Author Archives: tjones

The cosmetics industry is astonishingly unregulated.  The most recent law governing the safety of ingredients that may go into cosmetics – for everything from moisturizer to shampoo to lipstick – is the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act of 1938.  This ancient relic of a bill is so outdated that it allows known poisons and toxins into cosmetic products – like lead in lipstick, or hormone disruptors in fragrances.

On June 24 of this year, Representatives Schakowsky, D-Ill., Markey, D-Mass., and Baldwin, D-Wisc., introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 designed to update the aging Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act of 1938.  Doing so would grant regulatory authority to the FDA that it is now lacking, ensuring that all cosmetic products are free of harmful ingredients, and that all ingredients are fully disclosed by the companies that produce them.  As it stands, it is the industry itself that is responsible for all regulation and disclosure, which has lead to some surprising lack of oversight in the last 70-odd years.

Last year Annie Leonard (of the Story of Stuff fame) produced a new video chronicling the lack of oversight of the cosmetics industry, and what that means for consumers: The Story of Cosmetics.  The video is fun and informative.  Check it out by clicking the link below!

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green productsfor a sustainable lifestyle, visit

photo credit: flickr user techbirmingham

If you’re reading this blog, you are using an electronic device – whether it’s a computer, smart phone, or e-reader.  But one of the things you may not know is that electronic devices can have serious consequences on the environment.  All electronic devices use heavy and other precious metals which, when they are mined and are returned into the ecosystem can have a detrimental effect on the health of local ecosystems and watersheds.

Recycling electronics is a huge step in ensuring that our devices do not harm the environment.  But in some instances, recycling electronics only means that recycling companies remove the valuable metals – like gold – and dissolve the rest in an acid bath, which often reenters the watershed.

Fortunately, there are organizations which serve as watchdogs to ensure that the electronics that you recycle are done so in a responsible manner, which has no negative impact on the environment.

The Basel Action Network (BAN) is one of the most important international organizations today working to ensure the efficiency of electronic recycling industries.  According to their website, they tackle important issues of environmental justice relating to the toxics trades, confronting “the issues of environmental justice at a macro level, preventing disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on our global village’s poorest residents. At the same time we actively promote the sustainable and just solutions to our consumption and waste crises — banning waste trade, while promoting green, toxic free and democratic design of consumer products.”

BAN runs a certification program called e-Stewards which serves as a watchdog to ensure that e-recyclers meet sustainable standards.  To date, they have certified over 40 e-recyclers with 100 locations across the United States that meet “globally responsible, safe means to process e-waste.”  These standards represent best practices in the e-waste processing industry, including no disposal in landfills or incinerators, no prison labor, and no export to poor communities.

In New York City, responsible e-waste recycling isn’t so difficult to do!  The Lower East Side Ecology Center runs a city-wide recycling program that responsibly recycles e-waste, and throws several e-waste recycling programs throughout the year.  To learn more about the LESEC’s recycling programs in NYC, you can visit their website here.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit

Moving to a New City, the Green Way

July 13th, 2011 | Posted by tjones in Living Green - (0 Comments)

It’s been a tumultuous and busy summer for me.  In addition to my responsibilities as the blogger for Green Depot, I’m also the director of outreach for a startup nonprofit, the Human Impacts Institute.  But this is work I’ll be leaving at the end of the summer to move onto the next big thing: pursuing my PhD in environmental Anthropology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.

New York City has been my home now for almost four years, and I’ll be sad to leave.  One of the great things about living in this sometimes overwhelming city was the knowledge that the amount of green space, the number of environmental and community organizations doing powerful work, a city government keen to tackle climate change, and an extensive bike and public transportation systems, made NYC one of the most environmentally-friendly places in America to live.

So in looking to move to the Rutgers area, what are some of the criteria I’ve been using in trying to pin down a new home that would allow me to live even more ecologically?

  1. The house. It might be my personal dream to move into a LEED-certified earth ship some day, but given my limited finances and the limitations of housing in central New Jersey, I recognized that this was likely infeasible.  Instead, I thought about what kind of home I would want to live in otherwise: was it sunny, to reduce heating costs in the winter?  Would we be able to purchase renewable energy from sources like wind or solar? Could I compost in the back yard?  Would I have the option to plant a garden, to produce some of my own food? Was the house already weatherized, and if not, would I be able to do it myself come winter? Would there be options to capture and recycle grey water from the bathroom and kitchen?
  2. Walkability. New York City is known for its walkability, but many communities in America – especially suburban communities – are designed for driving rather than walking.  I wanted to know if the town I was moving to had well-maintained sidewalks.  Were there nearby commercial streets with local, independent businesses and restaurants to patron?  Would there be a sidewalk cafe culture to get people out of their homes and participating in the community?  Were there parks and natural areas within walking distance?  And was there viable public transportation within walking distance?
  3. Bikeability. My main mode of transportation is my beautiful green commuter bike.  I wanted to know if I would be able to ride it to school safely, efficiently, and pleasantly.  Would the ride be pretty?  Would cars be respectful of cyclists, or at least less in number?  Would the town be especially hilly, making daily commutes more difficult?  Was there a bicycle infrastructure – bike lanes, sharrows, highways, and divided paths?
  4. My city’s commitment to being green. It’s not too often that a city in America makes a serious commitment to being a “green” city.  New York City is working hard at being green, and I’ve been lucky to live in a place where that was a priority for my government.  Would I be able to find that in New Jersey?

    More than the city government’s commitment to sustainability, I wanted to know if the population of the town cared about being green.  Was there a recycling and composting program in place?  How robust would it be?  Did local residents participate in civic life: were the farmers markets popular?  Could I find CSAs and co-operatives easily?  Did folks throw and participate in street fairs, community events, and town hall meetings?


It was just my luck that I stumbled upon the little town of Highland Park, just across the Raritan river from New Brunswick, NJ, and self-styled “first green community in New Jersey.”  The house I’ve found is on a quiet street, a few blocks from main street and the farmers’ market.  There are numerous parks within walking distance, and I’ll be able to help my new roommates grow their tiny garden in the back yard.  The landlord provided us with a compost tumbler, and the house has double-paned windows, faces south, and is insulated in the walls and attic.

What’s more is that the town is a vibrant and culturally-diverse place to live, with street festivals and town gatherings common and well-attended.  Rutgers university is just across the river – my department’s building is about a 20-minute bike ride away – and in New Brunswick is a small food co-operative I plan on joining.  What’s more, is that the town has an aggressive long-term plan for bolstering its sustainability credentials, as designed by its city government’s green council.

All in all, a nice little place to live!

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit

By now, most Americans are likely familiar with Energy Star as a certification label for higher-efficiency appliances and other products.

But behind the scenes of Energy Star are lobby groups and nonprofits working to raise energy efficiency standards within the appliance industry.  Some of these organizations provide their own certification processes for energy-efficient products.  The Consortium for Energy Efficiency is one such organization.

The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) was founded in 1991 in Boston as a nonprofit, public benefit corportation that “works with its members to promote the use of energy-efficient products, technologies, and services,” according to their fact sheet [PDF].  Today, those members include gas, water, and electric utilities; research and development organizations; state energy offices; and regional energy programs.  CEE receives significant support and guidance from both the EPA and the Department of Energy.

CEE’s work sets standards across industries and sectors to create a more sustainable America.  Their initiatives since 1991 have included providing definitions for high-performance commercial kitchens (2006); promoting energy efficiency in municipal water and wastewater facilities (2004); providing resources for energy-efficient traffic signals (1999); and in 1994 spearheaded an initiative to stimulate the residential market for CFL lightbulbs in partnership with Energy Star.  CEE is currently investigating the potential for expanding the LED residential lighting market.

More than providing evaluative criteria for the manufacturing and services industries, though, CEE also runs certification programs, similar to Energy Star, for home appliances including refrigerators, air-conditioners, clothes washers, and dishwashers.  This program, which compliments Energy Star, is the Super-Efficient Home Appliance Initiative (SEHA), and has proven to be an evaluative criteria of such a quality as to be official registered as an ISO standard.

When looking for energy-efficient appliances, starting out with an Energy Star product is a good start.  But to determine which products are the absolute highest-efficiency, turn to SEHA-certified products.  Since 1997, the SEHA program has identified the super-efficient spectrum of the Energy Star spectrum.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit

Exciting news for us here at Green Depot: our San Francisco location has been officially certified as green by SF Green Business!

SF Green Business is an area organization comprised of three city agencies: SF Environment, the San Francisco Department of Health, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.  According to their mission statement, the organization not only certifies businesses, but “helps San Francisco business adopt environmental practices that are sustainable as well as profitable.”  They achieve this mission “by setting stringent criteria, providing technical assistance, and publicly recognizing and promotion Green Businesses with a seal that enables customers to shop in keeping with their values.”  To read more about SF Green Business, click here.

Our San Francisco location is one of our most ambitious locations. It isn’t designed solely to move product – it’s designed to fit the way people shop for building materials, and functions as a resource center, providing a space where San Franciscans can explore green building materials and brainstorm in a creative space.

The SF showroom is conveniently located at the corner of 9th & Bryant—easily accessible from I-80 and HWY 101. Our location is also within an easy walk of MUNI and BART stations, just a few blocks away on Market St. We also offer free parking in our lot off Bryant St.  Click here to find directions to this location.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit

A HEPA filter. Image credit: Flickr user John Loo licensed under Creative Commons.

Standard vacuum cleaners can actually aggravate allergies in a home because of the allergens and pollutants they can recycle into the air.  Texas A&M University provides a guide to allergens in the home and vacuum cleaner use, which illuminates a few interesting facts:

1. The average vacuum cleaner – one without a HEPA or UPLA filter – filters particles from 30 to 50 microns in diameter, exhausting harmful allergens that are smaller than this back into the home.

2. The most common airborne particle size is 2.4 microns.  Human hair is 60 – 100 microns; a dust mite is 125 microns; dust mite waste is 10 – 24 microns; mold is 4+ microns; pollen is 10 – 40 microns; bacteria is 3 – 50 microns; fungal spores are 2 – 10 microns in diameter.

3. HEPA filters and ULPA filters are the two most effective and common air filtration systems found on vacuum cleaners.  Of the two, ULPA (Ultra Low Penetration Air) filters are the most effective: they filter out 99.999% of air particles.  HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are the next most effective air filter: they filter our 99.97% of air particles – more than enough for all but the most sensitive of allergy sufferers.

For more facts on the effectiveness of air filters for a healthier home environment, visit the aforementioned guide by clicking here.


Green Depot is having a vacuum cleaner sale at the moment, which can help to ensure that the indoor air quality of your home is the healthiest it can be.  Take a look at these green products:

The Electrolux Versatility Upright Vacuum is a full-featured vacuum cleaner.  This cleaner includes a quick-release wand, allowing you to vacuum hard-to-reach spaces on the ceiling and in difficult corners.  High impacts plastics and rugged construction make this a durable product, and the anti-odor HEPA filter captures 99.7% of pet dander, dust mites, pollen and mold for healthier indoor air.

For something a little more basic, the Electrolux Egrorapido is a cordless two-in-one stick vacuum for cleaning floors, and a hand vacuum for spot jobs around the home.  It includes a motorized brush roll, has no bag to dispose of, and includes attachments for a variety of uses.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit