Ever since the environmentally friendly building supply store Green Depot opened in New York, we have wondered: Is it worth it—financially, environmentally, and for your own health—to make your renovation more sustainable? A homeowner and his contractor weigh in.
That’s why my contractor Mike Borcina loves to mock the green movement. Contractors, Borcina explains, balance a customer’s desire for real sustainable building with increased labor costs. It’s often cheaper to send perfectly good materials into landfill than to take the time to prepare them for re-use. We know this, but what should we do about it?
Given his choice, Borcina would way rather not use the toxic product. “Years ago, when I came up and got all my habits, these things weren’t important,” he says. “Now whether or not we like them, we should be using them. We have to. It needs to be done.”
But following sustainable principles while renovating a home can still cost whole lot more. How much more? To find out, we visited Manhattan’s sexy new Green Depot and compared their products to conventional choices at Home Depot, their more conventional competitor. Here’s what we found.
Green Depot FSC 3/4-inch plywood ($0.72 per square foot) Vs. Home Depot 3/4-inch plywood ($0.65 per square foot)
Conventional plywood contains formaldehyde, which according to the EPA, “causes cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans.” Green Depot wood is Forest Stewardship Council certified and formaldehyde free.
Adam’s Pick: I’d choose the Green Depot product. Formaldehyde scares me. Simple as that.
Mike’s Pick: Green Depot. I always buy the best plywood. I’d spend an extra 3 to 5 percent to make it greener.
AFM Safecoat® Zero-VOC Custom Color Paint ($45 per gallon) Vs. BEHR PREMIUM PLUS Interior Semi-Gloss Enamel Paint ($23 per gallon)
Volatile organic compounds are the chemicals in paints that produce that dizzying smell. The Green Depot’s Safecoat series contain none, so homeowners can use their paints with the windows closed.
Adam’s Pick: My wife and I just used Safecoat to paint the bathroom and it did drip a little more than the higher VOC paints. That said, we enjoyed using a product with no discernible smell. It’s odorless and free of toxics.
Mike’s Pick: If that gallon of paint doesn’t cover as well, it’s going to cost you more money in labor. Are you willing to live with that? I have used an environmentally friendly paint and they don’t cover as well.
Green Depot Icestone ($119 per square foot, installed) Vs. Home Depot Silestone ($56–94 per square foot, installed)
Brooklyn-based Icestone assembles their countertops from glass waste: they contain 70 to 75 percent recycled glass content. They’re pricey, though. Silestone, meanwhile, may be produced in an emission-free way, but it’s often combined with petroleum-based resin.
Adam’s Pick: Icestone is a beautiful product; I just think it blows our budget. I can get remainders of Silestone for as little as $50 per square foot and still score points for keeping waste out of a landfill.