Last week we wrote about the potential dangers of interior finishes – namely, the presence of volatile organic compounds, which can be hazardous to human health and the environment.

Vermont Natural Coatings also crafts a safer professional wood finish – but one that is, remarkably, produced using recycled whey protein, a byproduct of cheese production.

While at first the idea of using a cheese byproduct to produce a wood finish might sound far-fetched, it’s really an astonishing and ingenious product.  The finish is made from protein extracted from whey, from a process researched by scientists at the University of Vermont over a number of years.  Whey, as a natural substance, naturally creates a durable film.  When extracted, that film is converted into a long molecular polymer, and proves to be a very beautiful, even, and durable finish for wood.

Not only is it an effective and durable product, but it does not off-gas and is extremely low-VOC and odor free, allowing for a much more rapid application so your family can get back into their home faster and live healthier.  Vermont Natural Coatings also uses responsibly-sourced packaging materials for all of their products.  To learn more about Polywhey, click on the screen capture below to watch a fascinating video about their products on YouTube:

Polywhey is currently carried by our Ecohaus stores out West, and will soon become part of Green Depot‘s regular inventory.  To learn more about the superior qualities of Polywhey and to learn how to make an order, you can 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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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 alternet.org, 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.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

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 http://www.greendepot.com.

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glovesOne of the most dangerous and toxic household plastics in use today is polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, plastic.  PVC plastic is commonly known as vinyl, and poses significant risks to the health of both people and the environment – and can be found even in medical and household gloves.

Greenpeace USA created a list a few years ago of the main reasons to avoid PVC plastics, and they are indeed wide-ranging.  Nearly everything in the lifecycle of a PVC product causes harm to either the environment or humans, making it the single most destructive plastic on the market.

The production of vinyl requires carcinogenic chemicals, and creates byproducts such as dioxin, PCBs and HCBs.  Vinyl production facilities are typically in low-income and minority communities, particularly in Louisiana.  PVC requires more toxic additives than any other plastic to make it stable – including lead, chromium, and cadmium, which can be released into the household environment when they are handled by consumers.  And only 1% of vinyl plastics produced in the U.S. are recycled – the rest are sent to either the landfill or incinerators – where, when burned, release enormous and dangerous levels of dioxins into the environment.

And perhaps surprisingly, there are much safer and cost-effective alternatives already available on the market!

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Green Depot carries one particular green product as an alternative to vinyl gloves, which are commonly found in the home – If-You-Care brand FSC-certified natural latex gloves.

These gloves are made from Forestry Stewardship Council certified latex, which not only makes it healthier choice for people and the environment, but ensures that the natural latex rubber is sourced from a responsibly managed plantation.  The rubber tappers, who harvest the material from trees, received a fair trade wage, and even the packaging that contains these gloves is more sustainable, made from FSC certified recycled paper, and processed chlorine free.

If-You-Care gloves come in three sizes.

But remember that latex allergies are real, and to keep that in mind if this is a cause of concern for you!  Fortunately, there are non-vinyl non-latex alternatives available on the market, as well.

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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Memorial Day, the classic American holiday for outdoor cooking and the mark of the beginning of the Summer, is just around the corner!

Despite being a good time to celebrate the start of summer with friends and family, the holiday is also notorious for the amount of disposable goods that are consumed during Memorial Day.  My own memories of it are full of disposable napkins, paper and styrofoam plates, and plastic cups and utensils.

This year, why not make the commitment to make Memorial Day a little more sustainable?

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

1. Compostable Hot/Cold Cups: Wold Centric are constructed from paper, but unlike other disposable paper cups, are lined with NatureWorks Ingeo polylactic acid (PLA) which is corn-derived.  Most disposable paper cups on the market are lined with polyethylene, which makes means they cannot be composted.  These, instead, are fully biodegradable and compostable – and a huge step up from the familiar petroleum-based plastic SOLO cups.

2. Cornstarch Compostable Utensils: World Centric cornstarch compostable utensils aren’t only biodegradable, they’re also heat resistant up to 200 degrees fahrenheit.  They’re made from 70% NatureWorks Ingeo PLA specifically derived from U.S.-grown non-GMO corn, and 30% talc.  Do note, though, that they compost best in a commercial composting facility, to check to see if your local waste management department has a composting program.

3. Wasara Compostable Plates and Cups: Wasara produces a full line of single-use dinnerware that are made from 100% tree-free renewable materials: sugar cane fiber (bagasse), bamboo, and reed pulp.  That means that opposed to their plastic and styrofoam counterparts, they are fully biodegradable and compostable.  They come in many different designs: small and large square plates, small and large round plates, and in bowl, tumbler, and wine cup form.

4. Compostable Bagasse Bowl: World Centric also produces a line of biodegradable and compostable bowls, which are constructed from 100% sugarcane fiber, or bagasse.  Not only are they kinder on the environment for their compostability, but typically sugarcane fiber is burnt to dispose of it, contributing to climate change.  These bowls are soak-proof, and have no plastic or wax lining.

You can get lots more ideas for a sustainable Memorial Day by visiting our outdoor entertainment feature page!

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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photo credit: flickr user cliff1066

On Thursday, April 14, Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011″ to the Congress.  The bill seeks to modernize some aging legislation, namely the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), which was designed to protect americans from exposure to dangerous toxins.

According to a press release [PDF] sent out on Friday, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) is supporting this piece of legislation.  Green Depot, which sells a range of green products, is an active member of the ASBC, and our CEO Sarah Beatty has spoken in favor of this legislation, as well.

“I believe more fervently now than I did six years ago we have the right to know what’s ‘in’ the products we buy,” Beatty said, “and TSCA reform is a vital first step.  As a mother, I believe corporations and government share in the responsibility to safeguard the healthy development of all Americans, especially for our next generation.  As a businessperson, I believe emerging ‘green’ technologies, materials, and green chemistry not only make sense, they will be a key to America’s reinvention and competitive growth.  The time for this reform is now.”

The ASBC has been keen to point our the economic benefits of TSCA reform, noting that the act would cut the costs of hazardous waste storage and disposal; improve worker protection, health care costs, and future liabilities; and supports market trends that transform supply chains that result in better businesses.

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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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?

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

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 http://www.greendepot.com.

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