sunSummer brings so many wonderful things – cookouts, camping trips, and trips to the beach.  But one of the less wonderful things that accompanies the arrival of summer are sunburns.

UV radiation is a serious cause for concern.  And each year, millions of Americans apply sunscreens and sunblocks to prevent those rays from reaching their skin.  But what’s surprising to know is that many of the products which we use to block the sun are unregulated by any governmental organization, and therefore can put anyone at risk to the exposure of hazardous chemicals whenever they apply sunscreen.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit environmental organization located in Washington, D.C. that is dedicated to research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability.  One of their major projects in the last few years was their 2010 guide to sunscreens.

The EWG has done some astonishing research into the safety of commonly-used sunscreens.  On their website, they cite a few salient facts as the rationale behind conducting an audit of the safety of sunscreens, and reasons why you should chose a sunscreen that is less risky in terms of its chemical ingredients:

  • 1. The FDA has failed to finalize its 1978 sunscreen safety standards, and this has muddled the understanding of the safety and efficacy of conventional sunscreens.
  • 2. There’s no clear consensus on whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer – meaning that choosing a more toxic sunscreen to prevent cancer might be more dangerous than using a milder, or natural one, and avoiding more sun.
  • 3. Major “chemical” sunscreens penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s hormone systems; mineral-based sunscreens do not penetrate the skin.
  • 4. This is the 34th summer in a row without final U.S. sunscreen safety regulations.

To learn more about the dangers of sunscreens, you can visit the EWG’s 9 surprising truth’s page by clicking here.

So, what alternatives then exist?

Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group has gone through and analyzed an entire host of sunscreen products, in an effort to identify which are the safest for human use.  These would be sunscreens that pose the least amount of risk in terms of toxicity and chemical exposure, with the least amount of effects on human health.  You can access the full guide by clicking here.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

Green Depot carries one green product in particular that has been vetted and cleared by the EWG as being one of the safest available and most effective sunscreens on the market.

Badger brand unscented natural sunscreen has been given a rating of “1” by the EWG, placing it in the highest bracket for safety and efficacy.  This sunscreen is water resistant for at least 40 minutes, environmentally-friendly, safe for children, and blocks both UVA and UVB rays.  This entire line of natural sunscreens uses the mineral zinc oxide instead of chemicals to block the sun, and a base of only certified organic plant oils and beeswax to moisturize the skin.

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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credit: unep.org/wed

Mark your calendars for this Sunday, June 5 – because it’s World Environment Day!

According to the official website for the holiday, World Environment Day is a program of the United Nations Environment Program (the UNEP) created and designated as June 5 in 1973 by the UN General Assembly.  World Environment Day is similar to the American analogue, Earth Day, in that it serves as an annual reminder to keep the environment in mind, and allows civic groups to use the date as a to enhance political action around the environment.

The day has a special historical significance because it marks the first UN Conference on the Human Environment, which is one of the earliest major political events concerning environmentalism, and at the time served as a galvanizing event in the history of the movement.

This year to commemorate the holiday, I’ll be making great use of the beautiful out-of-doors as I travel to Assateague Island National Seashore for a camping and kayaking trip.  While on Earth Day many of us use the holiday as an event for political or community action – for staging rallies or events, or planting trees or doing roadside cleanup – I’m practicing my environmentalism in another way – by getting out into nature and appreciating the pure beauty of it.  And we at Green Depot hope you do, too!

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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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.

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

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 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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credit: flickr user kristine paulus

People always seem to come together through agriculture.  This makes a lot of sense – the advent of agriculture many thousands of years ago gave rise to sedentary communities that were once nomadic and centered around hunting and gathering.  People congregate where there is a project – like farming – to be undertaken together, as a group.

Growing up on a farm, our small town was a tiny slice of rural culture where folks would assemble at the weekend farmers’ market, at the feed store or the agricultural co-op, or at the annual county agricultural fair.

That little slice of agricultural community is something that I’ve sorely missed in New York.  But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t congregating, on a smaller scale, all around the city!

A few months ago, I came across a charming, and moving, story in the New York Times: Chicken Vanishes, Heartbreak Ensues.”  You might have already read it, but it’s a really lovely story of how a community can form around agricultural practice – even if the people in that community didn’t know how much they were coming together while they were doing so!

In the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, a family was keeping a family of chickens in the front yard of their home, facing the sidewalk.  Having chickens in the front yard caught the attention of the community’s residents, and the author talks to the ability of the chickens to bring folks together: “The admirers came in droves… In a neighborhood fraught with the tensions of gentrification, making people talk to one another, and talk about something other than themselves, is not an insignificant accomplishment. What I’m saying is that these chickens are important in ways that chickens aren’t usually important.  They are Bed-Stuy’s very own peace doves.”

The story goes on to talk about how their prize hen, Getrude, was stolen one night and the tremendous uproar this caused in the community – folks talked about where the chicken might have gone, offered help in finding the thief to the owners, left signs and banners of support on the fence of their property.  Eventually the chicken was returned by a very guilty young man who admitted to stealing the chicken in a drunken dare.  And, wonderfully, the return of the chicken caused a great positive reaction throughout the neighborhood.

Chickens, bringing people together like that, and in a place like New York City – who would have thought?

Chicken keeping in the city is a growing hobby.  The Huffington Post noted a growing trend of chicken keeping in NYC as far back as 2009.  Indeed, for the aspiring chicken-keeper, Just Food, our own local urban agriculture advocacy organization, runs the City Chicken Project.

courtesy justfood.org and the city chicken project

Funded entirely by member donations, the City Chicken Project offers several resources for city gardeners and farmers who raise chickens.  They publish the City Chicken Guide, run chicken workshops, and have a Just Food City Chicken Meetup in NYC which brings together chicken hobbyists from disparate backgrounds.

And what’s again remarkable about urban chickens are the organizations it brought together – Just Food, the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Added Value, and Heifer International.

Urban chickens get people excited!  It’s a strange animal to cause such allure, but it certainly adds a lot of vibrancy to city life.  And, considering the impacts that the industrial chicken and egg industries have on the environment, urban chickens certainly help improve our sustainability here in the city, 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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22 years ago, a groups of folks in London got together over drinks to discuss the environment and other issues related to sustainability.  That first event was known as Green Drinks, and since then the event has expanded to become a huge, international event occurring in 801 cities worldwide.

We’ve hosted Green Drinks events at both our Ecohaus and Green Depot locations – and had another Green Drinks event at our Seattle location on the 10th of May!  Each worldwide chapter of Green Drinks is organized by a local person, and attracts a good mixture of academics, activists, businesspeople, and government workers.  The Seattle chapter of Greendrinks was founded in 2003 by Gabriel Scheer, and this branch of Green Depot – formerly an Ecohaus location – has hosted the event many times over the years – sometimes with more than 300 people in attendance.  We have found that these have been a great opportunity for people to talk about some of the green products we offer, as well as plans for our company.

Indeed, Green Drinks has proven so popular and so successful that similar events have popped up on the same model – like the (now defunct, but briefly successful!) Climate Drinks NYC, focused on getting professionals who work in the field of climate change to get together and network.

For those people here in New York City looking for Green Drinks events, look no further than http://www.greendrinksnyc.com/, our area’s well-organized, and well-attended chapter.

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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