photo credit: flickr user techbirmingham

If you’re reading this blog, you are using an electronic device – whether it’s a computer, smart phone, or e-reader.  But one of the things you may not know is that electronic devices can have serious consequences on the environment.  All electronic devices use heavy and other precious metals which, when they are mined and are returned into the ecosystem can have a detrimental effect on the health of local ecosystems and watersheds.

Recycling electronics is a huge step in ensuring that our devices do not harm the environment.  But in some instances, recycling electronics only means that recycling companies remove the valuable metals – like gold – and dissolve the rest in an acid bath, which often reenters the watershed.

Fortunately, there are organizations which serve as watchdogs to ensure that the electronics that you recycle are done so in a responsible manner, which has no negative impact on the environment.

The Basel Action Network (BAN) is one of the most important international organizations today working to ensure the efficiency of electronic recycling industries.  According to their website, they tackle important issues of environmental justice relating to the toxics trades, confronting “the issues of environmental justice at a macro level, preventing disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on our global village’s poorest residents. At the same time we actively promote the sustainable and just solutions to our consumption and waste crises — banning waste trade, while promoting green, toxic free and democratic design of consumer products.”

BAN runs a certification program called e-Stewards which serves as a watchdog to ensure that e-recyclers meet sustainable standards.  To date, they have certified over 40 e-recyclers with 100 locations across the United States that meet “globally responsible, safe means to process e-waste.”  These standards represent best practices in the e-waste processing industry, including no disposal in landfills or incinerators, no prison labor, and no export to poor communities.

In New York City, responsible e-waste recycling isn’t so difficult to do!  The Lower East Side Ecology Center runs a city-wide recycling program that responsibly recycles e-waste, and throws several e-waste recycling programs throughout the year.  To learn more about the LESEC’s recycling programs in NYC, you can visit their website here.

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

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

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?


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

At the Festival of Ideas StreetFest, we demonstrated how to upcycle old plastic bottles into sub-irrigating planters for your home or office — it’s easy, inexpensive and eco-friendly! Made from 1L, 2L or 3L bottles, these planters are a great way to keep your plants happy without accidental over-watering. So many people asked for the instructions at the demo, we decided to post them here, on our blog!
Def: Sub-Irrigated Planter (SIP) is a generic name for a special type of planter used in container gardening.  A SIP is any method of watering plants where the water is introduced from the bottom, allowing the water to soak upwards to the plant through capillary action (wicking)
What we love about self-watering planters, besides being easy to make, is that we don’t have to worry about over-watering our plants or under-watering them.




  • Used Plastic Bottle (empty)(1L, 2L, or 3L)
  • metal skewer
  • potting soil
  • permanent marker
  • felt (optional)


  1. Remove the label from your bottle.
  2. Poke a series of holes in the neck and top of the bottle by heating a metal skewer over a gas burner. You can also use a wood burning pen or an electric soldering iron.
  3. Draw a straight line with a permanent marker around your bottle. A 14oz. can is a guide for how high up the bottle your line should be and helps keep your line straight. This is not an exact marker but a guide. The objective is to get the top of the neck to touch the inside of the bottom.
  4. Cut off the top of the bottle where the cap is located to keep the roots from clogging the bottle neck.
  5. Cut 1” of plastic from the bottom of the bottle to make up for the inch of bottle you just cut off. Make sure you cut straight!
  6. Get your soil and plant the top part of the bottle with seeds or your plant. The little holes are for the roots to poke out of so that they can soak up the water you will be putting in the base of the bottle. Don’t worry about the plant roots- they definitely know how to find water!
  7. Put the top of your bottle inside the bottom of the bottle and add water to the bottom part
  8. You’re done. Enjoy your beautiful new sub-irrigation planter.
  9. To water simply lift the top planter section from the bottom and add a measured amount of water, never add so much that it rises to the soil surface. The top ½” to ¾” should be dry. Remember… You are the self in self-watering
  10. For larger plastic containers like 5G water bottles, you can experiment by adding wicking material like polyester batting material (felt). Just pour some potting mix into the planter on top of the wick. Use a finger to push the soil down firmly until the wick protrudes at the neck opening. This will hold the soil in the planter and guarantees contact with the water

Many thanks to Groundworks INC for their help with this demonstration!

flickr user wisemandarine

This article is part of a series on reducing waste and living more sustainably.

I live in a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York, with four other people.  One of the largest amounts of waste products I notice that we produce (besides plastics, recyclable or non-recyclable) is the amount of food scraps and food waste we throw away.

Food waste is actually an important issue for the environment.  In New York City, roughly one-third of all the trash we send to the landfill is compostable materials — usually kitchen scraps that will quickly and naturally decompose.  This is significant, because when a compostable item decomposes in an oxygen-free environment, like a landfill, it produces the greenhouse gas methane.  Methane is actually over 20 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is, which is why composting is such an important activity to pursue.

In my own apartment, the vegetable matter we produce could easily be composted indoors; unfortunately one of our roommates is uncomfortable with having a live compost in the kitchen area.  (Alas, this is the all-too-common human factor of trying to live environmentally: sometimes the social environment around us precludes us from living as sustainably as we’d like.)

In the meantime, though, I’ve two solutions:

  1. I save all of my vegetable scraps in the freezer, in an airtight container.  About three-quarters of these scraps go towards my vegetable stock supply, which I wind up replenishing about every three weeks.
  2. The rest I take down to the park for the public composting program.

It’s a little extra effort, but it helps the environment and saves me a clean conscience.  And it’s especially helpful for future compost projects: freezing compost scraps kills whatever insect eggs and fungi might be present in those scraps, ensuring a clean, uncontaminated compost pile.


Through May 1st, Green Depot is offering up to 20% off a number of green products, including composting supplies.  For all of our discounted composting supplies, click here.

The All Seasons Indoor Composter kit is a unique, in-house system that recycles kitchen scraps into compost. The anaerobic fermentation method used in this kit prepares your compost in less than half the time of conventional composting methods, without the odors.  Two unique features, the strainer and spigot, allow the moisture released by your food scraps to be drained out to prevent spoilage. This liquid can be diluted and used as a fertilizer for household plants.

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

courtesy: Re-Nest

What a successful project!  Back on March 1st, a few of here at Green Depot headquarters decided to undertake the No New Plastic Challenge for the month: to not buy any new plastic for the entire month.

When I began the challenge, I considered it more of an educational experience – one that would make me more aware of my plastic consumption and waste reduction efforts – rather than being a definite goal wherein I would buy no new plastic.  The question was this: if I was trying to buy no new plastic, in what areas of my life would this prove to be the greatest challenge?

If No New Plastic March was intended to be an educational experience, then it has been a wild success.  I learned that plastic is tremendously pervasive in the developed world and almost unavoidable, and I already had a head start on reducing my plastic consumption by belonging to a food co-operative where I have the ability to buy nearly everything in bulk.

But part of undertaking the experience was to remind myself and everyone reading that we are all only human, living in a society and economy that is not yet sustainable, or even environmentally-conscious in all of its manifestations.  That is, we all have our limitations in terms of how sustainably we can live our lives, and for many people, time is a limiting factor.  And for those with more time and the resources to live more sustainably (like a food co-op), society and economy can prove to be a real limitation.

Fortunately, there are now many people working hard to make sustainability more accessible to everyone, all of the time.  Green products, like the ones Green Depot sells, are a great start towards living sustainably.  But they do not necessarily go far enough, if we have to resort to purchasing food wrapped in plastic, for example.  For that, we can only keep striving towards a new economy, and a new sustainable economy.  We’re all part of the solution, and our efforts are ultimately making a difference every day.

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