GOOD

The Green Products You Never See Can Count For More

"You want the granite countertops and you want the sexy sleek car, for example, but in the structures in which we live—the bones have to be good."

This post is brought to you by GOOD, with support from UPS. We’ve teamed up to bring you the Small Business Collaborative, a series sharing stories about innovative small businesses that are changing business as usual for their communities and beyond. Learn how UPS is helping small businesses work better and more sustainably here.


A lot of us now supplant every other item in our grocery carts with its greener alternative—our soap, our cereal, our floor polish now comes with a reduced environmental impact. Certainly, those everyday shopping decisions add up, and we get to self-congratulate each time we buy an item stamped with a happy, green tree. The truth is though that some of the greenest purchases people make are longer-term investments—our roofs and floors and the pipes that run in between.

As more people strive to run net-zero households, the environmental savings we tally where no one else is looking—in our pipes and at our thermostats—speak to a different sort of environmental commitment. It might be one vested with more humility. For triple-bottom line company Uponor—a maker of cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) tubing used in sustainable plumbing, heating, cooling, and fire sprinkler systems—the company’s unassuming motto sums things up: “The beauty lies beneath.”

The company sells products that, if they do their jobs, customers rarely think about again. Dale Stroud, Senior Director, Offering/Marketing at Uponor explains, “Our products are basically invisible to the customer. They open up a faucet and expect water to come out. They don’t really think about how the water got there.”

But pipes and tubing make a difference. One of Uponor’s main product lines is a radiant heating and cooling system that circulates warm or cooled water through tubing under the floorboards. It’s a system that easily connects to high efficiency boilers, geothermal or solar systems. Regardless of how it is heated or cooled, water is 3,500 times more efficient than air at holding and carrying heat from point to point. All told, radiant floors typically yield energy savings of around 30 percent as compared to air-flow systems.

For plumbing, Uponor has also developed a D’MAND hot water delivery system that meets LEED H, EPA Water Sense, and ICC700 requirements for water conservation. D’MAND pumps hot water to the faucet within a few seconds, reducing what runs down the drain as people wait at the tap or shower for the water to heat up. Even without the additional delivery system, the thicker walls on PEX tubing holds 25 percent less water after the tap is shut off. This means that the next time someone turns on the tap, there's less wasted water during the wait for new, hot water.

Among the contractors who use Uponor and the customers in whose homes they are installed, you’re likely to find a firm commitment to conservation. Patrick J. Murphy, a professor at DePaul University specializing in social entrepreneurship, sees pipes and tubing to be a particularly good setting for examining the true social and environmental orientation of customers. Murphy explains, “It’s one thing to buy a hybrid car, which everyone can see you driving. In some cases, there is a certain kind of vanity that attends to those kinds of purchases.” According to Murphy, plumbing is different, because people can’t see it. Investing in more sustainable pipes and tubing, he suspects, reflects a truer concern for the natural environment.

Though Uponor’s products live in the background of our lives, the company has a public presence in the Twin Cities area where its North American operations are headquartered. Among the many organizations the company supports—through grants and matching employees’ charitable donations—Uponor is part of Habitat for Humanity’s Eco Village, which will be one of the first sustainable neighborhood developments in the country to receive the LEED Homes Platinum designation.

According to Jim Farr, St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity’s executive director, Uponor has donated technical assistance and free products for each residence in a development that will include 18 homes and a community center. Through solar and geothermal energy and efficiencies within the homes, Eco Village will be a net-zero community. Dozens of Uponor’s employees and management team are working on the project, and have time to do so, thanks, in part, to three paid volunteer days allotted to every full-time employee at the company.

Despite the fact that consumers—and soon residents of Eco Village—use Uponor’s products every day at home, frankly, pipes and tubing still aren’t exactly a flashy purchase. “We’re such a visual society anyway, you know. You want the granite countertops and you want the sexy sleek car, for example, but in the structures in which we live—the bones have to be good,” Ingrid Mattsson, Uponor’s Director, Advertising/Brand Management says. “We have systems that make the bones stronger and better.” Like a mother encouraging her child to drink milk for strong bones, Uponor helps people care for what lies beneath, and through modest changes, live more sustainable lives.

Illustration by Zoe-Zoe Sheen

Image courtesy Uponor

Articles
Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less
promo-homepage

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics