03/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Eco-Shopping Made Easy: Green Depot Opens in New York City

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Green Depot, a new retail concept aimed at making eco-conscious shopping easier, opened today in New York City. The 3,500 square foot flagship store is designed to be consumer friendly, informative, and unique. The Bowery store itself is a model for what can be done with eco and recycled products. Green Depot has applied for platinum level LEED certification. The location originally served as New York City's first YMCA; customers shopping in the front half even walk on the original basketball court floor.

I spoke with Green Depot's founder Sarah Beatty who shared with us three of her favorite areas of the store. The first: the 'pillars of information' throughout the space. The team used existing columns, some brick and some steel, as carriers for information about the store. The most prominent is in the middle of the space and contains the five categories for how products in the store are eco-rated. This icon rating system is applied to each product in the store, making it easy for consumers to evaluate the green characteristics of a particular item. Hunt around a bit and you'll see more information on a small steel column by the entry. That one contains a historical timeline of the building on one side and a list of all the green materials used in the renovation on the other.

Sarah then highlighted her number two favorite area: the 'no-voc paint bar' which features three paint brands that passed a rigorous selection process. Green Depot looked for as many locally sourced products as possible to offer. They were lucky to find Ivy Coatings which manufacturers a zero-voc paint in nearby Brooklyn. Customers can bring in any color swatch and Green Depot can match it to a no-voc paint. Leftover paint can also be brought back to the store and Green Depot will recycle it.

The nursery area is the third section Sarah is particularly proud of. She originally got the idea of starting the company after the birth of her daughter. Working with Green Depot's resident eco-materials expert Jenny Gitlitz, the pair spent many hours on research and working directly with manufacturers to offer a complete range of products that are safe for children and the environment. Jenny recounted stories of settling on a product to carry only to learn later through more research that it contained questionable materials and had to be eliminated. The store offers only two crib mattress options, wool or natural latex. These were the only ones the pair felt met their strict criteria.

Personally, what caught my eye was the cleaning products on tap. Customers can get refills of Green Depot's line of cleaning products dispensed from bar taps near the entry of the store. A really creative solution, and a nice bit of retail theater.

There's much more to see at the store than we've talked about here. Products for sale range from recycled denim insulation to candles. If a product is not in the store, there's a special desk where a green products expert can help you find and source even more. Check out our bonus photo-gallery here.

Green Depot
222 Bowery at Prince St.