off-gas VOCs–not only when new, but sometimes as many as 12 years(!) after installation. Among the chemicals found to be emitted from some of the most popular brands are styrene, 4-PC and formaldehyde, all of which have been associated with respiratory and neurological damage at high concentrations. Many carpet manufacturers have also been called to task for the short life cycle of their products, and their inability to be recycled—and companies like Shaw have taken huge steps to make their carpeting work cradle-to-cradle, rather than just cradle-to-grave.

In order to address their products’ VOC issues, a number of manufacturers have also stepped up to the plate by starting to make safer, non-polluting carpeting available at competitive prices. Green Label Plus is a testing program that checks total VOC emissions and individual chemical concentrations for carpet brands that voluntarily register for evaluation. Only carpeting that emits either no VOC or levels low enough that they don’t threaten indoor air quality get to carry the Green Label Plus seal, above. So the next time you’re out looking for something soft to go under your naked tootsies, you can let the Green Seal Plus symbol help you choose something that’s healthy for both you and the environment.

Among the many other green products we carry, Green Depot offers a range of Green Label Plus-certified carpeting options, in materials ranging from New Zealand wool to jute and coir.

Share

More On Greenwashing

October 26th, 2010 | Posted by cramcharran in Environment | Green Products - (0 Comments)

We wrote a couple weeks ago about greenwashing (the troublesome practice of marketing a product as “green,” when it may not be, to burnish its image)  here.

You can read more about greenwashing, and the troubling results of a market survey carried out by TerraChoice, an independent reviewer of green claims, in this highly informative article from Gwendolyn Bounds in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Share

Radiant heat flooring warms a room by allowing warming tubes just under the floor’s surface to send heat upwards from the floor itself. At this point, it’s one of the most energy-efficient ways to heat a building, standing far ahead of conventional forced-air central heating and radiators. In fact, it so efficient that it’s recommended by the Passive House Institute, which we wrote about recently here.

With traditional forced-air central heating, warm air is blown into the room and immediately rises to the ceiling—making for a lovely warm ceiling (which nobody needs), but cold floors. Radiant heat, on the other hand, takes advantage of heat’s natural tendency to rise, making the best use of its journey upward by starting at the lowest point in the room. This process is generally far more efficient than any other form of heating, heating the room faster, keeping it warm longer, and allowing the thermostat to be set to up to 8 degrees lower than usual to obtain the same level of warmth. This results in not only lower energy bills, but less fossil-fuel consumption to provide the power that most heating systems require.

An added benefit of radiant heat is that it doesn’t dry out the air the way radiators and forced-air central heating systems do, so there’s less need for electric-powered humidifiers. But possibly the best thing about radiant heat is that it keeps your feet warm—no more freezing tootsies when you first get up in the morning!

Among its many other green products related to keeping your home warm efficiently, Green Depot carries various components for a radiant heat flooring system. The Complete Radiant Panel is an easy-to-install, modular panel with heating tubes built in, for quick sub-floor assembly. Warmboard Radiant Heat Subflooring is plywood subflooring with grooves for heating tubes pre-cut, and Tyroc is a super-insulating overlayment for cold, damp concrete floors that you can lay your radiant heat flooring panels directly on top of. And soon to be added to the lineup is NuHeat, a system of soft mats with heating elements built in—sort of like an electric blanket for your floor. Neat, huh?

Share

The Chlorine in Our Tap Water: It’s Worse Than We Thought

October 18th, 2010 | Posted by cramcharran in Environment - (0 Comments)

Across the country, environmentalists are waging campaigns to get people to drink more tap water, to save our environment from the scourge of up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste generated each year by the bottled water industry. According to Food and Water Watch , that plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce, and over 80 percent of plastic bottles are thrown away instead of recycled–so drinking from the tap not only saves waste and protects the environment, but helps reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil and offshore drilling, too. So it’s pretty clear: Tap is the way to go.

But there’s a downside to drinking tap water, which is that it’s usually at least somewhat polluted—at least in the U.S. and most of the Western Europe. Some of that pollution is simply left in after insufficient purification by municipal water supply utilities, but some of it is added in by those same utilities in the name of protecting our health–fluoride (to protect our teeth) and chlorine (to kill bacteria and other organisms) are two of the most common additives. Most states require water processing plants to add both to our water, so they’re pretty much impossible to avoid. But they’re both associated with elevated risks for certain illnesses, including cancer, with the evidence for a chlorine-cancer link emerging as the strongest.

Numerous studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and other widely respected medical journals around the world have documented a strong, significant increase in the incidence of bladder cancers among people who drink unfiltered, chlorinated tap water on a regular basis–with higher cancer rates among those who have been drinking it for the longest periods of time.

And bathing in tap water isn’t too much better. We not only absorb chlorine through our skin, but breathe it in as chloroform in the steam from a long hot shower, where it irritates our lungs and can cause asthma. Yes, chloroform is the stuff evil criminals in movies make people breathe to knock them out. And for one more scary fact, a study conducted by Dr. Niels Skakkebaek of the University of Copenhagen documented a nearly 50 percent decrease in male sperm counts in areas of Denmark where the water supply is chlorinated. Yikes.

Fortunately, however, it’s possible to enjoy the environmental (and political) benefits of using tap water and avoid the health hazards of the toxic chemicals in it, by using some form of home water filtration. A wide range of water filtration options can be found among the many other green products carried by Green Depot, ranging from simple filter pitchers to whole-house water supply filtration systems. A popular one among design junkies is the Aquaovo Ovopur system, a nifty ceramic giant egg that uses carbon, ceramics and quartz to remove not just chlorine but a host of other toxins naturally. See it and many more here.

Share