Abello: Go green with your green

 

 

Oscar Abello

Changing the world begins with realizing that no matter how far we retreat into our soft, leather couch lairs we remain intimately tied to the vast world around us, from which came the couch, the XBox 360 and the plasma screen TV. Nearly everything we have, including the clothes on our backs and the food we eat, represents the constant connection of humans to humanity, and few things can break that connection. It exists whether you acknowledge it or not, and with it you can choose to use it to make the world a better place or not.

Villanova Dining Services works hard to use our collective connections to change the world for good. They provide fair-trade coffee, chocolate and rice to help sustainable development overseas; they purchase seafood according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program to promote sustainable fishing practices; and when possible they purchase from local agriculture to minimize the carbon footprint from transporting fruits, vegetables and meat.

This past Monday, the first annual Fair Fair provided a glimpse of how we can continue to use our connections after college, to improve rather than degrade the world around us. Money is power; we all know that.

Everyday occasions, such as remodeling your kitchen, provide vital opportunities to use some connections for good. Greenable is a team of green-minded professionals offering families and businesses their expertise and knowledge about green-minded strategies for building or remodeling so those groups can use their connections positively. They were here as part of the Fair Fair, and one of the products they featured was Paperstone.

It looks like granite, and it feels like granite; if it walked like granite, you might never believe that the countertop is made out of recycled paper. Paperstone is at least 50 percent post-consumer material, and some varieties are 100 percent. Its durability has been tested in skateboard ramps and halfpipes in the rainy Northwest United States, the home of its creator Joel Klippert, founder of KlipTech Bio Composites in Hoquiam, Wa.

Paperstone is KlipTech’s flagship product, and rightly so because it really does look like any other high-end countertop. The difference is, compared to normal synthetic countertops, each 5-by-12-foot section saves 615 gallons of water, one million BTUs of energy, 65 pounds of solid waste and 127 pounds of carbon emissions, among other savings.

Paperstone is only one of the many green-minded choices offered by Greenable and other similar groups. Tapping into recycled materials has great potential to make society more efficient in the use of natural resources. Waste really is just a state of mind.

Twenty years ago, there existed only one curbside program in America picking up goods for recycling; by 2006, that number grew to 8,660 – a combination of public and private efforts. Today, out of 251 million tons of municipal solid waste, 82 million tons are recycled. One third of all municipal solid waste is paper, but only half of paper goods are recycled. Paperstone and related products have the potential to tap into the vast amount of paper that flows into landfills and incinerators rather than back into the economy.

As a side effect, the higher cost of fuel is leading many recycled-product businesses to locate factories in or near the communities that provide their “raw” materials, saving transportation costs and creating jobs. Communities that produce a lot of waste also tend to have larger economies with higher demand for potential recycled products – assuming consumers will demand them in the first place. That is why you have to go green with your green.

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Oscar Abello is a senior economics major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]