Helping Create A Cleaner World

Ecossential Motel Soaps

Ecossential Hotel Soaps

Sometimes the little things actually do matter. Take hotel soaps for example. One third of the world’s soap is used by people living in the United States. 2.6 million hotel size bars of soap are thrown away as hotel rooms are cleaned each day in the United States alone.

How often do you use all the soap a hotel provides for you ? I will admit that we bring home both opened and unopened bars of soap since our perception is that the hotel has allotted a certain amount of soap as covered by the bill we have paid. How about you ? Do you use those soaps and shampoos once you get home ? We actually do try to use them. If a natural disaster occurs and we are donating stuff to help the local people get by until they can get back on their feet, we might include a ziplock bag full of these if they have accumulated faster in our household than we have been able to use them.

I recently discovered the Clean the World Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization that collects from more than 1,000 hotel partners in North America then recycles and distributes these hotel soaps and bottled amenities not only in the United States but also in 40 countries abroad. The environmental impact of this effort has diverted an estimated 550 tons of hotel waste from landfills in the United States and Canada.

Clean the World was started in Orlando, Florida in 2009 in the one-car garage of Shawn Seipler, a sales executive. Never believe that one person can’t make a huge difference in the world. Seipler wondered what happened to the tiny bars of soap leftover from his 150 nights spent in hotel rooms each year. When he found out that the soap was thrown away, while children died around the world each day because they had no access to soap, he decided to form Clean the World.

Haitian Child with Soap

Haitian Child with Soap

By 2011, the foundation had collected, recycled and distributed more than 8 million soap bars to children and families in need in the United States and more than 40 countries, including Haiti, Japan, Zimbabwe, Uganda, India, Honduras, Mexico and Albania. Medical research studies have shown that simple hand washing with soap could help prevent hygiene related deaths by more than 60 percent, yet there are communities around the world in which soap is such a valuable commodity that hygiene is considered a luxury, not a necessity. Each day, 9,000 children around the world die from diseases such as acute respiratory illness and diarrheal diseases that can be prevented by washing with bar soap. These are the top two killers of children under the age of 5. Clean the World Foundation has a mission to provide soap where needed to help improve hygiene and sanitation conditions, to lessen the impact of disease, and to promote better hygiene and living conditions worldwide.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Georgia, Derreck Kayongo was troubled by his time visiting refugee camps, where illness was rampant because people had no access to soap. He partnered with a veteran hospitality executive who shared his same concerns about throwing away soaps at hotels and started the Global Soap Project in his basement. According to Global Soap, hand washing with soap can reduce diarrheal disease and respiratory infections because teaching proper hand washing techniques and providing soap is more effective than vaccines, medications or clean water initiatives alone.

It is estimated that over six years time, the efforts of these two soap recycling organizations have contributed to a 30% reduction in childhood deaths from hygiene-related illnesses. The organizations, Clean the World and Global Soap, have now joined forces in 2015 to work together to make an even larger impact on preventing illness caused by lack of proper hygiene. Clean the World now focuses on recycling the soap and toiletries at their three facilities in Orlando, Las Vegas and Hong Kong. They are the only high-volume soap recycler in the world. Global Soap is now focused on soap distribution and promoting global hygiene. The group uses local aid and non-governmental organizations to help with distribution and education, as well as sending their own teams into rural communities around the world to hand-deliver hygiene products and to teach residents about the importance of keeping clean.

Clean the World Las Vegas Recycling Facility

Clean the World
Las Vegas Recycling Facility

I bet you’re wondering – how is soap recycled ? I’m glad you asked !! In the beginning a Clean the World volunteer would “surface clean” the soaps. Now there are 3 industrial scale recycling facilities where the soap is ground up and sterilized to eliminate all pathogens and then pressed into new bars and wrapped. It is really a lot like the way that Yemm & Hart partners with facilities who clean the milk jugs and detergent bottles you recycle and then processes them into the standard resin feedstock form so that we can press this into new plastic panels for restroom partitions and countertops.

Want to recycle your own soap in your home for your family’s use ? “Instructables” offers step-by-step instructions along with color photos to guide you (see the link at ~ Information Resources below).

Old Soap for Recycling

~ Information Resources

“What Happens Next When Two Soap Recycling Programs Join Forces?” posted at Earth911 on Aug 5, 2015 – http://www.earth911.com/business-policy/clean-the-competition-soap-recycling-programs-join-forces/

“First Annual Clean the World Gala” posted on prweb on May 18, 2011 – http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/5/prweb8452571.htm

“How Recycled Bars Of Soap Could Help Prevent Illnesses In Developing Countries” by Brian Skoloff/Associated Press posted April 10, 2015 at the Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/10/clean-the-world_n_7042404.html

“Green Partitions – Successful Specifications for Polyethylene Partitions” posted at Yemm & Hart – http://www.yemmhart.com/products/partitions/partitions_success_spec.html

“Recycle your old Soap” by Gunk on Floor posted at Instructables – http://www.instructables.com/id/Reuse-Your-Old-Soap/

** PS – a word about Ecossentials Elements soap from Concept Amenities (image at the beginning of this blog). CA is serious about making a difference in the environmental problem of the 95% of the plastic used in hotel rooms ending up in landfills – where of course – they sit for hundreds of years. The company notes that the top 300 hotel groups in the world alone dispose of an estimated 5.5 billion amenity bottles and caps every year. Their plastic packaging is fully biodegradable in the landfill because it contains an FDA approved organic based additive that allows microbes to break it down. You can read more about “Mikey the Microbe” at Concept Amenities as well as additional information about the company, their values and their products at – http://www.conceptamenities.com/. Concept Amenities works with Australia’s hotel soap recycling organization – SoapAid (http://www.soapaid.org). CA has locations in Australia, the UK and Las Vegas NV in the US.

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Let It Begin With Me

Earth Day tree logo

Earth Day was celebrated last Wed, April 22nd which is its official “day” each year. Some of the other suggestions for a name that very first Earth Day were E-Day or Ecology Day. I learned about this piece of environmental history when I listened to an interesting story about how Earth Day got it’s name on NPR and learned also that April 22nd was Julian Koenig’s own birthday as well. He died last year at the age of 93. In an interview, Koenig said – “Earth Day is one of the things when my children say what did you do in the Great War, Grandpa?” I can answer “… I named Earth Day”.

Julian Koenig was an advertising executive. He is well known for the Timex ad with the slogan that “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking”. He was also an environmentalist and was part of that group that was organizing an environmental teach-in back in 1970 (Earth Day is 45 yrs old this year). The group didn’t think “teach-in” was a catchy enough name – too academic and not action-oriented enough. The group placed an ad in The New York Times and along with that name “Earth Day” helped achieve an unexpectedly massive turnout of 20 million people. Denis Hayes, the campaign’s young national director, realized in that moment “…oh, my God, we have – we’ve unleashed some powerful new force now on American life”.

With the first Earth Day back in 1970 there began to grow within humanity a more intimate perspective towards the planet. We began to see the planet as a macro living organism with systems that mirror our human body. With a new awareness at the governmental level, legislation was passed to help clean up some very dirty air quality and polluted waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency was created in the United States of America at that time to assist in clean up efforts and try to prevent future messes, similar to those we had responsibility for creating in the first place. Sadly, there are still way too many messes on this planet to yet clean up.

Both my business partner and myself “came of age” (graduated from high school) at the very beginnings of Earth Day. It was a time of idealist activism and so it isn’t any wonder that we are gratified that we can financially support our family with an environmentally friendly business. Our business participated in many, many St Louis Earth Day events back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Today will be this year’s event in St Louis at Forest Park near the Muny outdoor theater. I am grateful that the event continues to be inspirational for both making good environmental choices and in supporting recycling in general.

StL Recycling on the Go

One of the featured events is the Recycling Extravaganza. This is being held as part of the St Louis Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 26th. It is a collection event for hard-to-recycle items (while these are not the same materials that Yemm & Hart recycles, extending the life of all extracted natural resources is a very important purpose for recycling). Items collected at Earth Day in St Louis this year include CRTs and Flat Screen TVs (for a small fee), compact fluorescent light bulbs, Brita filters, medications (not for recycling but for ethical disposal), clothing & other textiles, building & construction hardware related items for Habitat Humanity, shoes, medical in-home care accessories, toys & stuffed animals, musical instruments as well as sheet music, and bicycles.

Within my family it isn’t good enough to simply throw things away. We also recycle everything that possibly can be recycled to keep from adding to the volume in the landfills. We have an awareness regarding this because our family business at the moment involves making new construction materials in the form of panels and sheets from recycled post-consumer plastic containers, automobile tires and industrial waste by-products. Because we live in an isolated wilderness we do not have a curbside trash pickup. We have to haul not only our recyclables into town but our non-organic, non-recyclable trash to the transfer station who then takes that refuse to an approved landfill (our local landfill having long ago reached its own maximum holding capacity). Anything that might break down in an organic manner is put into a composting pile at the western end of our back porch where its presence isn’t disagreeable to daily living.

Recently, I wrote about our family’s tree planting this year (see “Spring Planting in the Forest“). I discovered as part of Earth Day “global” this year that there is the Forest Nation event – “Pledge to Plant for Earth Day”. They say on their website – “It’s an old Native American tradition that when you take something from the Earth you must put something back. Earth Day 2015 will be a global Give back to Earth event, as an offering for all that the planet gives us.” This is our perspective as well – not just for Earth Day, not just for this year, but for always. We are in a multi-year cycle of harvesting trees (logging) for the purpose of enhancing the health and vitality of our forest. We have received expert advice to guide us from our state’s Dept of Conservation forester as well as enlisting the services of a professional forester to create a forest management plan for our farm. We are also in a multi-year reforestation project to return the open fields that were previously row-cropped or used as pasture for livestock grazing back into forest. We have planted many, many more trees than we are likely to ever harvest in our logging cycle. It will be at least 25-30 years before another such cycle will take place on our land.

GIVEAHOOTDONTPOLLUTE

I just wanted to highlight for this week’s blog that every person can do some small thing to make a positive impact on the quality of life on this planet. Our family participates in stewarding our local stream as a group that signed up for the Missouri Stream Team program in it’s very first year. Every year, we do 3 runs of 10 stops on each run, to listen to the breeding calls of frogs and toads as part of a state and national effort to monitor this environmentally fragile species. My family also picks up litter along our county dirt road that other residents and their visitors traverse. We have found that visibly picking up trash has resulted in less litter being pitched out over time. I suppose our efforts have some subtle or direct impact on the neighbors who drive by as we are picking the trash up and one can hope they are restrained by realizing that litter thrown out just makes more work for us. If I don’t want to come home with litter, I will even pull into a quick shop somewhere to throw it away in an appropriate receptacle. Our now deceased deaf uncle once taught us that litter on the ground attracts more litter. It’s like “oh look, there’s so much there already, a little bit more won’t matter”.

I know that creating a cleaner earth is the responsibility of each and every individual and that it is also the responsibility of corporations. They are sometimes myopically focused on increasing profits, raising executive salaries and keeping the stockholders happy. Those of us ordinary people who care about the environment must hold their corporate feet to the fire as they do not always feel such responsibilities naturally. So support your favorite organization doing this crucial work and make your voice heard.

We’ve had clean-ups here locally of the tailings from lead mining that were stupidly put onto residential land. I think that there were emissions that also rained down in the vicinity of the lead mines so that the yards at these homes have had to be removed and replaced. Such is the legacy of mining that led our region to be declared a SuperFund site. There has also been extensive testing of the children to check for lead poisoning here in our county as well. Fortunately our yard and our children are lead-free !!

We each have many opportunities every day to make a higher quality choice. Often we have a wide range of choices at any given decision point. It is important to stay well informed about environmental issues so that you are as free as possible of misconceptions and also don’t add to the suffering of other people by your actions. If I see some small thing that wI can do that would enhance a better quality of Life in the world going forward – I should just do it. I hope you will see that you can do some small things as well that will add up to big results of a positive nature over time.

Start Where You Are

~ Information Resources

“Julian Koenig, Well-Known Adman, Named Earth Day” broadcast on NPR on April 22, 2015 – http://www.npr.org/2015/04/22/401540530/julian-koenig-well-known-adman-named-earth-day

St Louis Earth Day Festival
http://www.stlouisearthday.org/

Recycling Extravaganza at St Louis Earth Day
http://www.stlouisearthday.org/events/festival/rex/

Pledge to Plant for Earth Day
http://forestnation.com/earth-day-tree-planting/

“Spring Planting in the Forest” – posted at What’s New in Eco-Materials on March 22, 2015 at http://wp.me/p3XHLm-dP

Missouri Stream Team – http://www.mostreamteam.org/

North American Amphibian Monitoring Program – https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/naamp/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Squeezed Out ?

Financial Squeeze

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from my weekly blogs here. There was an unexpected but necessary trip to spend Thanksgiving with my aging parents, followed by the need to prepare a traditional kind of Christmas for my children. The week day placement of the year-end seasonal holidays this year were not totally conducive to business interests in general but were highly supportive to taking a bit of time to focus on family and rest once the 25th had passed. It’s been difficult to get back into the routine even with January arriving as my intentions last Sunday to resume my blog were waylaid by considerations for this year’s tree plantings on our farm by a visit to a highly experienced tree planting couple in another county.

This year begins with our attention once again on the issues facing our business due to an increasing acceptance of information known as Health Product Declarations. I have previously written about these efforts in this very blog. However, today I feel that some history – both regarding our businesses materials and this movement – is probably useful for me to share with you.

1973 Oil Embargo

I remember the 1973 oil crisis as I was recently both graduated from high school and trying to live independently of the parents who raised me as a newly wed. In October of 1973 OPEC proclaimed an oil embargo that endured until March 1974. OPEC started the embargo in response to American involvement in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Six days after Egypt and Syria launched a surprise military campaign against Israel to regain territories lost in the June 1967 Six-Day War, the US supplied Israel with arms. In response to this, OPEC announced an oil embargo against Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the US. In the aftermath, the United States initiated a wide variety of policies to contain their future dependency on imported oil.

Living on minimal income, I remember prices at the grocery store changing weekly and the impact on the price increasing and availability/rationing of gasoline. A focus on conservation and strategies to reduce demand began to have effects on everyday life. In 1974, a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph was imposed through the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act. Year-round daylight saving time was implemented from January 6, 1974 to February 23, 1975. In 1976, Congress created the Weatherization Assistance Program to help low-income homeowners and renters reduce their demand for heating and cooling through better insulation. The energy crisis led to a greater interest in renewable energy and spurred research in solar power and wind power.

There has been no going back to less awareness when it comes to aspects of energy use in our country ever since. I believe the history that I have shared is the background to the establishment of The US Green Building Council in 1993 whose mission it has been to make cost-efficient, energy-saving green buildings a more common reality. In March 2000, the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification system was unveiled. The program has been very successful in educating the architectural and interior design communities and in creating very energy-efficient buildings. Yet, there is a downside even to such desirable success – Sick Building Syndrome.

SickBuildingSyndromePaper

Governmental health experts admit that there is no specific identifiable cause but a reduction in air flow due to tighter buildings is certainly one explanation. Architects and interior designers sensing some personal responsibility for a higher incidence of malaise related to their success have turned their attention now to making certain that the interiors of buildings become “healthier”. This is the impetus behind Health Product Declarations.

Therefore, the industry now has a Health Product Declaration Collaborative. Yemm & Hart wholeheartedly supports the intentions behind this for transparency, openness and innovation in the product supply chain. The Health Product Declaration is meant to be an impartial tool for the accurate reporting of product contents and each ingredient’s relationship to the bigger picture of human and ecological health. It is an admirable goal.

However, we are finding the application of this to be far from impartial. We are experiencing coercion from OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) who utilize our materials in their product and from the Architectural and Design firms that we have depended upon to specify our product in building construction projects. We feel that while we completely understand and support the reasons for this development, it feels to us as though it will squeeze out all of the initiatives have have developed along with a greater awareness of human impacts upon the planetary environment that have led to the emergence of quality products with post-consumer recycled material content.

Our business has always prided itself on accurately portraying the content of our materials and an admirable transparency and openness regarding them. Yet, there are realities that we have very little influence over. It is well known that there has been conflict between the chemical industry representatives and those developing the latest LEED v4 standards over this issue of transparency. Industry chooses to hide – whether we should be concerned about the health implications or whether the assertions are valid – behind the idea that their formulations include “proprietary” ingredients.

In attempting to honor requests that we are receiving to provide Health Product Declaration information, we have come up against that thick wall of non-disclosure from our color concentrate suppliers. Making jest at a serious issue we wonder if the “proprietary dust” listed in the components is considered safe by the chemical industry and therefore of no concern or does it hide “lead infused radioactive asbestos” dust ? Not that we believe the latter but how is one to know ?

That is precisely the quandary of those who choose the products and materials used in building construction which a significant number of human beings spend a significant amount of their lives enclosed within. We understand but as a very small, niche business we lack the influence to force disclosure by our suppliers who are reputable companies that supply most of the color pigments for most of the plastic objects made in the USA.

HDPE bottle bales

This is an even older, long standing issue we have had to grapple with since the founding of our business. That is the nature of post-consumer feedstocks in general. There can be no HPD for post-consumer recycled resin because these containers represent a variable waste stream with a diversity of unknowns. It is not possible to know what type of liquid or granular material was contained in the original polyethylene vessel. Testing every container before it is recycled would not be a practical solution.

The recycled polyethylene resin that we use has been subjected to cleaning in a hot water washing process. The cleaned resin is then pelletized by liquefying it to temperatures between 250° and 300° F., filtering it and then forming it into pellets. These processes do not necessarily completely nullify the potential for some residual chemicals to remain microscopically present. It is because of this potential type of contamination that Yemm & Hart uses for their Origins product post-consumer milk jugs to avoid potential complications of chemical content residue or plastic additives. Knowing that this recycled resin once contained the nation’s milk supply makes its use feel safer to us.

We see the current effort for building products to have HPDs as a beginning. It is going to take research and legislation to ever achieve complete transparency from industry. Those at the forefront of the HPD movement want a little bit healthier interior environment in a world that has all of us inhaling mercury from coal burning power plants, radon from deteriorating uranium deep below us and an incredible array of chemicals all around us including in the food we eat.

Yemm & Hart will continue to remain informed about the progress of this effort. It is our hope that eventually we will find it easier to comply with requests related to the HPD movement and thus provide to the A&D community an even more transparent disclosure regarding the composition of our materials than we are able to do today. From our beginning, we have done our best to present our material in the most accurate manner possible. Even so, at the moment the general trend has us feeling a bit squeezed out of the market by the best of intentions.

The Little Guy

~ Information Resources

1973 oil crisis – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis

USGBC History – http://www.usgbc.org/about/history

Sick building syndrome – http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/sick-building-syndrome/Pages/introduction.aspx

Health Product Declaration Collaborative – http://hpdcollaborative.org/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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How About A Nice Cup of Joe ?

I come from a long line of coffee drinkers. In my childhood home, the coffee maker was set up before going to bed and on a timer, such that it had brewed itself and was ready, for when the earliest of us awakened. I still love my triple-strength instant coffee in the morning. Brewing coffee is too much work for the little bit that we drink in my home. But if I were into brewing coffee, I think I would want to support “shade-grown coffee”.

A migratory bird perched among the Coffee Beans

A migratory bird perched
among the Coffee Beans

My now deceased mother-in-law had a lifelong interest in birds and did feeder watch counts for Cornell’s Project FeederWatch. Her interest in birds broadened my awareness of the birds that inhabit my Missouri forest. There are wide-ranging benefits for birds that result from shade-grown coffee. According to a comprehensive study by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, shade-grown coffee production is the next best thing to a natural forest. There is a demonstrable increase in the numbers and species of birds within the habitats of shade-grown coffee farms. Migratory birds are integral to tropical and temperate ecosystems alike, providing flower pollination and seed dispersal, among other roles.

Orchid growing  in Tree Canopy

Orchid growing
in Tree Canopy

“From my own research in Nicaragua and other studies throughout the region we also know that there are hundreds of orchids (likely thousands of species of orchids and other [plants that grow on trees]) conserved in the shade trees grown above the coffee and nearly [all] orchids are endangered,” Christopher Bacon, coauthor of a recent study published in Bioscience, said. “The trees, the biomass and all the associated biodiversity directly linked to shade trees are lost with the conversion from shade to sun coffee.”

Varieties of Coffee Forests

Varieties of Coffee Forests

The benefits of this system of coffee growing go beyond its impact on bird populations. There is better soil protection/erosion control, more carbon sequestration, a source of natural pest control (yeah, the birds again !!) and improved pollination. Shade-grown coffee is regarded as a form of permaculture. Unfortunately, shade-grown coffee cultivation has deceased 20% since 1996. Only 24% of the total coffeebean cultivation is under shade practices.

One issue impacting this is the development of coffee varieties that are more tolerant of sun exposure as fungal diseases are problematic in shady areas. Though the commonly held assumption is that sun exposure prevents fungal infections; some studies have suggested that shade coffee is better at fighting disease than is sun-grown coffee, as canopy cover may cause difficulty in fungal spore dispersal.

The incentives (for a shift back towards more sun-grown coffee) “include the availability of longer-term credit, three to five years in some cases, and government and business led programs promoting the intensification of coffee production, technical assistance, and the introduction of newer crop varieties,” Bacon said. “Higher coffee prices since 2005 could also influence this decision.”

Oranges and Coffee Beans growing together

Oranges and Coffee Beans
growing together

Shade-grown coffee farmers do more than harvest coffee beans. Some farms offer eco-tourism opportunities and many recover firewood, other fruits, some building materials and even medicinal plants. Scientific field work has proven that having a mix of trees reaching a specific height and foliage density is a positive land management practice that enhances biodiversity. I would believe that picking coffee beans in the shade would be kinder to the human beings who do that work.

Man picking coffee beans in the shade

Even when buying shade-grown coffee, be sure and watch for “green washing”. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the times that we live in that marketeers will try to over-claim aspects that might give their product a boost. Certified organic coffee produced on farms with a shade cover that provides a substantial and vital habitat for migratory and resident birds in tropical landscapes, offset increasing global deforestation.

Drink Shade Grown for the Birds

~ Information Resources

The Cornell Lab Project FeederWatch – http://feederwatch.org/

“The Ecological Benefits of Shade-Grown Coffee – The Case for Going Bird Friendly” by Robert Rice & mauricio Bedoya posted Sept 2010 at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park – http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/coffee/bird_friendly/ecological-benefits-of-shade-grown-coffee.cfm

“Shade Grown Coffee Helps Forests and Natives” by Nika Levikov posted July 13, 2014 – http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/799501-decline-in-shade-grown-coffee-trouble-for-natives-and-forest-alike/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Cradle to Cradle

I’m not really a big fan of “certification”. I understand the reasons for it and I know that many who offer it are morally ethical with only the highest intentions but it is also based on distrust and buying integrity with dollars. Still, I really like the Cradle to Cradle Products Institute video I’ve shared above. Certainly, I do believe that product designers, architects and ordinary consumers should take such considerations into account, when creating a new product, conceptualizing a new structure or purchasing a product. And I believe it is both important for NOW and for our future generations, already alive and growing up on this planet.

The thing is that “certification” has been recognized as a definite revenue generator, so that now there are so many possible systems to validate one’s self with, that it would cost a small fortune to sign on with all of them. This is not an expensive or difficult thing to do, if one is a multi-national, global corporation flush with cash that they have been squirreling away, while keep monies off shore to avoid taxes, sending production into cheaper countries with lax regulations and needing to reassure an awakening populace that they have their best interests at heart, and not the bottom line profit that their stockholders insist upon. And it cuts the small, innovative companies that are often eeking along, cash starved from participation.

Cradle to Cradle concepts

The cradle to cradle concept requires a shift of perspective, when thinking about how a product is designed, what it will contain, how it is to be made, and where it will go after it is no longer wanted. Some important considerations are whether the materials are safe for human beings and the environment, whether the product ingredients can be reused safely by nature or another industry, will they be assembled and/or manufactured using a renewable, non-polluting energy source, are water supplies protected or even enriched by the processes and does the existence and production of the product contribute to social and/or environmental justice.

Cradle to Cradle bookcover

The concept of such a considered product design approach was promoted in a 2002 book by the German chemist, Michael Braungart, and the U.S. architect, William McDonough, in their book – Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The book discourages downcycling (a cradle-to-grave strategy), but rather encourages the manufacture of products with the goal of upcycling in mind. This vision of upcycling is based on a system of “lifecycle development” initiated by Braungart and colleagues at the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency in the 1990s: after products have reached the end of their useful life, they become either “biological nutrients” or “technical nutrients”. Biological nutrients are materials that can re-enter the environment. Technical nutrients are materials that remain within closed-loop industrial cycles.

Caring human beings worry that our consumption driven world is out-stripping the natural resources of the planet and at the same time leaving too much toxicity in its wake. Yet, most of us are dependent on a growth model of economics for a good quality of life. William McDonough in a blog at McDonough Innovation’s website envisions this – “Imagine a world in which all the things we make, use, and consume provide nutrition for nature and industry—a world in which growth is good and human activity generates a delightful, restorative ecological footprint.” Few of us would find fault with such a reality.

Mr McDonough believes that “the destructive qualities of today’s cradle-to-grave industrial system can be seen as the result of a fundamental design problem, not the inevitable outcome of consumption and economic activity. Indeed, good design—principled design based on the laws of nature—can transform the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force.” There is something in my own nature-loving, environmentalist’s heart that says “Right On !” to such thinking.

McDonough describes Cradle-to-Cradle as offering “a framework in which the effective, regenerative cycles of nature provide models for wholly positive human designs. Within this framework we can create economies that purify air, land, and water, that rely on current solar income and generate no toxic waste, that use safe, healthful materials that replenish the earth or can be perpetually recycled, and that yield benefits that enhance all life.” He goes on further to say – “Just as in the natural world, in which one organism’s ‘waste’ cycles through an ecosystem to provide nourishment for other living things, cradle-to-cradle materials circulate in closed-loop cycles, providing nutrients for nature or industry. This model recognizes two metabolisms within which materials flow as healthy nutrients.”

In a cradle-to-cradle system even “valuable, high-tech synthetics and mineral resources—technical nutrients—circulate in a perpetual cycle of production, recovery, and remanufacture.” And of course, “all the human systems that make up the technical metabolism are powered by the renewable energy of the sun.”

Shaw EcoWorx Carpet cycle

Shaw EcoWorx Carpet cycle

An example of a common, everyday product that most people could identify with, is provided by McDonough – “In the commercial carpet industry, material recovery systems are providing a model for the development of technical metabolisms. Shaw Industries, for example, has developed a technical nutrient carpet tile for its commercial customers. The company guarantees that all of its nylon 6 carpet fiber will be taken back and returned to nylon 6 carpet fiber, and its safe polyolefin backing returned to safe polyolefin backing. Raw material to raw material. A cradle-to-cradle cycle. Shaw’s technical nutrient carpet tile is conceived to be a product of service, a key element of the cradle-to-cradle strategy. Products of service are durable goods, such as carpets and washing machines, designed by their manufacturer to be taken back and used again. The product provides a service to the customer while the manufacturer maintains ownership of the product’s material assets.”

McDonough even applies his thinking both our cities and the rural countryside, as well as to the economic necessities that support us all. “In a cradle-to-cradle economy, cities are the principal home and source of technical nutrition—the place where metals are forged, polymers synthesized, and tractors, computers, and windmills designed and manufactured. Cities send these materials forth into the world and receive them back as they move through closed-loop cycles. The countryside, meanwhile, can be seen as the home of the biological metabolism. Materials generated there—food, wood, fibers—are created through interactions of solar energy, soil, and water and are the source of biological nutrition for rural communities and nearby cities. One of the city’s fundamental roles in this metabolism is to return biological nutrition in a safe, healthy form, say as clean fertilizer, back to the rural soil. These flows of nutrients and energy are the twin metabolisms of the living city, the engines of the vibrant economies of the future.”

Below is a chart illustrating Cradle to Cradle for Forest Wood Products (courtesy of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation) –

Forest Wood Cradle to Cradle

Coming FULL CYCLE back to where I started, I do note that on William McDonough’s Innovation website, he does list the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute as a nonprofit steward of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Program. That is a highly trusted recommendation in my opinion.

~ Information Resources

Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute – http://www.c2ccertified.org/

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_to_Cradle:_Remaking_the_Way_We_Make_Things

The Cradle-to-Cradle Alternative – http://www.mcdonough.com/speaking-writing/the-cradle-to-cradle-alternative/#.U7l7-bdOXL8

The Circular Economy – http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Oscar Night – Greener Than You Might Realize

Red Carpet - Academy Awards

Red Carpet – Academy Awards

That red carpet tonight actually has a lot of “green” to it. Actually, there’s nothing “new” about last year’s red carpet. According to Allen Hershkowitz (a senior scientist at the NRDC), not only was it made of entirely recyclable materials, but it was used in 2012 and 2013 too — and the plan is to roll it out again this year, in 2014. Back in 2007, actor Ed Begley Jr. explained, An Inconvenient Truth was up for an Oscar, Leonardo DiCaprio showed up in a hybrid, and suddenly, “it became cool to be green.” That year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) teamed up with the show’s producer Laura Ziskin to reduce the environmental impact of the event. ”By announcing this initiative from such a legendary and respected stage, the Academy is reaching tens-of-millions of people across the world with a message that cleaner, more sensible energy choices and a simple commitment to environmental stewardship are Oscar-worthy endeavors for everyone,” Frances Beinecke, NRDC President said in a press release, at the time.

Exactly what does “going Green” look like, at the Oscars ? Here are some stats from last year’s (2013) Awards event – “A total of 183MW of Renewable Energy Credits were purchased from wind power projects to cover the two weeks of preparation and telecast of the Oscars. Other choices included utilizing hydrogen fuel cell lights, B-20 biofuels, and uninteruptible power supplies. The latter took seven days of generator use out of the equation, reducing fuel use and related air emissions by more than 4,000 gallons of fossil fuels. Incandescent lights were replaced by LED fixtures, even for the Governor’s Ball, where 18,000 LED points of light were installed in the chandelier.”

Even the food and supplies to serve it are environmentally friendly. For example, at the Governor’s Ball, the food served was sourced from 80 regional farmers. The seafood had to be certified by Seafood Watch. And any food that was prepared but not consumed, was given to LA Specialty Chefs to End Hunger. Flowers were either composted or donated after being used.

Recycled goods were part of the invitations as well as napkins for the Governor’s Ball. In the Dolby Theater, where the ceremony is held, easily accessible recycling bins were implemented to allow backstage workers to recycle throughout the ceremony’s preparations. Out of 50 tons of non-food waste, at the end of last year’s awards show, 70 percent of that was recycled. It is estimated that through paper-saving measures, like double-sided printing, 10,000 sheets of paper were saved.

Naomie Harris wearing the 2013  Red Carpet Green Dress

Naomie Harris wearing the 2013
Red Carpet Green Dress

Suzy Amis Cameron, wife of James Cameron of Avatar fame, created a related even in 2009 known as the Red Carpet Green Dress competition. The winning red carpet look is made from organic, sustainable, or recycled fabrics, and the winning designer is mentored by an established brand to help create the glamorous gown. This year, actress Olga Kurylenko will reveal the winning design, a dress by Alice Elia. Alice is from Bordeaux, France and is of French-Lebanese descent. She is currently studying ESMOD’s ‘Fashion Design & Creation’ curriculum in Paris, and is currently being mentored through dress construction by the college’s couture team. .

Beyond Skin (an ethical footware and fashion label in the UK) has collaborated with PETA to develop a vegan, limited edition, red carpet shoe for Red Carpet Green Dress. The faux suede and metallic-trimmed evening shoe is made from Dinamica (manufactured in Italy) is durable, long lasting, and made from 100% recycled bottle tops.

Hershkowitz also pointed out the incredible platform for advancing sustainable initiatives the Oscars provides. As a large organization actively working to reduce its footprint, there are direct, positive effects on the environment. The publicity that goes along with this places “green” business practices at the forefront of discussion, and makes it a desirable trait for an organization or company. But Hollywood’s commitment to environmental awareness and sustainability support goes beyond one event.

For a long time, we have been aware of the work of the Environmental Media Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the power of the entertainment industry and the media to educate the global public on environmental issues and motivate sustainable lifestyles. As they are quick to point out – “Green doesn’t always mean something is sustainable. And sustainable may not always be the best choice.” There are degrees of “green” and the “greenest” could be defined as what is actually sustainable. And there are even degrees of sustainability.

Debbie Levin, EMA President with Darren Criss, actor-singer.

Debbie Levin, EMA President with Darren Criss, actor-singer.

Every year, the EMA has an awards night as well. The 23rd Annual EMA Awards was on Oct 19, 2013. They are so green, that they don’t have a “red” carpet, they have a green carpet. Examples of some of the work honored include for Feature Film “Promised Land”, for Documentary Film “Gasland Part II”, for Television Episodic Comedy from Last Man Standing “Mother Fracker” and for Children’s Television from Nick News With Linda Ellerbee “What’s the Deal With Fracking?”. Some of the 2013 EMA Award Honorees included Matt Damon, who received the EMA Board of Directors Ongoing Commitment Award and Bill McKibben who received the EMA Lifetime Achievement Award.

And when you pop that cork on your bottle of wine while watching the Academy Awards on Sunday night (Mar 2nd, 2014), don’t forget to recycle BOTH – the cork and the glass bottle. Yemm & Hart supports the conversion of wine corks into tile products for the built environment.

~ Information Resources

Sustainability at the Oscars: Going Green Can Be Glamorous by Colleen Casey posted on Feb 27, 2014 at CheatSheet – http://wallstcheatsheet.com/life/style/sustainability-at-the-oscars-going-green-can-be-glamorous.html/

Olga Kurylenko To Reveal The Fifth Design From Suzy Amis Cameron’s Red Carpet Green Dress On The Oscar Carpet posted Feb 26, 2014 at Red Carpet Green Dress – http://redcarpetgreendress.com/home/news/#sthash.1y3I9ybF.dpuf

Why Yes, There is A Difference Between Green And Sustainable by EMA Staff posted Feb 21, 2014 at Environmental Media Association – http://www.ema-online.org/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Environmentally Healthy Resolutions

Dedicated New Year
Whether you believe climate change is caused by human beings or that it is the natural state of the planet to always be changing, realizing that this planet is what sustains our very lives, it makes good sense to care about how we each impact our collective home.

Some resolutions –

[1] Discernment. It is easy to make a feel good, sound good claims but the reality may be quite different. That is one of the reasons for this blog. You won’t find me pleading with you to save our planet. The planet is just fine, always has been and will be unless and until it explodes or breaks apart. So “saving the planet” is never the issue. It is the sustainability of the human species that is at issue. So, it is good to consider one’s impact upon the local environment.

Alternative energy
[2] Support Energy Alternatives. They may not be the best choice in all cases but this is one place where each and every individual can have an impact. Solar and Wind energy are worthwhile contributors to the power grid in that they contribute little to pollution and are not depletable.

It is bitterly cold or soon to be here in Missouri where I am writing this. This is what we term a “hard” winter. How we heat makes a difference and the choices are not easy. We have been looking at ground-source heat pumps and although most that have these seem satisfied with them, the decision is not a simple one, including the initial cost; but if you are faced with replacing a system and have the space on your property to support it, it is worth looking into.

Many people burn wood here. One can smell the smoke on cold days. Since one can smell it, it would seem to be a source of pollution. However, it is a renewable fuel source (especially if one has plenty of downed timber to get firewood from, as we do). Our constant heat source is electric. We once had natural gas but it causes concerns about interior air quality impacts sufficient to possibly harm human health. Our electricity comes from coal-fired plants and they resist mightily the government’s push for adequate equipment to make cleaner electricity. So, if burning some wood, decreases our dependence on coal-generated electricity, that would seem to be a good thing.

And alternative energy can be applied in some places by some people to their choice for transportation – whether adding an alternative fuel to their personal automobile, using mass transit or riding a bike or even walking, when possible. In our case, we meet some of our own personal obligation by working from home and reducing our need to commute.

2014 Green Resolutions
[3] Buying Local. This reduces the carbon footprint. It also supports local availability, including of food sources. It helps to support local employment.

[4] Reduce consumption. Eat as much of the food you buy as possible, reducing waste, and compost what inevitably is not safe to eat. Consider charities before throwing away useable items – thrift shops, domestic abuse shelters, Goodwill. We even often find local acquaintances able to use some of the things that we can no longer justify taking up space in our own environment.

[5] Buy recycled. Buy recycled content paper towels, toilet paper and if you have a printer or copier, buy recycled paper for that as well. Buy the highest post-consumer content that you can find. Consider recycled for other purchases as well. In a commercial environment support the use of recycled content in countertops, restroom partitions and flooring and back to # 1 – discernment – check out claims for validity and look for techniques meant to distract you or satisfy a minimal inquiry.
Recycled Paper

[6] Recycle EVERYTHING you can. We have containers for plastics, paper, glass, metal, chipboard and cardboard. We have only one “landfill” trash container. Everything organic that will break down goes into the compost pile.

[7] Grow some of the food that you eat. It’s good practice and yields high satisfaction. You can grow something, even in a balcony container. Yes, some plants will fail. It is a learning experience but always a good survival hedge to learn how. We grow mostly cherry tomatoes but had some success with bell pepper, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, watermelon. Warning – the last three really do need a lot of space !!!

[8] Take your own reusable bags to the grocery store. This is really very easy to do, once you get in the habit of it. If you get plastic bags, save them up and find a place where you can recycle them. WalMart and upscale grocers often have collection points.

The main thing to resolve, if you want to live an environmentally healthier lifestyle is to begin to educate yourself about alternatives. You can work with your own personality, preferences and situation but everyone can find at least one thing that they can change about how they habitually do things that will actually make an impact.

Think Green New Year Hat
It has been theorized that “a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. Note that the butterfly does not power or directly create the tornado. The flap of the wings is a part of the initial conditions; one set of conditions leads to a tornado while the other set of conditions doesn’t.” Whatever you choose to do has an effect. Chose as wisely as you know how and learn to make even better choices. It is a lifelong pursuit.

Happy New Year !! Let’s make it a good one.

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Is A Little Competition A Good Thing ?

Tree of Green Hearts blowing away
The “green hearts” are in a tizzy about recent developments in green certification systems, as the General Services Administration announced that it will give the federal agencies it oversees a choice of green building certification systems. Because there was already some conflict and tension between the plastics, chemicals and timber industries with the proposed new standards for LEED v4, the news is being met with suspicion of behind the scenes manipulation and lobbying to ease the standards these industries were being called upon to meet.

The “new guy” on the block is the Green Building Initiative’s “Green Globes 2010” system. Still remaining a significant force is the US Green Building Council’s 2009 standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
LEED vs Green Globes

I am an environmental skeptic by nature. And it is not lost on me that this decision by the GSA is being met by the more hard-core environmentalists as a ruse. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire and there are a crowd of environmentalists yelling “FIRE !!” on this one. Still, I also try to bring a balanced perspective to any controversial issue, generally finding that there is wisdom in choosing a middle way – not on the fringes of extremism, either direction.

At issue is whether the latest authorization also yields the perception that “the Green Globes rating system aligns slightly better than LEED with federal requirements for new construction, while LEED remains the most compatible green building rating system for existing buildings.” for those are the exact words used in the report.

Treehugger.com in their article about this, shares the following comparison of 3 green certification standards prepared by the Dept of Energy –

Dept of Energy Comparison Chart

Dept of Energy Comparison Chart

Showing there is fuel for that fire is the official governance of the Green Building Initiative organization – “GBI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. GBI has 53 Members and Supporters and 9 Industry Affiliates. In addition, GBI has over 10,000 ‘Friends of GBI’, formerly known as Associate Members who receive the quarterly newsletter and other information from GBI. There is a Board of Directors, Executive Director, executive staff, and Industry Advisory Board. Decisions of the Industry Advisory Board are non-binding.” I suppose that last bit is supposed to reassure those of us who have reason to be skeptical about what is driving the new competitive kid on the green block.

It probably is not a coincidence that there is a strong foundational perspective in GBI that derives from Hubbell Communications motto – “We understand how public policy and perceptions are created and we use the power of communications to shape both.” (gee, the President of Hubbell Communications – Wade Hubbell, is also the founder of GBI.) Hubbell proudly displays one of their successes on their website, a car manufacturer’s association who had a “legislative problem in Oregon.”-“In just a few days, we had a fresh coalition identity, a campaign website, and a strong social media presence.” Hmmm, there does seem to be a bit of smoke and mirrors going on with GBI and the Green Globes (green washing ?, anyone ?).

After Ward Hubbell left his position as a PR exec at Louisiana Pacific, he received startup capital from the lumber industry for the purpose of establishing a green standard that did not give points to FSC certified lumber (are you smelling it now too ?). In 2006, The Forest and Paper Association told the Wall Street Journal that “Green Globes is much more wood-friendly than LEED”. (Ahhhh, can you see that smoke rising from its source now ?) There is not even an attempt to distance Hubbell Communications from the Green Building Initiatives – they operate out of the same building. How convenient and eco-friendly !!! Fewer carbon emissions.

Smoke Rising from a Forest

Then there is the board of directors of the GBI. It includes a couple of representatives of Dow Chemical, the Vinyl Institute, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, Solvay, a chemical company, a communications director for Weyerhaeuser, among others. According to Treehugger.com – “Two of the most contentious issues facing the green building industry are lumber certification and the safety of products made from PVC and vinyl. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative has done a tremendous job of attacking LEED, and convincing politicians that FSC is somehow foreign and unamerican; The Chemical industry has politicians writing letters to the GSA complaining that LEED will kill jobs. Now the GSA has a report in their hands that claims ‘the Green Globes rating system aligns slightly better than LEED with federal requirements for new construction’.”

The Vinyl Institute logo
I already knew the background story from Plastics News (a plastics industry trade publication that I receive for our business which recycles a variety of plastics). I knew that the plastics industry as a whole was very unhappy that vinyl was coming under fire. Our business is also deeply concerned about the risks to the environment and human health posed by the production of polyvinyl chloride. The best thing that we can think of, to do personally, is lock it up (after its initial production and use, to recycle it, rather than allow it to go into a landfill). It is our hope that someday, there will be little to none of this in our environment and that better alternatives will have been found.

In the Nov 18, 2013 issue of Plastics News they give the story of the GSA decision, to allow the Green Globes certification system to be used by federal agencies as an alternative choice to the previous dominance by LEED, front page top billing. In an attempt to appear balanced and impartial, they quote The Sierra Club’s, Jason Grant (a member of their Forest Certification and Green Building Team), allowing him to express his suspicions in print, regarding the influence of certain industries on Green Globes standards. “Green Globes certainly goes easy on those industries.” He is further quoted as saying “Apparently the chemical and plastics industry is willing to invest a lot to prevent the truth from coming out.”

The Society of the Plastics Industry is concerned that LEED v4 will encourage its applicants not to use certain materials such as PVC or the fluoropolymers used in wiring and cable. Of additional concern to producers and manufacturers throughout that spectrum are points given to building products that have environmental product declarations (EPDs) and for the firm’s willingness to disclose their ingredients and the sources of raw materials. Wouldn’t you want to know those things ? That the chemicals that you are being exposed to, are not going to cause cancer in you, down the road. One could suspect the prevalence of cancer in our modern society has some of its roots, in the exponential growth of a wide range of new chemical combinations allowed into our lives. But then, you might think I’m being unfair . . . and biased in my blog.

To their credit the USGBC is taking it in stride. Lane Burt, their policy director counters the fears of industry by affirming – “We don’t have language in LEED v4 that says – “Don’t use this stuff.” And acknowledges that has been a significant misunderstanding. Yes, there was a draft, that considered giving points for the avoidance of certain materials, but the council decided to shift towards a more positive perspective, a “green-list approach”.

An environmentalist would be hard pressed to fault the spirit of the proposed LEED v4 standards – credits for life-cycle analysis of materials, product transparency and picking those products that haven’t been extracted in a way that’s environmentally destructive. The Sierra Club’s, Jason Grant, was quoted in Plastics News as saying of v4 – “In general, what it rewards is higher levels of transparency than existed in the past about what chemicals are found in significant quantities in building products.” He feels that knowledge of “… chemicals that might be carcinogenic or mutagenic or endocrine disruptors” is some important information, that people have a right to know; and that profit motives should not be subverting that disclosure.

SOURCES, additional reading – information for this blog came from

Plastics News – “Feds given green light to LEED competitor” by Catherine Kavanaugh

Treehugger.com – “LEED Bashing: Government Study Finds ‘Equivalence’ Between LEED and Green Globes” by Lloyd Alter

LINKS

Hubbell Communications – http://www.hubbellcommunications.com/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Connectivity & Sustainability

Nothing gives me more optimism than the rise of internet connectivity for the quality of life on this planet going forward. Being able to interact with a wide diversity of individuals, gain quality information simply by having good search techniques and a degree of discernment for what is true or not, for misinformation is rampant on the net – both intentional and ignorant, and the speed at which one can accelerate their learning based upon their own connections, patterns, interests and perspectives is staggering sometimes. Just keeping up is a challenge sometimes.

Circles of Connectivity

Yet it is good to be alive at such a point in history if one is inclined towards social activism, which certainly those involved in sustainability and environmental issues for the built environment certainly are. I believe that the world is a better place for it. There is possible now, a high degree of cooperation between a diverse group of interests – governmental, institutional, scientific and commercial organizations. Each utilizing their specialized understandings in concert with each other for the highest good of a broad section of the population, who are the ultimate beneficiaries. There is a discernible impulse towards innovative responses and the ability to get attention focused on these, thanks to a greater degree of accessibility and connectivity.

There is a symbiotic relationship between environmentally innovative firms and interest in one another’s pursuits. As a materials business, focused on sustainable processes that utilized already extracted natural resources by extending their usefulness and not squandering their residual values, we come in contact every day with other niche interests with common perspectives of seeking the good for all involved. It is heartening at a deep level. There is great hope inherent in these developments.

When larger mainstream industries operating within traditional standards can also realize coincidentally greater profit margins, it is not difficult for them to be motivated to cooperate with national programs such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED specifications. We have seen conventional resistance, certainly, within the plastics industry, when their profitability feels threatened by too generic of an approach to standards. It does not promote progress for parties to take too rigid of a stance in opposition to one another.

Symbiosis Circles

For example, though Monsanto continues to experience a high degree of opposition to their practices which I am not here to judge publically one way or another, a moment in time stands out for me. We were involved in St Louis Earth Day celebrations back in the 1990s and developed a friendship there with a long-time local environmentalist who also works at state levels to promote the common good. A group of activists came into the celebration and staged an impromptu demonstration against the corporation. She said to me, still a fledgling in the movement at that time, better progress is found sitting down with Monsanto seeking commonality that appeals to their financial interests than all the demonstrations that will ever be staged. I understood and have not forgotten.

There is a law in physics “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” but somehow, it is my belief that indications of harmony and efforts at cooperation move progress forward more quickly that waging battles and seeking to win by causing others to lose. As the controversies over climate change show, even the best and most diligent minds find it difficult to arrive at simple explanations, likely outcomes or good solutions to the large issues that remain of utmost importance to – not the sustainability of the planet, which will easily survive anything humanity can hurl at her – but the sustainability of our species. That is the issue that people need to consider carefully, down to the level of individual actions and translated up to whatever higher level they have any influence over.

Circles of Sustainability

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Why Local Matters – A World That Works

Buy Local Save Jobs
We are such a globally “sourced” world now but even if that keeps the costs of goods low to the consumers, I don’t really think this is a good thing for the mass of humanity and quality of life. I would rather pay more and have a world that works for everyone. My partner, Stephen Yemm, often muses that countries should keep some basic goods production in operative condition – both for employment and for security. Also, we both became a bit more aware of the issue of human trafficking by watching a 2010 movie recently – based on a true story – titled The Whistleblower.

So, this desire for “a world that works for everyone” is not a bleeding heart liberal perspective but a very practical and realistic perspective, on the state of the global economy as it exists at the moment. There is too much emphasis on more and more consumption, for one thing. There is too much exploitation going on – of people and resources. There is something wrong when local agricultural land is purchased and used to grow foodstuffs for a more affluent consumer, while the local population is left dependent upon charitable “excess” big ag food hand-outs.

The Lemp Brewery, St Louis MO

The Lemp Brewery, St Louis MO


On Halloween, during a long drive with family from St Louis, after having a bit of themed fun there at the old Lemp Brewery (such well-built architecture; and so sound, even at a century old !!), my husband and I explored issues of restroom partition hardware. The “Lemp” story is about how those old German brewers recognized the advantages of LOCAL natural resources (including the river and the huge caverns below) to bring financial success into their ventures. While I don’t have any ready answers regarding our own business’ involvement with anodized bright aluminum finishing for restroom partition hardware – thanks to my iPhone, during that long drive home on Halloween night, I learned a lot.

It does pay to ask questions, and do the research, and try to understand the environmental complexities of the choices that we make. We first began to have questions about the origins of the hardware that is kitted up by our “partner” in restroom fabrication some years ago. In truth, we only have control over the high density polyethylene plastic that we source from 100% post-consumer processors but which is the bulk by volume of any restroom partition installation. However, the buck stops here at our business, when it comes to financial involvements. We experienced a shower installation which included stainless steel hardware. Imagine our disappointment and shock, when rust started showing through !! In researching the problem, the best answer was that it had an “inferior” coating. It seemed to have been sourced off-shore by our fabricator in order to save money and keep costs low.

Rather than accept their offer of an inexpensive solution (they were willing to replace that hardware with pretty much the same product), we simply couldn’t accept the possibility that it would just rust all over again; and therefore, our customer would be left disappointed once again, regarding the performance of our produce on their project. So, we paid more, to purchase “Made in the USA” stainless steel hardware; and we have heard no more complaints about that installation. Another restroom partition associated partner, recently shared with us their concerns about the environmental impacts of brightly anodized aluminum hardware being sourced off-shore, most likely from China. Stories abound about real circumstances that would leave any thoughtful person concerned, about China’s inability to police sufficiently, all the businesses that sell products into the United States. We are proud be a “Made in the USA” producer of quality building-related materials.

On our drive home from St Louis, thanks to google and my iPhone, I got a little education about the anodizing process, which includes significant potentials for disturbing pollution. It was inspiring to read the story of an Ohio manufacturer, Anomatic Corporation of Newark, OH, which expresses itself as a great role model and an example of “government working” and the value of enforcing environmental regulations. The air and water that people in the vicinity of that processor must cope with, is less likely to cause health impacts because they are a business that actually cares, even if they are also coerced a bit by regulation. Much of that anodizing process has moved off-shore because the environment oversight is less burdensome for the multinational corporations whose practices are often exploitative. You can read about the great lengths the Anomatic Corporation goes to, in order to anodize metal (which does lend important durability aspects) in an environmentally safe way, at this link – http://www.anomatic.com/pdf/anomatic-sustainability-the-environment.pdf.
Anomatic Sustainability

The tide goes out and the tide comes back in. Such are the cycles of nature. After WWII, the United States sent their genius of automation, Dr Edwards Deming, to help the Japanese recover from the wounds of war. I still remember when the words “Made in Japan” suggested the same inferior quality that the words “Made in China” do now. I know that I read labels – I’m not buying any food product for my children or our felines that isn’t made in the United States. I simply lack the confidence to trust my beloveds well-being, to Chinese oversight.

I am happy to see some plastics manufacturing returning to the United States but I have deep concerns about fracking, which is the source of the industry’s optimism. I am happy that there are efforts to train workers for sewing jobs in the state of Minnesota. Garment and Shoe Factories were once major employers in our region. Mining was also. I think we are shortsighted to have allowed the demise of the steel industry in this country. We are short-sighted not to care about the well-being of people – about a world that works for everyone. I mean that word “works” in a very broad sense – the people have “work” to do that maintains their sense of pride and self-worth, that the systems that supply basic goods – food, clothing, etc – to people are maintained locally, without the need to transport such items by air or ocean.

A World That Works
I want a world that works because everything is in balance again; and people and resources are not exploited, simply to line the pockets of the wealthiest 1%. Rising wages in Asia are also helping to return “work” to the United States. I know that it is naïve to expect that automation and robotics are going to cease being an important aspect of production; and honestly, to the degree that it keeps people out of harmful environments, I’m all for it. However, for a long as 30 years ago, I personally believed that such a return to a balanced economic situation is necessary – for the overall quality of life to improve and progress. Those in the significant position of specifying materials are part of that opportunity for improvement. The more informed and aware these professionals are, regarding the small details and fine points of their choices, the more certain it becomes that our children will find in their own tomorrows, that the world does work for everyone; and that local well-being is an important part of that equation.

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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