environmental defense fund

The United Nations General Assembly has named 2011 the International Year of Forests, as a way of “raising awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.”

While the media is often full of dire news about the state of the environment, occasionally there are bits of hope.  In 2010, for example, Brazil had a record-low level of deforestation due in part to new conservation and enforcement initiatives, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

But just because deforestation is slowing in certain parts of the world does not mean that deforestation has ended.  It might then be useful to use 2011 as a time to consider all of the wood products, and especially tropical wood products, that we use in our life.  Paper, furniture, lumber, and cardboard are all forest products which, when consumed faster than forests can be replanted, lead to deforestation.  Even items like bamboo chopsticks and palm oil are linked to deforestation, as old-growth forests are cleared for plantations.

The foremost way to help reduce tropical deforestation is to use post-consumer recycled paper products, and, according to the Rainforest Alliance, to choose certified wood products for building projects.


Lumber products with an 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 and certifies that lumber 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 exclusively FSC-Certified wood, and provides 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 the Green Depot warehouse or jobsite.

For green products and green building materials, like eco insulation, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

Mountaintop removal – a process of coal extraction in which the tops of mountains are literally removed with explosives to reveal seams of coal below – has captured much of the national imagination over the last year.  What was once a relatively unknown mining practice (indeed, MTR mining has been going on in West Virginia since the 1960s) is now widely understood, and environmental groups around the country have called for an end to this practice.

As the New York Times reports, today the Environmental Protection Agency revoked a clean water permit for one of the nation’s most massive mountaintop removal projects.  Environmentalists have hailed the decision, and West Virginian politicians and coal and mining interests have vehemently denounced it.

The new mine, Spruce No. 1 Mine in Lohan County, West Virginia, would have covered an area of 2,278 acres.  In addition to the decimation of mountain ridges during mountaintop removal, the rubble from the mining process is typically dumped into the valleys between mountains – exactly where streams run.  Valley fills, as they are known, usually contaminate these streams with heavy metals, soils, and pollutants from the mining process.  It is on these grounds that the EPA made the decision to revoke Arch Coal’s Clean Water Act permit.

While today’s decision is a victory for environmentalists, mountaintop removal continues on all throughout Appalachia.  Mountaintop removal is only necessary to remove coal, the fossil fuel that powers many of our power plants.  Decreasing our energy consumption – and hence, the demand for coal – is one of the ways those of us in locales distant from Appalachia can make a difference for the better, however small.  Reducing energy consumption not only decreases demand on mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

And, when it comes to the bottom line, reducing energy consumption means lower energy bills, too.


Water heaters are one of the largest consumers of energy in the average home, and swapping out an older-model water heater for a new, energy-efficient model can substantially reduce energy costs.  The GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater is an especially energy-efficient model, qualified by ENERGY STAR.  It combines heat pump technology with traditional electric elements to save the homeowner up to 62% on annual water heating expenses  — even up to $320.

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.

Other, every day items that you can change around the house can help reduce your electricity bill.  Using an energy monitor or power strip – and ensuring you turn it off when you’re not using appliances – can stop “phantom charges” that slowly drive up energy consumption.  Using compact fluorescent bulbs – and even more efficient LED bulbs – can reduce energy consumption even further.

For these green products and many more, including green constrution materials and eco insulation, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

One of the biggest ways we increase our carbon footprint, and our overall environmental impact, is by eating food that is out-of-season, produced in faraway places.  Tomatoes grown in Mexico, and consumed in New York City in January, for example, is a carbon-heavy diet with consequences for the earth.

Food that is transported over long distances racks up food miles – succinctly defined by wikipedia as a term referring to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer.  Having this knowledge is an important way to think about the environmental impact of our food, and provides us with an excellent opportunity to grow communities, support independent agriculture, and lessen our own personal impact on the earth’s resources and health.

Making a resolution to be more green this year could be as simple as changing a few eating habits – by purchasing a few local food items from the farmer’s market, or joining a CSA, rather than at the supermarket or bodega.

Finding a local farm, farmer’s market, or CSA is easy using LocalHarvest’s directory.


Visiting the farmer’s market means you’ll need a green product to carry that supremely fresh produce home in.  Enter the Credo Produce Bag. They are made from 100% organic, undyed cotton material and are responsibly manufactured in Montreal.  They’re designed to hold fruits and vegetables and keep them fresh, with a convenient drawstring tie to prevent the contents from spilling.

The most local food anyone can obtain is food you grow yourself.  Not only is it the pinnacle of being local, it’s an amazing way to reconnect with some of earth’s natural processes (that is, if you feel like you’re a little disconnected).

Organic Crops in Pots is a DIY guide on growing pesticide-free food in a small space. It contains 30 projects for growing in an array of reused containers, like colanders or recycled tins.  Containing resources on growing everything from herbs, beans, vegetables, chilies and soft fruits, it’s also a guide to organic growing and deterring pests using non-toxics.

Seed Bombs by Visualingual allow you to “practice random acts of gardening.”  These gumball-sized packet of seeds allow you to toss the bombs anywhere there is dirt and watch things grow.  They are handmade and come in a hand-screenprinted muslim bag, and contain either wildflower seeds, or herb seeds.  Speaking of food, the herb bombs contain basil, dill, cilantro, chives, and parsley.
For these green products and many more – like eco insulation – make sure to visit http://www.greendepot.com.

This piece is a part of our series on New Year Resolutions – ideas for resolutions, and tools and knowledge to make sure they’re successful.

Reducing energy consumption is an important part of living more green.  We all know that increased electrical consumption strongly correlates to more natural resources (like coal or natural gas) consumed, and a higher greenhouse gas emission for the extraction, and burning, of those resources.  We’ll come back to more ideas on reducing energy consumption throughout the year, but for now here are two good ideas for reducing consumption.


Many home appliances draw electricity from the outlet even when a device is not plugged in, and this is known as a standby, phantom, or vampire charge. The US Department of Energy estimates that 20% of electric bills come from items that are not in use, but remain plugged in. TrickleStrip Energy-Saving Surge Protectors block the “phantom current” that chargers draw from the wall, even when they’re not in use.  The strip has current-sensing circuitry to sense when a device or PC is off, on, or on standby and cuts outlets off as necessary.

The Blueline Innovations Power Cost Monitor is a wireless energy monitor with a digital readout that let’s anyone know, at a glance, how much electricity is being consumed and at what costs.  Knowing real-time electricity feedback has been shown to reduce electricity from 5% – 20%.  It consists of two components: the sensor unit, which attaches to the outside of your house’s electricity meter, and the power monitor that reads the sensor’s wireless signal and displays for easy viewing.  The sensor transmits up to 100ft, allowing placement of the monitor nearly anywhere in the home.

We’ve written extensively in the past about insulating homes and the added benefits of using green insulation in 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 these green products and many more – like eco insulation – make sure to visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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 http://www.greendepot.com!

Now that the holiday gift-giving season is behind us, we’ve got a lot of waste to dispose of.  Plastic wrappers and containers, wrapping paper and cardboard boxes, and now-obsolete electronic gadgets (e-waste) are likely sitting in piles in your home or garbage bin awaiting garbage trucks to haul them away. (If you’re in New York City, like I am, the blizzard might keep those trucks out-of-service for a few more days…)

Here’s a short guide to why we should care about these three kinds of waste, and the most environmentally-friendly ways to recycle or dispose of them.

1. Plastics and the Pacific Trash Vortex

In the oceans are powerful currents of warm and cool water that keep the seas constantly churning.  These currents are constrained by landmasses – by the continents – to create huge circular currents referred to as gyres.

In the Pacific Ocean, one gyre is called the North Pacific Gyre.  Scientists are now learning that this loop has been trapping plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris for decades, forming what some call the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  The garbage patch extends over an area that might be as large as the continental United States, or as small as the state of Texas; either way, it’s an enormous pile of garbage floating in our ocean.

Nearly 30 million tons of plastic are thrown away each year, and it is predicted that 80% of the plastics in the gyre come from land sources and 20% from sea sources (although it is difficult to scientifically substantiate the sources of these plastics, and the land-to-sea ratio is contested).  Regardless, some of the plastics we dispose of do inadvertently find their way into the watershed, to head out to sea.  On the east coast, our trash has found its way into the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, although the Pacific patch is more notorious.

The accumulation of plastic garbage in the vortex – and in our landfills, as well – is a huge cause for concern.  For that reason, it’s extraordinarily important to recycle diligently and reduce plastic consumption.  Many plastics, like wrappers, are unfortunately non-recyclable.  But many more are – so make sure to check local recycling regulations, and sort garbage accordingly.  Click here to learn more about the Pacific Garbage Patch.

2. E-Waste and Our Air and Waterways

When we receive new gadgets at Christmas, it’s often the older, obsolete gifts we wind up submitting to the landfill.  In recent years, the amount of electronic waste – or E-waste – has been growing substantially due to falling costs of technology, and planned obsolescence.

In the United States, it is estimated that nearly 50 million tons of E-waste are produced each year – around 30 million computers.  The EPA estimates that only 15 to 20 percent of this waste is recycled annually, and that 70% of heavy metals in landfills come from discarded electronics.  This is a huge amount of waste, and runoff from electronic waste can contribute toxins like mercury, cadmium, beryllium, and lead into human and natural waterways.

There are E-waste recycling options available, but one has to be careful not to choose an E-waste recycling program that damages the environment.  Some E-waste recycling programs in developing nations, especially, pump non-recyclable E-waste directly into streams and landfills.  In New York City, one of the most reliable and popular E-waste recycling programs is run by the Lower East Side Ecology Center.  These events occur several times throughout the year (there’s one this weekend!) and more information on them can be found by clicking here.

3. Paper, Expanding Landfills, and Climate Change

The amount of paper that Americans throw away during the holiday season is massive.  Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans throw away 25% more trash than any other time of the year, according to Stanford University.  This accounts for an extra 25 million tons of garbage, or one million tons per week.  Even the number of Christmas cards Americans send is huge – 2.65 billion cards adds up to enough paper to fill a football field 10 stories high.

If the extra trash going to the landfill isn’t enough to indicate the importance of recycling and using recycled products, also consider that when paper goes into landfills it often decays in a low-oxygen environment.  Instead of simply biodegrading into the soil (or the landfill), this degrading paper can release significant amounts of methane, which is a potential greenhouse gas.  Indeed, as the EPA notes, methane is roughly 20-times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

So this year, consider doing something with leftover wrapping paper besides throwing in the landfill.  Reuse it for other gifts or craft projects; shred it and add it to a compost bin or mulch pile to feed your garden; use it to pad packages for mailing.


Keeping trash sorted for recycling and composting isn’t especially difficult when there’s a convenient system in place.  Green Depot offers a few green products to help accomplish the task.

The Umbra Grand Can is a basic garbage can made from virgin polypropylene plastic with a brushed metal finish.  It has a capacity of 9 ¾ gallons.

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.

For a wide range of waste-reducing green products, as well as green insulation like Bonded Logic Recycled Denim Insulation, visit our website at http://greendepot.com.