Plastic-free March

March 1st, 2011 | Posted by tjones in Green Products | Living Green - (4 Comments)

courtesy: Re-Nest

It’s a new month!  This is exciting, and not only because it means spring is that much closer, but because March is also the month for the No New Plastic Challenge.

The idea has been proffered by Re-Nest, the green home design blog.  You can read more about it here.  A few of us on the Green Depot team — including myself — are undertaking the challenge, and I’ll be blogging about the challenges and successes of my own effort once a week, throughout the month.

Taking into account the fact that some plastics are medically necessary, Re-Nest has set three basic criteria for achieving a No New Plastic March.  To borrow from their site:

1. Buy No New Plastic. This means that for one month you will avoid buying any product that contains new plastic.

2. Consider The Plastic You Already Live With. Take an inventory of the plastic already in your home and use this to decrease your use patterns.

3. Recycle Any Unused Plastic. If you don’t use it, get rid of it the right way.”

Do you think you’ll undertake the challenge, too?  If so let us know via the comments section below, or over at our Facebook page.  Sharing tips may be one of the most important ways to make the challenge a success!

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS:

One of the first steps towards avoiding all new plastic is to replace disposable water bottles with a green product, like a reusable bottle.  I use a Kleen Kanteen.  They are constructed from recyclable food grade stainless steel, forgoing the need for a BPA plastic liner.  They leach no toxins or plastic flavors into the liquid it holds, and have a very wide mouth which has proven to be a major convenience, time and time again.

For many green products, including new green building materials carried by both Ecohaus and Greendepot, visit our websites: http://www.greendepot.com, and http://www.ecohaus.com.

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One of the main concerns folks seem to have about composting in small apartments — especially in urban apartments, where roommates or neighbors can put up opposition to compost — is the smell, and the threat of invading pests.

A properly managed compost bin, one that has a healthy balance of dry organic matter (browns, like newspaper or leafs) with wet organic matter (like vegetable scraps), will never have a bad smell.  Instead, it will have the musty, earthy smell of humus.  Likewise, maintaining a healthy compost bin — with a proper acidity — means pests won’t find the bins all that welcoming.

But it can be difficult to always keep a close tab on a compost bin.  And even then, sometimes roommates can feel uncomfortable having an active compost in the kitchen.  For folks that prefer not to compost indoors, who drop their compost off at a community or city composting program or keep an outdoor bin, storing compost in a bin can be a good solution

GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS

One green product that Green Depot is currently featuring is the freezer compost bin from Fuccillo Design, pictured above.  It is a simple solution that resolves concerns over odor and insect invasions.

Constructed from silicone, the bin sits inside of the freezer and keeps the compost from decomposing.  Doing this eliminates odor, and also kills any fruit fly or other insect eggs that might be present in the compost (this is a common problem with composting banana peels, actually).

The bin is 11 inches wide, 6 inches high, and 6 inches deep.

For many green products, including new green building materials carried by both Ecohaus and Greendepot, visit our websites: http://www.greendepot.com, and http://www.ecohaus.com.

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Growing up on a farm, I always had space to grow anything and everything I wanted.  Moving to a small town in Ohio, I was able to get involved in a local organic community garden.  Moving to a big city, though, my options for growing became limited and I was forced to improvise!

One of the most innovative home gardening projects that I’m aware of is the Windowfarms Project.  Windowfarms is an open-source, community-based project aimed at helping individuals grow food inside their inner-city apartments year round.  Because the project is open-source, failures and successes in designing the hydroponic systems, and in deciding which plants to grow and how best to tend to them, are discussed on online forums to create a windowfarmer community.

The project is profoundly D.I.Y., and usually built from recycled bottles and low-cost pumps and tubing.  But starting an experimental project from scratch isn’t always the best option for anyone, and luckily Green Depot carries an excellent — and awesome — green product for growing food hydroponically in a small, urban apartment.

A GREEN DEPOT SOLUTION FOR GROWING IN YOUR APARTMENT

Grow Bottles from Potting Shed Creations are created from up-cycled (the process of converting a waste product into a new and more useful product) wine bottles, allowing anyone to grow herbs hydroponically indoors.  The growing kit includes organic heirloom herb seeds in several varieties — allowing you to choose between basil, chives, mint, oregano, or parsley — as well as clay growing pebbles, plant nutrients, wool-felt water wick, and a cork coaster to protect the surface the bottles rest on.

No soil is required to grow hydroponically, and the seeds will quickly germinate, within seven to ten days.  In only six weeks the herbs will be mature and ready for consumption in any meal.  The grow bottles can be reused indefinitely, with the use of Potting Shed Creations’ Replant kits.

For this green product and many more, including new green building materials carried by both Ecohaus and Greendepot, visit our websites: http://www.greendepot.com, and http://www.ecohaus.com.

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An interesting report from the U.K.: a study of the most polluting cities in the world shows that cities that pollute the most aren’t the ones we might consider first.  People seem to often think that visibly-polluted cities in the developing world are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.  It turns out this is a misconception!

As U.S.A. Today reports, cities like Nepal, India, and Bangladesh emit less than half a ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (meaning gases including carbon dioxide, but also methane and nitrous oxide).  But the highest emitters in the world are in the developed world, including Rotterdam, Denver, Sydney, Washington, Minneapolis, and Calgary.  Each of these cities emits more than 17 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita.  The study was funded by a London-based NGO, the International Institute for Environment and Development.

The lead author of the study, urban specialist at the World Bank Daniel Hoornweg, is keen to point out the two main drivers of greenhouse gas production on the level of the individual: lifestyle choices and consumption patterns, such as the Western consumer demand for Chinese goods.  From previous studies and reports, we also know that building energy consumption is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

But one of the more empowering things about knowing that it is lifestyle, consumption, and building choices that most significantly contribute to climate change is known that these are things we can change on and individual – and social – level.

It gives us hope, then, to read another recent article published in GreenSource that retrofitting buildings to be more environmentally-friendly is a growing trend (and actually one that might prove to be more environmentally-sound than new construction, which requires the new extraction of natural resources).  McGraw-Hill Construction already estimates that green building accounts for five to nine percent of the renovation market by value, and this is expected to expand up to 30 percent by 2014.  Green renovation can apply to any human building – for family homes, commercial institutions, and industrial buildings.

There are a few examples of these green renovations already, one of the most famous being the Empire State Building’s $20 million dollar retrofit that aims to reduce energy consumption by up to 40%, according to Business Insider in a 2009 article.  By installing (6,500) triple-glazed windows, insulating radiators, and updating the ventilation systems the building could earn a rating of 90 from EnergyStar, and a gold rating from LEED.

GreenDepot’s flagship store on the Bowery, in New York City, is another excellent example of green renovation – one which has earned a LEED Platinum rating.  Located in the bottom floor of a five-story building, the store has served as NYC’s first branch of the YMCA, an X-ray equipment manufacturer, a restaurant supply store, and a meditation center for Tibetan Buddhists.  Renovation – rather than demolition and new construction – is not just an effective way of reducing construction costs, it is also a dedicated application of a “reuse” ethic.

Since we already know that reinventing our lifestyle and consumption patterns to make a sustainable society demands reducing our consumption, reusing what we already have, and recycling what cannot be reused (reduce-reuse-recycle), retrofitting buildings with recycled and other green building materials is a significant and meaningful step towards creating green cities.  It’s a step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, whether you find yourself in one of the top carbon-emitting cities, or anywhere else.

IDEAS FOR RENOVATION and RETROFIT

The building sector accounts for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and consumes a full 70% of all electricity produced.  Hence, one of the most significant ways in which individuals contribute to greenhouse gas emissions is through their household energy consumption. Heating homes and heating water are two of the most energy-intensive activities that occur in a home.  So, here are some ways to help the homeowner make the most significant reduction of energy consumption:

Bonded Logic Installation

Bonded Logic Ultra Touch 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.

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.

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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We’ve written a few times about the LifeEdited project – an earlier reminder that the voting period was open for life edited, and an interview with Graham Hill, the founder of TreeHugger and the LifeEdited project.

We’re updating about the project once again to let you know that the winners of the competition will be announced — live – tomorrow, at 12pm!

Graham lives in an apartment that some would consider small: 420 square feet.  Graham saw this as an opportunity, rather than an impediment.  He would redesign his apartment to be as efficient and as sustainable as possible, by opening up a design challenge to the general public.

Visitors to the LifeEdited site have been able to look at designs and vote for the ones they felt were the most innovative and sustainable.  In other words, it was open-source design, confirming not only the environmental principles of sustainable design, but democratic principles, as well.

There were over 300 amazing submissions to the project, and the website has received around 500,00 pageviews.

Green Depot is a partner with the LifeEdited project, and we’ll be working with Graham and the winning designer this spring to provide green building materials and other green products for his new home.

To see the winner announced live tomorrow, click the information below:

When: 12:00pm EST, January 27, 2011

Where: Live Online at http://www.LifeEdited.org/livestream.html

For green building materials and many other green products, visit http://www.greendepot.com.
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Back in November we interviewed Graham Hill, of treehugger.com, about his most recent project: LifeEdited.  It’s an ambitious – and inherently democratic and environmental – project.

Graham lives in an apartment that some would consider small: 420 square feet.  Graham saw this as an opportunity, rather than an impediment.  He would redesign his apartment to be as efficient and as sustainable as possible, by opening up a design challenge to the general public.

Visitors to the LifeEdited site have been able to look at designs and vote for the ones they felt were the most innovative and sustainable.  In other words, it was open-source design, confirming not only the environmental principles of sustainable design, but democratic principles, as well.

An ambitious project, for sure!  And one that is proving to be successful.  LifeEdited has received over 300 submissions with an enormous amount of online community feedback (including 400,000 pageviews).

Now it’s time to vote.  The submission phase is now closed, and Graham is searching for the best design to implement in his home.

Submissions can be voted on by clicking this link: http://www.jovoto.com/contests/life-edited?sortby=rating

After voting ends, Graham will review designs with the jurors and announce the winners on Thursday, January 27th.

We’ll be updating on the LifeEdited project when the winner is announced!

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

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