United Colors of Green Depot
TDG staff recently checked out the launch party for the flagship store of Green Depot, a gorgeous Manhattan showroom that aims to bring green building and healthy living into apartments and homes across the city.
Green Depot has been based in a Brooklyn warehouse (as well as a few other area locations) for several years, providing materials and expertise to contractors interested in going green. Founder and president Sarah Beatty recently told TDG that she got the idea for expanding to retail after she watched a "very pregnant" woman trudge out to her warehouse in blistering summer heat, desperate for some VOC-free paint for her new nursery.
Today, the store on the Bowery is a beautiful, tactile testament to how far the green ethic has come.
How Do You See Green?
Beatty is passionate about her manifesto, which she says is based on quality, efficiency, functionality, design and innovation. She said everything she offers in the store (and more are to come soon) -- as well as on the recently upgraded shopping website -- "must work." In order to avoid greenwashing (something Beatty points out is a real concern in this biz) Green Depot spent months developing what the founder calls a "rigorous internal filter methodology."
Beatty and her team of green design experts test products, study materials safety data sheets, call and visit suppliers, read academic research and more, with the goal of presenting as much information to consumers as clearly and openly as possible. Green Depot hosts databases of information on green materials, and tried to make things easy with their brand new house classification system. Cute logos festoon the store and products, designating such qualities as "local," "air quality," "responsibility," "conservation" and "energy." (Get definitions here.) That way no products are simply "green" or "sustainable" or "natural" -- all terms that are not regulated or truly meaningful.
As Beatty points out, every consumer is different and has different expectations. Some are very concerned with indoor air quality, while others are most excited about supporting local economies.
Sarah Beatty and Sustainability
Green Depot's 3,500-square-foot space is housed in an historic 1885 building (the first YMCA in the city!), which has been renovated and certified platinum by LEED. The store is powered with energy- and water-efficient systems.
"Much of the space is about deconstruction, showing consumers what's behind their walls," said Beatty. That means you can see the Bonded Logic blue jeans insulation behind one cutaway (just like Adrian Grenier has!), or spray foam insulation behind another.
The Juice Bar of Green Cleaning
One of the highlights of the Green Depot store is their "juice bar," which offers a selection of natural, non-toxic cleaning products for various applications. BYOB (bring your own bottles), and fill up from fun beer-tap style dispensers. They even have nice labels you can stick on your bottles so you know exactly what's in the product, in case you forget or your in-laws decide to do some scrubbing in your kitchen when you're not looking. Love it!
Green Clean Starter Kit
"Going green is not just about the rich or the 'affordable market,'" said Beatty. "It also has to be about the middle class." Yes, a number of Green Depot's products will appeal to the vacation home crowd. But others are priced for the budget conscious, and still more are competitive with the better brands one finds at popular mainstream retailers.
A Green Cleaning Oasis
Being surrounded by so many non-toxic green cleaning products and natural sponges made us feel virtuous. It made us want to rush home and break out the baking soda!
Green Depot has also launched their Ivy Coatings brand of private-label paint, made by a family business in nearby Brooklyn. Beatty said she spent many months researching paints and working with the manufacturer to produce something that was truly free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
It was no easy task. According to Beatty, some of the low- and even no-VOC brands on the market leave much to be desired. Some have played a kind of musical chairs in formulations, substituting chemicals on the government's VOC list with other compounds that may not be listed yet, but which according to Beatty still have the potential to harm indoor air quality.
Just like other quality paint stores, Green Depot can digitally match any paint chip or color you bring in, but do it with non-toxic paint. They also offer a robust line of pre-made colors, many with pleasant names like "hemp" and "soil."
Green and Gorgeous
At the launch party, we also checked out some of the hardware on display at Green Depot, from gorgeous IceStone countertops to bamboo-based, formaldehyde-free cabinets. The store is designed to encourage interaction with the materials, as well as with the friendly sales staff (who were present in force, in their earth-toned aprons).
Green Depot isn't just about hardware. It's also about lifestyle and design, and about living well while living green.
Green Lighting (and Recycling!)
One of the most exciting things to us is the fact that Green Depot will accept CFLs, batteries, paint and perhaps other materials from consumers for recycling. A number of these items are difficult for the average person to properly dispose of, and often require a fee. But Green Depot will take care of all that.
Gear for Green Babies
One of the parts of the store closest to Beatty's heart is the baby section, which is full of soft touches like all-natural stuffed animals and unique artwork.
Find fun alternatives to potentially toxic baby bottles.
Natural Toys, Sans Lead
Beatty hopes the Green Depot will become the "one-stop shop for parents." (Get more green baby ideas.)
Doesn't this remind you of a green Anthropologie?
A Green Mantra
We loved this piece behind the cash register. Much better than the dollar bills posted up at bodegas and car washes.
Recycled (and Functional) Fixtures
Much of the hard goods at Green Depot were specially created by established designers, such as John Pomp and Rodger Stevens. Light fixtures are designed to enhance and compliment CFLs, for example. Write on them with chalk for fun.
The former CEO of Home Depot was known as the "Wizard of Saws." Yet you can sit on your own throne of saws with this whimsical recycled piece.
One suspects shoppers will receive more attention and better service at Green Depot, versus what you typically find at those cavernous big boxes. Beatty touts the company's "flip it green" concept, in which customers can show up with an idea or blueprints, and consultants will walk them through upgrading efficiency, eliminating toxins or other green goals, all according to personal tastes and budget.
It's the kind of service Green Depot has offered commercial builders for years (despite the resistance to change common in that industry, according to Beatty).