image credit: flickr user pfsullivan_1056 on creative commons license

For some folks, having a cool indoor temperature during the summer is a matter of health.  But for many of the rest of us, having indoor air conditioning is a matter of comfort, rather than health.

But what many of us don’t realize is the extent of the impact that air conditioners can have on the environment – and on our utility bill.  In many instances – especially here in the Northeast U.S., where Green Depot is headquartered – a fan can prove to be significantly more economical and environmentally-friendly, and create a home environment that is just as comfortable as it would be with an air conditioner.

How an A/C Works

Air conditioners don’t differ much from how a refrigerator functions.  An air conditioner pumps a chemical refrigerant through a cycle of compression and expansion.  As the refrigerant moves, it absorbs heat from the interior of a home and pumps it to the outdoors.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is also known as the Entropy Law, states simply that when there is a heat differential – i.e., when one area of a room is hotter than another, the heat will move from the hotter part to the cooler until an equilibrium is reached between the two.  An air conditioner has to mechanically compress the refrigerant into a hot liquid form to suck the heat out of a room efficiently enough to cool it down.  This requires a substantial amount of energy – usually electricity – to accomplish.  You can read more about how air conditioners work by clicking here.

The Impacts of A/C

The substantial amount of energy needed to make an air conditioner function typically comes from a power plant or a car engine.  According to National Geographic, air conditioner use in the U.S. results in average of about 100 millions tons of CO2 emissions from power plants each year.  Surprisingly, that accounts for 1/5 of all kilowatt-hours consumed per year.  Think about it – one fifth of all electricity consumption in the United States goes to cooling buildings, and even this is often not enough electricity to supply Americans with the air conditioning they use in the hottest summer months: consider the brownouts and rolling blackouts that many of us experience in the hottest days of August.  And according to, the electricity used to air condition the U.S. exceeds the entire electricity consumption of the India and Indonesia combined.

Air Conditioners and the Ozone

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the depletion of the ozone layer was a major cause of concern for governments, environmentalists, and citizens alike.  A major contributor to that depletion at the time were chlorofluorocarbons – CFCs – which were widely used as air conditioner coolants.

an image of the 2009 "hole" in the ozone layer, taken by scientists at NASA's Godard Space Center via their flickr account, gsfc, on a Creative Commons license

Thanks to international policy coordination, CFCs were replaced by the much more ozone-friendly hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) which deplete 95 percent less ozone.  But according to National Geographic, demand has grown significantly for air conditioners in India and China, and despite the 95% reduction in ozone depletion thanks to HCFCs, the volume of air conditioners being used has set back ozone recovery by 25 years.  In the U.S., ozone-depleting coolants were made illegal in 2010, but many of the older air conditioners we use still use HCFCs (and the oldest still use CFCs).  In developing nations, HCFCs will be allowed until 2040.

Air Conditioners and Healthy Home Air

One of the other major issues concerning air conditioner use are the impacts they have on human health.  A co0ler environment in the hottest summer days can make the difference between life and death for infants, the elderly, and those in poor health, but air conditioners also run the risk of becoming health hazards.  Dirty air filters in air conditioners can allow allergens, pesticides, and other particulate matter into the home which may aggravate respiratory conditions, such as asthma.

Air Conditioners vs. Fans

Fans don’t cool a home, but they do have the potential to make a home much more comfortable in the summer months, without the massive energy drain that air conditioners require, and without the risks posed to the environment and respiratory health.  Fans work by moving air around, and whisking moisture and heat away from the skin.


The Bedfan Cooling System

Green Depot carries a wide array of green products that can be used to help make your home more comfortable in the summer, without sacrificing your electricity bill or the internet.

We carry a number of standard fans that can be used around the home (like the Vornado Compact 530 Whole Room Fan, or the Charly Metal Fan), but there are other fan options to make home more comfortable.

The Bedfan cooling system fits at the end of a bed and circulates cool air under your sheets at night, removing the heat that is trapped by your sheets, and has even been proven to stop night sweats due to menopause, andropause, diseases, or medications.

The Vornado Under-Cabinet Circulator fan affixes underneath any horizontal surface: cabinets, desks, in the kitchen, the laundry room, office, or workroom.

Lastly, the Solatube Solar Attic Fan is a solar-powered fan that vents all the hot air that has risen into your attic space out into the environment.  Not only does it cool your home, it also wicks moisture from the air, leaving your attic free of molds and mildews that can become a health hazard over time.

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

The day after Memorial Day, and it’s finally summer.  We now get to look forward to long, sunny days full of outdoor grilling, thunderstorms, the 4th of July, trips to the beach, camping and hiking trips, starry nights… and all of the negative things that come along with the summer, too: the heat, the humidity, sunburn, and the bugs.

Bugs are something we’re equipped to help you with at Green Depot!  And unlike many of the conventional products used to combat summer pests, all of the green products that we carry are non-toxic, meaning they’re safer for you, your family, your pets, and the environment.


1. Oak Stump Mosquito Trap and Lures: These mosquito traps are non-toxic and reusable from year to year.  They work by harnessing the power of a mosquito egg pheromone, which attracts mosquitos to lay their eggs in the jar which traps them permanently inside, keeping them away from you and your family.  Two traps handles an average-sized yard, and eight traps will cover an entire acre, significantly reducing the local mosquito population and their irritating and infecting bites.

2. Glass Fruit Fly Trap and Lures: These glass jars are aesthetically-pleasing enough to keep indoors, yet effective enough to keep pesky fruit flies out of your home.  It sits on the counter or hangs by a window, drawing flies away from fresh fruit, clearing a room full of flies in only a few hours – much more effectively than common types of bait such as red wine and vinegar.  Add the lure packet to water, add a drop of dishwashing soap, and set the trap in an effective area for 10 to 14 days, or until the trap is full.

3. EcoSmart Flying Insect Killer: This insect killer is unlike other common insecticides, in that it is made from organic plant oils, rather than  toxic synthetic chemicals.  This flying insect killer kills all kinds of insects with no pesticide residue, keeping your family safe, and is effective on flies, gnats, mosquitos, moths, wasps, and other flying insect pests.

4. EcoSmart Insect Repellant: Like the flying insect killer, this insect repellant is made from organic plant oils – not toxic synthetic chemicals – and effectively keeps away mosquitos, ticks, gnats, and other annoying pests for hours.

5. Big Dipper Citronella Candles: Lots of common citronella candles are made from a base of paraffin wax – a petroleum-based product that, when burned, gives off gases that are unhealthy for you and the environment.  Big Dipper Citronella Candles are, on the other hand, made from beeswax which is safe for you and your family.  These candles contain the pure essential oils of citronella and cedarwood, both of which are known to deter insects.  Furthermore, the wicks are made of 100% cotton and contain no lead or metal.

6. Beekman 1802 Bug Repellant Bar: These soap bars are made from a base of goat milk, and contain citronella, eucalyptus, and other essential oils that are effective at keeping bugs away.  For a long day outdoors, use them in the shower.  For shorter periods of time outdoors, you can apply the bars dry onto your pulse points, and your body heat will release the scent from the oils into the air.

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

The San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this month an alarming trend with serious indications for the health of babies and infants.

According to a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, up to 80% of all plastic products for babies contain chemical flame retardants.  Many of these are known to be toxic, and the rest are untested.

These chemicals in particular were targeted for analysis by the scientists because they have been linked to “increased risks for thyroid impairment, reproductive problems, endocrine disruption, cancer, and other health issues.”

Scientists studied over 100 samples of child products from items such as baby carriers, changing pages, and portable cribs from the U.S. as well as Canada, and 80 of those samples contained flame retardants linked to the health issues listed above.

An abstract of the study can be found by visiting


Luckily for new parents, Green Depot carries a full line of green products that are free of harmful toxins for babies.  Green depot carries books for kids, toxin-free bedding, apparel, hygienic care products, bottles, toys, and safety kits, and even has a feature page on constructing a healthy nursery (complete with a crib, bedding, paint, cleaner, carpets, rugs, and gas and C02 detector).

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

image via flickr user wootang01

Lots of folks are seriously concerned about the health of their indoor environment – and for good reason.  As we’ve written about before, using conventional interior paints which are high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can “offgas” fumes which are toxic, and potentially hazardous to the health of people.

When a green product is referred to as low-VOC, it is usually referencing a synthetic, liquid solvent that gives off – or “offgasses” – toxic fumes.  This is the source of the poignant smell in paints, turpentine, varnish, stains, and other finishing products, which can often cause headaches and other health issues, if they are inhaled in enough volume over time.  The troubling thing about conventional products with a high-VOC content is that those substances can continue to offgas VOCs for years after it has dried, and after the poignant smell has abated: just because you can’t smell the VOCs anymore doesn’t mean you’re not still inhaling toxic fumes.

For this reason, most people use low-VOC paints and stains in their interiors.  But there are important reasons to use low-VOC paints and stains on the exterior of your home, or deck: many of the toxic elements in conventional finishes include heavy metals and formaldehyde – substances which can leach out into the environment over time (consider how the paints on the exteriors of homes eventually chip off).  When these gasses and heavy metals leach out of finishes, or chip off into the soil, they pollute.  While the amount being leached into the environment may be trace, any contribution of toxic chemicals into the environment is a negative contribution.

And, if you have a garden around your house, or a well nearby, is it ultimately worth risking these toxins and heavy metals leaching into food and water supplies, when healthy, safe alternatives exist?


This week Green Depot is having a 15%-off sale on a full range of paints, stains, sealants, and other finishing products.  AFM Safecoat paints have both interior exterior low-VOC products available.  Ecoprocote also has a number of low-VOC stains, sealers, and clear top coats.  And make sure to check out Ivy Coatings primers and paints, which are available for application to both interior and exterior surfaces.  To see all of the products we’re offering this week at a 15% discount, you can visit our promotion’s page by clicking here.

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

One of the topics that might be on your mind currently is ensuring a healthy home environment.  It seems that in recent weeks, contamination of the air, of water, and of food has come to the forefront of many peoples’ agendas.

Chemical contamination and pollution in the home can be extensive.  Whether from the cleaners we use, or the air fresheners we’ve become accustomed to, or the paints and caulks we use to build our homes, or the quality of the pipes in our home, the home environment can be rife with dangerous gases and pollutants that may harm human health.

For those of us looking to conduct an extensive audit on the sources of pollution and radiation in the home, the EPA provides a booklet on indoor air quality which can be found by clicking here. But also keep in mind that Green Depot carries a full line of testing kits, as well as air purifyers.


Green Depot is currently running a promotion on Austin Air purifiers – running up to 20% off.  Purifiers help to keep air healthy in the home, both on an every day basis and in the event of an emergency or disaster, when the quality of indoor air may be compromised by atmospheric particulates.

Water quality might also be of concern in the household.  Older homes may still have lead piping.  Green Depot carries a wide range of  green products to help ensure the health of the indoor environment, including air and water quality testing kits and air quality monitors.  These can provide an audit of your home for: bacteria in the water, lead in water, paint, and dust, carbon monoxide, radon gas, mold, pesticides in water, radon in water, asbestos, and lead surfaces.

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

Happy New Year!

With 2010 squarely behind us it’s a good time to begin looking ahead to the things that 2011 has to offer.  We all make new year’s resolutions.  A lot of the time, these resolutions are simple, easy-to-maintain commitments.  Sometimes, they’re significant lifestyle changes that can be a lot more difficult to achieve.  Whatever they are, we know that they’re always worthwhile to pursue (even if they don’t always succeed!).

This year, Green Depot is committed to providing ideas and solutions to the health and environmental problems everyone faces at home.  All this month, we’ll be looking at some of the ways you can choose to go green in your every day lives – whether it’s by small changes (like packing your lunch with eco-friendly reusable and recyclable packaging) or big changes, like installing energy-efficient water heaters in your home, or replacing inefficient conventional fiberglass insulation with eco-insulation.  Green Depot is fortunate to be able to carry a wide range of eco-insulation, like Bonded Logic recycled denim insulation, and a range of VOC-free caulks and sealants.

The Roman god Janus, whose namesake month is January, was known for having two heads: one that always looks forward to the future, and one that always looks back, to the past.  It’s always a good idea to recollect on the accomplishments of the preceding year, so here’s a quick sampling of a few of our favorite green products from 2010.


1. Compost: Indoor composting need not be the smelly nightmare many apartment owners fear it will be.  The NatureMill Home Composter fits under a kitchen counter, and using gentle electric warmth  to speed up the decomposition process, ensures a steady supply of compost all winter long for the spring garden.  Additionally – it’s odor-free.

2. Books: Make Your Place: Affordable & Sustainable Nesting Skills, by Raleigh Briggs, is a collection of the author’s zines, illustrations, and thoughts about what makes a truly DIY household.  It serves as a guide towards making non-toxic, homemade cleaning solvents; herbs to use for healing in place of big pharma; and how to start a home garden for grow our own local and organic food.

3. Brewing: The Brooklyn Brew Beer Making Kit – featured by NY Magazine – includes everything you need to make one gallon of your very own brew.  We consider it more environmentally-friendly than a regular six pack, because it reduces on the glass, metal, plastic, and cardboard packaging that regular bottles and cans come in.

4. Gardening: Woolly Pockets planters come in two different styles: Freestanding Islands, and Living Wall Systems.  They are both constructed from thick felt that allows excess moisture to evaporate, and a moisture-barrier reservoir that holds water for plants to draw from.  The wall system is totally modular – allowing stacking to create an entire indoor or outdoor living wall.

5. Off-the-grid: The Solio Rocsta hybrid solar charger is heavier duty, making it suitable for hikers, bikers, and backpackers.  It has a built-in carabiner, and can also store a charge from a wall socket or USB port, in instances where the sun might not be enough.

6. Fresh Air: The Chikuno Charcoal Cube Air Freshener is the safest and most environmentally-friendly option presently on the market and represents design of an extremely high caliber.  It is a chemical-free air freshener made from ultra-fine bamboo charcoal powder and clay minerals.  According to the product’s webpage, Bamboo charcoal is activated at extremely high temperatures which produces an incredibly fine, or porous, interior – “like a micro sponge or honeycomb,” with an interior surface area of 7,500 square feet per gram of bamboo charcoal.  This powder is significantly more fine than wood charcoal (and is more sustainably-produced, as bamboo can mature to harvestable size in as little as six years), and because of its large surface area, has the ability to absorb order for up to a year.

7. Lunch: The Stainless Steel Tiffin Food Carrier is a stackable stainless steel lunch pail that has widespread use in much of east Asia.  The model that green depot carries has two compartments with a handle that clasps them in place.  Each can be heated or refrigerated separately.

For these green products and many more, including green building materials and eco-insulation, make sure to visit!