Contender without a chip
The Cradle to Cradle concept is integral to our way of doing business, but even so, these competitions are usually greentech/cleantech events, heavy emphasis on the tech. Our insulation is clean and green but it’s not even low tech – it’s no-tech. I went to the Cradle to Cradle site searching for the fateful words: must have a chip.
Didn’t find them. This was the first competition I’d seen whose stated goal “seeks to inspire innovators to recreate and retool the way products are designed, manufactured and consumed. The goal of the contest is to identify and reward highly creative and innovative product concepts for healthy, sustainable, affordable housing. The competition is aimed at manufacturers who seek to design and manufacture with superior standards . . . The prize is strategically aligned with national and international trends in green building that are redefining sustainability beyond traditional indicators such energy efficiency to also include consideration for improved human and environmental health.”
It’s difficult to convey the excitement I felt in reading this paragraph. It describes exactly what Bellwether Materials has done: we used principles of frugal innovation to design our insulation; we’re using a distributed manufacturing model, not necessarily innovative but one that will create jobs and support underutilized facilities. And we were careful to check that every step in the manufacturing, use, and eventual disposal was safe for people, animals and the environment.
I have been puzzled by the determination to seal buildings – no air in, no air out. This is the greentech/cleantech approach to green building. All I can think of is airplanes and most offices I’ve worked in and the sick building syndrome. My system of cleaning interior air is to open the east/west windows and let blasts from the Pacific roar through.
This is reflected in our product, sheep’s wool insulation. Particles and fumes floating in interior air spaces are absorbed by our insulation. Humidity is absorbed and released helping to keep interior air comfortable. All done without machines. And all at a reasonable cost.
Of course, I submitted my application. I don’t ordinarily win things like this, so I tucked it away in the back of my mind until Stacy Glass, executive in residence, built environment, at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute notified me that Bellwether Materials was a semi-finalist. Cool. I told everyone and felt pretty good that at least we were on a shortish list. Bellwether Materials won the California Sustainability award at the 2010 Cleantech Open, but it was the only prize that didn’t come with a monetary award, just a certificate.
A few weeks later, she sent an email telling me we were one of 10 finalists out of an original group of 144. I didn’t sleep for a week, I was so excited.