The first summer after my freshman year as an undergraduate, I worked in a home improvement center.  One of my favorite jobs was installing countertop.  For the affluent resort community where I was working, new countertop meant huge slabs of pure marble and granite – high-quality materials, surely, but the thought crossed my mind more than once: stone isn’t an infinite resource; what will happen to these countertops when the owner chooses to remodel?  Are there any sustainable alternatives available?

Enter Squak Mountain Stone.  The story of Squak is quite remarkable.  The company was founded by Amee Quiriconi as a project dreamed up in a graduate school paper.  The idea was to find a product or service that would benefit the local economy, which in the past had been imported from elsewhere.  The idea became a business venture for Quiriconi, and she used her knowledge of engineering, construction, and research to develop a truly sustainable countertop surface and market it nationally.

Conventional countertops are constructed from a single slab of stone, or from a chemical composite, or even from compressed wood particles.  They can be petroleum-based, or extracted from strip mines, or pressed from forests that were conventionally and non sustainably harvested.  Conventional countertop options available on the market today are certainly not the most sustainable option available to the consumer.

Squak Mountain Stone, on the other hand, is a fibrous-cement material that is comprised of recycled paper, recycled glass, and low-carbon cement.  It’s a fantastic, sustainable, and durable alternative to natural or quarried stone and resembles soapstone or limestone.  It’s rustic and varied, providing a unique accent to any home kitchen or bathroom.  But these slabs aren’t only used in the home – they have been used to construct benches, tabletops, hearths, stairways, and signs.

Not only is squak mountain stone unique, but comes in five different colors to match any home: in natural (grey), latte (light brown), otter (dark brown), thunder (charcoal), and Quinault (forest green).

Take a look around Squak Mountain Stone’s website to learn more about their products, their remarkable story, and their commitment to sustainable home building materials.

Green Depot is excited to be carrying this new green building material.  Visit our website and give us a call to arrange a quote for delivery and installation.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

 

It may be surprising that it hasn’t happened earlier, but formaldehyde has now been officially included in the Health and Human Services Report on Carcinogens, paving the way for further regulation of the chemical.

As Treehugger reports, scientists and politicians have known about the risks for years, but the formaldehyde industry has fought long and hard to prevent its inclusion on the HHS Report on Carcinogens.  The Report is a federally-mandated document that “identifies agents, substances, mixtures, or exposures… known to be a human carcinogen.”

The commission responsible for the report, the National Toxicology Program has noted of the particular dangers posed to certain segments of the workforce – namely, industrial workers and embalmers – which include myeloid leukemia and rare cancers in the sinuses and parts of the throat.

We at Green Depot especially care about this issue, because it turns out that urea-formaldehyde is often added to the adhesives used to produce conventional particle board, plywood, and other lumber products.  Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) meaning that if products made with the chemical are found in the home, they can offgas into the household environment for years to come, meaning long-term exposure.  This is of tremendous cause for concern as homeowners push for higher energy efficiency through weatherization programs, which limits the draftiness of homes – confining offgassing formaldehyde in living areas.

It should be noted that wood intrinsically contains a small amount of naturally occurring phenol-formaldehyde. The levels of formaldehyde naturally found in wood is not considered to be hazaradous, and is not a cause for concern in the same way that the formaldehyde that off-gasses from many plywoods, insulations, particle boards can be.

Green Depot carries a number of no added urea-formaldehyde plywood, flooring, green building materials and other green products.  You can visit our Green Wood Supplies department 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.

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.

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.

One of the big issues with interior household finishes – whether for wood, metal, or the paints that cover our walls – are the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that they contain.

Conventional finishes typically contain a synthetic, liquid solvent that gives off – or “offgasses” – toxic fumes that come from volatile organic compounds present in the solvent.  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.

Wood and cork finishes also contain potentially-hazardous VOCs, which is why Green Depot carries a low-VOC wood finish to keep you, your family, and the environment healthy.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

OSMO Polyx-Oil is one of several green products we carry to help you finish your interior.  OSMO Hardwax Oil in particular is an engineered finish made with plant oils and waxes, with enough mineral spirits to allow an easy application.  This finish offers durability and renewability with a lustrous finish, and will never crack, blister, or flake off: the finish has open pores that “breathe” allowing moisture to pass from the wood, unlike polyurethane which creates a plastic film seal over the wood.

OSMO Polyx-Oil is made from two natural waxes and three natural oils and contains no biocides or preservatives.

For green building materials, like eco insulation, as well as many other green products for a sustainable lifestyle, visit http://www.greendepot.com.

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 www.greensciencepolicy.org.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

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 http://www.greendepot.com.