Archive for February, 2013

Expect the Unexpected

February 27, 2013

socks-thSometimes it seems that sustainability has become almost commonplace. One no longer needs to actively look to find companies incorporating sustainability into how they do things—and that is a good thing indeed. Within the past 2 weeks, I’ve come across several completely unexpected instances of sustainability. These were a pair of (clean) socks, tanker fuel and a 70+ foot atrium in a university research building. The industries involved are clothing design, architecture and construction, and transportation.

The first example is a simple pair of socks. At least, they seemed simple. I found them at REI while I was looking for wool socks for my son. Since REI also has good quality items, I figured that they would keep my son’s feet warm in the snow. Only when I got home did I notice that they weren’t really wool like I had assumed; they were the “EcoMade” socks—made from recycled plastic bottles. Actually, they were 60% made from recycled bottles with the rest being nylon and spandex. I don’t think that the manufacturer will have a problem with supply materials for these socks.

The next example is an article I read in a recent Bloomberg Business Week Magazine about the fuel being used by barge ships in Hong Kong harbor. For the past couple of years, many shipping companies serving Hong Kong (one of the world’s largest ports) have used low-sulfur fuel to help curb pollution. I never knew that such a fuel even existed, so I found this very interesting. Admittedly, there were port fee discounts available if shippers switched to the low-sulfur fuels. However, shipping companies such as Maersk claim that these incentives do not cover their costs for the cleaner burning fuel. Now Maersk and some environmental organizations have asked the Hong Kong government to issue regulations requiring all shipping companies to use the cleaner fuel. I hope the government does so.

Drexel's BioWall

Drexel’s BioWall

My last example comes from Drexel University in Philadelphia. They just opened up the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building. Like any commercial building, it has an indoor air filtration system. Unlike almost any other commercial building, this filtration system is a wall of plants (and microbes) about 20 wide and 80 feet high. It dominates the atrium visually while also controlling the air quality of the space. The science is very complicated, but essentially the Biowall is a carefully engineered arrangement of tropical plants and microbes that work together to keep the air quality of the building up to standard. The roots of the plants contain lots of bacteria and microbes which just happen to love airborne pollutants as food. These bacteria and microbes eat up the air pollution, and the plants emit cleaner air which the HVAC system helpfully distributes to the entire building.

Wow. I am pretty impressed. Not just by the Biowall, but by the sheer variety of ways companies are creating sustainable solutions to design problems. Look high (at the 80 foot Biowall) and low (the Ecomade socks). Sustainable solutions to design problems are everywhere you look.

Cool Max EcoMade


Drexel’s BioWall

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