Winter Projects Around the House

January 12th, 2012 | Posted by Lesia in Green Homes - (1 Comments)

Though many think that Summer is the time for home renovation projects, there are actually many eco-friendly home projects, big and small, that you can take care of at this time of year to improve your energy efficiency and update the look of your home. Here are some ideas:

Insulation and Caulking
Sealing up the leaks around your home can translate into instant energy savings! We offer many easy-to-use products that will help you fill in the gaps around your place with speed.

XtraFoam HH: Use this handheld adhesive spray foam to seal drafty windows, doors, and leaks with this low expanding, multipurpose foam. Bonded Logic Ultratouch Multi-Purpose Roll: perfect choice for smaller household insulating jobs including sealing gaps around air conditioning wall and window units as well as spaces around doorways. AFM Multipurpose Caulk: a water resistant, flexible, easy to install,
non-sag sealant with excellent initial and permanent adhesion.

Window Treatments
Roller or Roman, our window shades are a great way to add a splash of color to your room and create a finished look! Even better, by utilizing a specially engineered cushion of air or reflective fabric, our shades will also help insulate your home and save you energy.

Available in a wide range of styles and colors, our window-treatments help you save energy too.

Kitchen Projects
Major Holiday cooking projects are mostly past now, and the kids are back at school for most of the day – this is a perfect time of year to replace your cabinets and countertops. Many of our stores offer custom kitchen design services with Cabinet Design Professionals. The kitchen cabinets at Green Depot are selected for their fine quality, high style availability and eco-friendly options  like sustainable woods, healthy finishes, or low-urea-formaldehyde content.

We also offer a wide range of countertops that contain recycled material, like PaperStone, and even some that are made in the regions local to the store. Click here for our store locator.

Style and performance mix with sustainability and health in our cabinet lines, like Urban Prairie – shown here. PaperStone: Beautiful, warm and heavy-duty – perfect for today’s home. Twice as strong as granite, ideal for residential and commercial uses. Cambria will resist most stains and is easy to clean.

Floor Re-Finishing
When people imagine getting their floors re-finished, they also often imagine spending weeks with their windows open, airing out the house. With Green Depot’s low-toxic floor finishes, you don’t have to worry about the weather outside getting in, or endangering your home’s air quality. Even better, many of our finishes (like Osmo Polyx-Oil and Vermont Natural Coatings) cure quickly so life can return to normal in days – not weeks.

Made from natural oils and waxes, Polyx-Oil brings out the natural beauty of your wood. Spot-repairable. Made from post-industrial whey protein, Vermont Natural Coatings offer a low-toxic alternative to regular polyurethane finishes.

Last year, Treehugger founder Graham Hill announced a new project called “LifeEdited.”  Inspired by mounting evidence that owning more stuff does not lead to more happiness, he decided to find a way to “have it all” without all the things that frequently seem to go along with that. First, he purchased a much-smaller-than-average apartment in New York City. Then, he challenged designers from around the world to come up with a design for his new 420 square foot space that would allow him to reduce his dependence on stuff and still live comfortably.

Graham Hill had certain requirements for his finished apartment design. Because he needs a home office, likes to host out-of-town guests, hold large dinner parties, and has hobbies that require some storage, the apartment had to allow for the following:
• a sit-down dinner for 12 people
• a comfortable lounging option for 8
• space for 2 overnight guests (with some privacy)
• a home office
• a work area with space for a rolling tool chest
• a hideable kitchen

Creative ideas for apartment designs poured in from all over the world that included minimalist bicycle storage, moving walls, and myriad takes on transformable furniture. You can see all of the designs (including the winning submission) that came in by clicking here. Anyone who already lives in a small space, or who is even just flirting with the idea of downsizing, will find these designs inspiring.

With products from Green Depot like drywall, 0-VOC paints and FSC-Certified woods, the project build-out is finally under way! We’ll be blogging about the project’s progress, so check back for updates.

For more information about LifeEdited, please visit

The new zHome development in Issaquah, WA.

Several years ago, about 20 miles east of Seattle, Washington, a goal was set to build a model for 21st century homes – and the zHome project was born. September saw the completion of this state-of-the art project, and it is revolutionary on almost every level. Zero-Net Energy The buildings have built-in energy efficiencies to help minimize waste – like heat recovering technology – and that accounts for most of the lowered energy use in these homes. The buildings have solar-panels that generate and offset the remaining energy use to achieve net zero energy use and net zero CO2 emissions over the course of a year. Water Conservation zHomes are slated to use just 40% of the average water use of a typical home.  All 10 units have successfully earned WaterSense New Home Certification. These are the first homes in the State, and among the first in the nation, to receive this recognition. The units save water in a number of ways: high-efficiency water fixtures and appliances, rain-garden landcaping, and rain-water capture for use in flushing toilets and laundry. The zHomes are also the first in the Nation to win Salmon Safe certification for their handling of stormwater runoff. Sustainable Materials Use Each unit is finished with low-toxic, eco-friendly and durable materials from floor to ceiling to inside the walls. The bulk of the materials in the project come from within 500 miles of the site. They also used recycled materials in finishes like tiles and countertops; FSC-certified woods for decking, handrails, siding and more; and super-durable materials for siding and roofing to minimize frequency of maintenance and replacement. On top of that, 90% of the construction waste from the building of these homes was recycled or reused. There are many more exceptional qualities to the zHome project that make it one of the most innovative developments in the country today. Visit to learn more! This project is a model for 21st century homes – they’ve proved that these ideas are scalable – let’s hope they aren’t unique for long! Click here to visit our website.

Portland's Planet Repair Institute

Portland is among the greenest cities in America – from the way they eat, to the way they get around, to the way they build their homes. Every year, City residents and contractors push the envelope for sustainable materials and energy efficiency, and every year Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability curates a tour of some of the year’s most exciting projects. They call it the Build it Green! Home Tour and Information Fair and tickets are now on sale!  2011 is the 10th anniversary of the BIG! Tour and Fair, and will take  place on Saturday, September 24th! 

This is a fantastic way to learn about the latest, greatest, and most inspirational things happening in green building in the Rose City! This year’s tour features 20+ homes – each of which incorporate outstanding sustainable elements, from energy-savings to sustainable material use. These homes will be open for ticket holders to tour, and the homeowners will be on hand to answer your questions!

Among the homes open on the tour will be The Bungaloft, a project that features owner-built cabinets, fixtures and other details, made in part with recycled and reclaimed materials. Also featured is the Water House – the first Watersense-certified home in Oregon; and the Planet Repair Institute using cob, earthen plaster, and reclaimed materials. To see a preview of all the homes on the tour click here.

This year, the BIG! Tour will be kicking off with a fun, resource-rich, Information Fair in the Green Depot parking lot! Enjoy live music by the Wicky Pickers, and refreshments while checking out green building product demos and visit our varied exhibitors like: cabinet and furniture makers, solar firms, designers, realtors and more!
You will also be able to ENTER TO WIN a free Caroma Profile dual-flush-toilet (it has a built-in sink!) 

This year’s events are happening on Saturday, September 24th.
FREE BIG! Fair: 10am – 2pm
BIG! Tour: 11am-5pm
Tickets for the tour are available at Green Depot Portland (cash or check only only) or online.
– $15 Adults
– $10 car free/students/honored citizens
– Free for children 13 and under

For information on having an exhibitor booth at the fair please contact sschultz[at] Availability is limited.

It’s September, and colder months loom just on the horizon. The days will soon grow shorter, and most of us in colder climates will be spending much more time inside of our homes.

The home environment isn’t necessarily one we readily consider. When we think about living sustainably, we usually consider how our actions might impact the natural environment outside of our homes – how the products we buy affect the health of watersheds, or forests; how they contribute to climate change or preserve biodiversity. We consider how the products we purchase impact the lives of the people manufacturing them.

But products used in the home – whether it’s cleaners, or interior paints, or furniture, or our vacuum cleaners – affect the air quality inside our living spaces, our home environments. Many conventional products (like those containing volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) can detrimentally affect our own health.

Indeed, this is such a legitimate concern for many that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has an entire website devoted to educating folks about the health of their home environments.

As the EPA site summarizes quite well, indoor air pollution is caused by a number of problems. The main cause of concern – which may require a professional evaluation to determine if it is a serious issue in your home – are leakages from any indoor combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, or tobacco.

But the EPA also notes that products used for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, hobbies, and outdoor sources such as radon and pesticides can contribute to an unhealthy indoor environment. Moreover, building materials, furnishings, and air fresheners can release harmful components into the air more or less continuously. GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS There are lots of options available to anyone looking to improve the quality of their home environment.

Here are a few ideas from Green Depot:

1. Testing: Testing is the first step to knowing if you have an issue with your indoor air quality. The National Jewish Health Family Air Care Indoor Allergens and Mold Test Kit is a big step in determining if you have any issues. This kit comes from the nation’s leading respiratory hospital and enables users to screen their homes for the five most common triggers of asthma and allergies, testing for cat, dog, dust mite, and cockroach allergens, as well as 13 species of fungus or mold. Another option for testing indoor air quality is a Radon Gas test kit. Prolab Inc produces both a short term and a long-term radon test kit, providing you a comprehensive analysis of radon in the home.

2. Air Filtration: Breathing air that has been purified of harmful gases is beneficial to the health, as well. The Andrea Air Purifier is the first air purifier capable of absorbing toxins like formaldahyde, using the absorptive properties of living plants. It contains an air fan to draw air into the plant’s chamber and then releases it, purified. Any household plant can be used as the filtration agent.

3. Humidifying: Using a humidifier during the winter months can help alleviate respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and nosebleeds. The Germ Guardian H1000 Tabletop Humidifier is an Energy-Star rated cool mist humidifier. It runs silently, using ultrasonic technology, and unlike other humidifiers has an anti-bacterial coating to prevent the introduction of mold and mildew particles into the air it is improving. It utilizes a metal diaphragm vibrating at high frequencies to create water droplets which are then expelled into the room.

4. Vacuuming: 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.

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This may not be a complete list of all the things you can do to improve your indoor air quality (switch over from conventional fiberglass insulation to a healthier option like Ultratouch eco insulation). But, we hope this proves to be a good place to start and give you some ideas!

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

For more information about indoor-air-quality, we recommend you visit the EPA website:

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:


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