Author Archives: tjones

At Home with LEED: Our Platinum Project

March 12th, 2012 | Posted by tjones in Green Building - (0 Comments)

Green Depot NYC - Certified LEED Platinum

As the leading retailer of green building products in the nation, Green Depot has long been at the forefront of supplying materials for certified green projects. The product experts at each of our locations have assisted with countless certifications – residential and commercial. So, we were pleased to get to apply our knowledge to our own flagship store in New York City. When we were done with our renovations in 2010, our Bowery store became the first to achieve a LEED Platinum Certified Retail Space in all of New York State .

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation is an “internationally recognized green building certification system,” organized and developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.  All buildings which apply for LEED certification are judged on a set of prerequisites and credits – prerequisites being mandatory for all projects, and credits accumulating to raise a building’s certification from Certified, up through Silver, Gold, and Platinum.  Credits are judged on criteria as diverse as the siting of the building, water efficiency, energy consumption, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

Our New York City store, located at 222 Bowery is a beautiful, unique space and carries nearly all of our green building supplies and green lifestyle products.  We’re located in the building that once held NYC’s first YMCA and was home to a string of artists and musicians – including Mark Rothko – so we worked closely with the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission to preserve some of the original structural elements like tiling from the YMCA pool.

We gained LEED credits through our renovation projects: improved indoor air quality, low-VOC finishes, high-efficiency energy handler, LED light fixtures, and reused and recycled construction materials, among other criteria.

If you are in NYC, stop in and take a look at our Bowery store!  If you are working on a green building, we  have people knowledgeable in LEED Certification at all of our locations nationwide and we can assist you in reaching your LEED goals with Green Depot products. Most of our building products count toward LEED points in at least one category, so be sure to ask when you’re getting started on your project!

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

 (Originally posted on April 31, 2011 with the title “Proud to be Green!”)

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September has just arrived and that means Autumn will soon arrive.  Even though in some places we might still be in the dog days of summer, thinking ahead to the cooler and cold months can ensure you’re not scrambling to weatherize at the last minute, and can even save you money as demand for weatherization projects are in lesser demand.

Weatherizing is a simple concept.  Any home that’s not built to be hyper-efficient (like a passive house) typically has drafts.  These often come from under doors, around window frames, and from the attic.  Each draft is a space in the barrier between the interior of your house and the great outdoors, where heated air (in the winter) and cooled air (in the summer can escape) – raising the cost of heating and cooling a home.  Weatherizing involves sealing up those cracks with caulk, insulation, weather strips, and newer windows, among other things.

The idea that weatherizing is not worth the initial cost, or that those initial costs won’t be offset over time, isn’t exactly accurate, even if it’s a common concern.  Indeed, weatherization has proven to increase home energy efficiency so significantly that weatherizing programs are common amongst government and community development initiatives. The Department of Energy, for example, has run the Weatherization Assistance Program since 1972, which helps low-income people insulate their homes.  The DoE estimates that each of these homes weatherized saves nearly $350 annually, and since 1972 more than 6.2 million homes have been weatherized under the assistance program, saving the United States more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually.

Weatherizing a home can involve any number of home projects, some of which may be major, and some of which may be minor, according to your budget constraints.  Sealing cracks with caulk and installing a more energy-efficient thermostat are some examples of small projects; re-insulating your walls and attic (with eco insulation, we hope!) and installing a new furnace or double-paned windows are examples of significantly larger and more expensive projects – although the savings will be even more substantial over time.

We’ve even written in the past about some of the less-obvious places to use VOC-free caulking to weatherize your home.  These include gaps between construction materials (think between brink and wood, or the foundation and walls); wherever utility lines enter a house; any vent, including dryer and air conditioning vents; and around mail chutes. For the very ambitious weatherizer, there are ways to check for gaps beyond feeling with the hand.  Depressurizing the home by turning off all heating and cooling, closing all windows and doors, and then moving an incense stick around common leak gaps can help determine where there are drafts getting in.

Here are a few examples of some green products that Green Depot carries to get your home as prepared as possible for the upcoming autumn and winter months:

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

1. Insulation: We’ve written extensively in the past about insulating homes and the added benefits of fitting your home so that it retains more heat, instead of losing it.  This is better for reducing heating costs, and thus for reducing our environmental footprint – approximately 4 metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year from residences, most of which is the consequence of home heating.  Conventional fiberglass insulation is a suspected carcinogen, so using a green product like Bonded Logic Ultratouch Recycled Cotton Insulation is a major step towards making a greener home.  For an even more efficient home, National Fiber Cel-Pak Cellulose Insulation is a blow-in material that settles into the tiniest corners and cracks of walls, ceilings, and attics.

2. Caulks and Sealants: Closing up cracks and drafts in homes is an effective – and inexpensive – way to conserve energy and reduce heating and cooling costs.   Using VOC-free caulks is an important way to protect the health of everyone in your home.  VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that are “off-gassed” from conventional caulks and can cause serious neurological problems, kidney failure, and is a suspected carcinogen.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

 

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One of the most innovative instances of upcycling (that is, converting waste materials into new materials or products that have a greater environmental value) that we’ve come across is Fireclay Tiles.

NPR’s Morning Edition was quick to pick up on this story as well for its sheer ingenuity: Fireclay Tile uses discarded porcelain toilets to make tiling.

It’s an excellent use for the old toilets.  According to the manager of the landfill where Fireclay first began sourcing their old toilets, those useless products were being sent to Asia to be recycled.  Fireclay began buying up these toilets by the tonnage, and grinding them down into a sandy material to be mixed in with clay.

The results of this project have been substantial.  Today, Fireclay’s Debris Series Recycled tile uses over 60% locally-sourced post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled materials to create all sorts of green products: field, trim, and decorative tile.  The tiles are fired in kilns using natural gas, using energy-efficient processes.  Additionally, Fireclay Debris Series tiles are 100% VOC-free.

What’s more, is that using Debris Series tiles can qualifying a building for LEED points.

To check out the Fireclay tile that Green Depot carries, click here.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities

August 28th, 2011 | Posted by tjones in Green Building | Nature | Sustainability - (0 Comments)

Deforestation is a major environmental issue – but not only in the tropical rainforests of the world.  Throughout North America, many forests have been degraded and permanently damaged from clear-cut harvesting techniques.  Clear-cutting has a variety of significant negative impacts on local ecosystems wherever it occurs: it leads to the loss of habitat for wildlife species; a loss of jobs and other economic activity once the forest is cleared; a greater possibility of invasive species and other unwanted flora establishing itself on the clearcut site; a decrease in property values; and a decrease in available outdoor recreation opportunities.

Clearcutting can also result in massive soil erosion.  A study conducted at the University of Oregon found that clear cut areas often suffer three times as much erosion due to slides than areas that were never clear cut; and when logging roads are included in these calculations, slide activity is five times greater relative to nearby forested areas. [Click here for the report].  Moreover, a study from Southern University Carbondale in Illinois found that even after 30 years of recovery of a clear cut oak forest, natural occurrence of native oak trees was dramatically reduced and the presence of other species was greatly increased.  Clear cutting didn’t only result in the loss of forest habitat and ecosystem in 1973, when that forest was first harvested – the clear cutting resulted in a permanent (and, arguably, unnatural) alteration to the area’s forest ecosystem. [Click here for the report].

Enter the Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities (HFHC) partnership located in Portland, Oregon.  HFHC is an innovative and collaborative project founded by Sustainable Northwest, an NGO dedicated to building partnerships that promote environmentally-sound economic development in Northwest American communities.

The HFHC Partnership is a network of people, organizations, and small businesses working together to accomplish a common vision: to build awareness of, and demand for, regionally and responsibly-produced wood products that are created in rural communities.  According to their website, the network not only raises that awareness, but “enhances rural capacity to produce and market goods that benefit both entrepreneurs and forest ecosystems.”  The idea is that through creating a sustainable wood economy, we can build a rural Northwestern economy that doesn’t rely on the destruction of forest ecosystems to give people a stable livelihood.

Sustainable Northwest not only supports the enlargement of this network, but also runs a for-profit subsidiary which promotes and distributes HFHC member products into the marketplace. Sustainable Northwest Wood connects small wood mills to green building markets to help promote not only sustainable forestry, but to promote green building and construction as well.  In this manner, HFHC also functions as a marketing service which helps promote healthy forests, and sustainable local economies.

And to back up their claims of sustainability, HFHC relies on the international standard of sustainable forest management: Forest Stewardship Council certification.  HFHC maintains a group certificate for FSC Chain of Custody, tracking wood products from the forest to the consumer.  According to the HFHC, 25 businesses participate in the group chain of custody.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Members of the Health Forests, Healthy Communities partnership have all of their wood products certified under FSC guidelines, and all of the lumber products that we carry at Green Depot are likewise FSC-approved.  Lumber products with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) seal are sourced from forests that are managed responsibly and sustainably.  The FSC vets forest managers and lumber production companies to ensure that their methods are sustainable before going to market.  Certification criteria require that logging methods preserve biodiversity, reduce environmental impacts, maintain the rights of indigenous communities and forestry workers, include a long-term forest management plan, comply with laws and international treaties, and that logging practices do not destroy forests, protect the habitats of endangered wildlife, and that profits from commercial forest endeavors are shared equitably with forest communities.  The FSC is non-governmental, non-for-profit, and all lumber producers participate in the program voluntarily.

Green Depot carries FSC-Certified wood, and can provide Chain of Custody (CoC) documentation, ensuring total tracking of the supply chain from forest to mill to processor, distributor, or treater; and finally, to delivery at our warehouses or jobsite.

In particular, check out one of the HFHC products we carry: Butcher Block Countertops, or Madrona flooring!

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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Heading Back to University!

August 25th, 2011 | Posted by tjones in Environment | Green Products - (0 Comments)

My own educational adventures have been long.  I earned my B.A. from Oberlin College in 2007, and then went back to school at Columbia University for my M.A. for 2009 – 2010.  After a year off, I’m heading off for a Ph.D program in environmental anthropology at the end of the month.

Between frantically preparing for my move and ensuring that I am properly enrolled and registered for new courses, I’ve had to think through what I’ll need for the upcoming year, and how I can source what I need ethically and in an environmentally-responsible way.

So, below, here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with by perusing the Green Depot website.  I hope this comes in handy for anyone getting ready to head back to school – whether for elementary school, high school, college, or grad school.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

TerraCycle Straw Paper: Roughly four billion trees are felled every year for the production of printer paper, which poses a significant threat to the environment and a massive contribution to climate change.  This paper is instead made from straw – the kind used for animal bedding as a byproduct of straw production – and is a much more sustainable material for paper-making than wood.  This paper is fully compatible with laser printers, ink jet printers, and copy machines.

Hero Bags Pig Lunch Sack: Cute!  These lunch bags are made from organic cotton, has a handy cotton carrying strap, and a stylish silk screen “butchery artwork” design of a happy pig.  The bag stands upright with a flat bottom, and it is large enough to hold a large sandwich, a tall beverage, and multiple snacks.  It is machine washable, and should be line-dried.

Ecosystem Flexicover Journals: The journals are excellent for expressing your thoughts or taking notes in class.  They are made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper (the best kind of recycled paper you can purchase) and contain 192 smooth, bright-white eco-friendly pages.  The books come with a back pocket on the inside cover, an organic cotton bookmark, perforated pages, and an elastic enclosure.  Plus, there is an ID number in the back of every book that allows you to track where parts of the journal were made via ecosystem’s website, and resources for learning where to recycle them.

Design Ideas Recycled Newspaper Pencils: A truly ingenious idea, these pencils are made entirely from recycled newspapers that are wound tightly around a no. 2 pencil lead.  Design Ideas ads an adhesive, presses them into a barrel shape, and the pencil turns out to be just as strong as a standard one constructed from wood.  Newsprint images from an English edition Chinese newspaper are visible on the barrel surface, and these can be sharpened just as you would a regular pencil.  They come in a set of twelve.

Decomposition Books: As straightforward as they are classic, these “decomposition books” are constructed from 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper.  They are made with bio gas derived energy, and feature several aesthetically-appealing designs.  They’re college ruled with 80 sheets per book, at 7.5″ x 9.75″ and produced in the United States.  At $4.95, they’re a great bargain for a green back-to-school product.

Solar Backpack: A truly remarkable item. the Solar Back Pack was designed specifically to efficiently charge virtually all handheld electronic devices via built-in solar panels and a battery.  The bag itself is built from a sturdy recycled PET fabric (that usually comes from soda bottles) and has a spacious main compartment with four interior pockets, plus space for glasses, a laptop, and a front pocket for holding charging devices.  A universal USB battery stores power for anytime use, indoors or outdoors, sunny or cloudy, and can be charged even when sun is not readily available.  When the sun is out, the solar panels go to work and charge the USB battery themselves.  The battery can be fully charged from 7 hours of contact with direct sun, or 5.5 hours from a USB port or optional DC or AC.  It’s even capable of charging a smart phone with just 4 hours of sun.  Comes with a 2-year warranty on pack and panels, and a 1-year warranty on the battery.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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The first summer after my freshman year as an undergraduate, I worked in a home improvement center.  One of my favorite jobs was installing countertop.  For the affluent resort community where I was working, new countertop meant huge slabs of pure marble and granite – high-quality materials, surely, but the thought crossed my mind more than once: stone isn’t an infinite resource; what will happen to these countertops when the owner chooses to remodel?  Are there any sustainable alternatives available?

Enter Squak Mountain Stone.  The story of Squak is quite remarkable.  The company was founded by Amee Quiriconi as a project dreamed up in a graduate school paper.  The idea was to find a product or service that would benefit the local economy, which in the past had been imported from elsewhere.  The idea became a business venture for Quiriconi, and she used her knowledge of engineering, construction, and research to develop a truly sustainable countertop surface and market it nationally.

Conventional countertops are constructed from a single slab of stone, or from a chemical composite, or even from compressed wood particles.  They can be petroleum-based, or extracted from strip mines, or pressed from forests that were conventionally and non sustainably harvested.  Conventional countertop options available on the market today are certainly not the most sustainable option available to the consumer.

Squak Mountain Stone, on the other hand, is a fibrous-cement material that is comprised of recycled paper, recycled glass, and low-carbon cement.  It’s a fantastic, sustainable, and durable alternative to natural or quarried stone and resembles soapstone or limestone.  It’s rustic and varied, providing a unique accent to any home kitchen or bathroom.  But these slabs aren’t only used in the home – they have been used to construct benches, tabletops, hearths, stairways, and signs.

Not only is squak mountain stone unique, but comes in five different colors to match any home: in natural (grey), latte (light brown), otter (dark brown), thunder (charcoal), and Quinault (forest green).

Take a look around Squak Mountain Stone’s website to learn more about their products, their remarkable story, and their commitment to sustainable home building materials.

Green Depot is excited to be carrying this new green building material.  Visit our website and give us a call to arrange a quote for delivery and installation.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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