Discover how you can green your life by building a knowledge base of current sustainable and eco-savvy trends. This series will delve into hot topics, current standards and practices, ways to design better spaces and specify materials that benefit not only us, as consumers, but the world as a whole. Members of CaraGreen, a sustainable materials distributor, and other industry leaders weigh in throughout the series. This is Build Green Live Green.
This episode will feature elementAl, one of the brands that we carry who is actively making a difference by recycling materials into a new, unique product. We are here today with Jessica McNaughton of CaraGreen, our show's producer at sustainability think-tank, as well as Julia from elementAl surfaces.
JESSICA: Hi, this is Jessica with Build Green Live Green, and today we've gone a little bit of a different direction with our podcast. Today we're going to be talking to Julia, who was one of the people behind the development of a new sustainable surfacing material called elementAl. We, at CaraGreen, are distributing the elemental product and we were actually lucky enough to be part of the development of the brand, with Julia, so, we were going to interview her, and, you know, ask some questions about how elementAl came to be and, you know, some of the ideas behind it. So, with that I'll introduce you to Julia.
JULIA: Hi, Jessica, thanks for having me today.
JESSICA: So, Julia, can you tell us, kind of, what was the thought process, or what was the genesis, of the elementAl brand and how did it come to be?
JULIA: So, as you guys have talked about on the podcast before, there's been a lot of interesting things going on with the recycling industry. There’s a lot of plastic circulating in the waste stream right now and the building materials industry, as we know, is one of the top contributors to it. When we were thinking about elementAl, we started with a problem and we were looking for a solution. We wanted to create a material that was not only visually appealing and unique, but also served as a direct solution that could help solve this problem.
JESSICA: Okay, so you say that it helps solve a problem, which, you know, as we know that's, kind of. CaraGreen's mission. is to take problems and marry them up with products that solve those problems. So, you said the problem that elementAl is trying to solve is waste, you know, in recycled materials and kind of repurposing those. So, what form does elementAl do that in?
JULIA: So, elementAl does it in two forms, and which is why we're, kind of, so excited about it. It is made of recycled acrylic and recycled metals, and it's actually 82% recycled material.
JESSICA: That's really high for building materials. I mean most of the building materials we see are, you know, in the 30 to, kind of, 60 percent range. So, 82 is quite high.
JULIA: Yeah, and I think that's one of the things that makes it stand out as a “green” product as well.
JESSICA: So, how does it look? So, you say recycled acrylic, which is typically clear and then, you know, there's kind of metal in it. What kind of metals are in elementAl?
JULIA: There's a few kinds of metals. There is aluminum and we've got copper and brass. And the acrylic itself is a number of colors. Some of them have opacity and some of them are see-through, so they're great backlit and are really beautiful, because you can kind of see the aggregate in the material.
JESSICA: So, it's kind of a solid surface.
JULIA: Yeah, it's a solid surface.
JESSICA: Okay so it's a standard half inch thickness-
JESSICA: Okay, great. So, from the CaraGreen perspective, you know, we love elementAl. We think that high recycled content story is a good story. But also, it's made in the US, right?
JULIA: Yeah, it's actually made in upstate New York.
JESSICA: That's great. So, made in the USA, a solid surface. It’s kind of blingy, I would say, to look at.
JULIA: Oh, yeah. But, and one thing that I really like about it is its very “instagram-worthy,” if you ask me. It’s very unique looking. We have two in the line that are a little more standard, would work well, I guess, in more traditional residential applications. But for the most part, they're really unique, they really stand out and they set themselves apart from other surface materials out there.
JESSICA: When I look at the colors, I think the one tidal- and elementAl, we should explain a little bit, the name that you came up with. The last two letters, “Al” like aluminum.
JULIA: Yes, so with elementAl, our, kind of, our motto as we were doing it is, we want to get back to basics, we want to get back to the elements, as it just so happens, that it is made of the elements. Some of the products have aluminum in it, some of them have copper, and some of them have brass, which is actually an alloy, which is made up of copper and zinc. So, we kind of wanted to play off the idea that we're getting back to basics, and we're literally incorporating the elements into this product and you can see the story of sustainability within it.
JESSICA: Right. So, I was talking about the one color, tidAl. And tidAl is “t-i-d-A-l” and again ends with “Al,” for aluminum, but it's a very aqua blue.
JULIA: Oh, it's so beautiful. It would be great for aquariums. I always think it would be fun for a children’s dental office. It’s a really beautiful material and it's got these aluminum pins in it, so, it really does look like you're peering through an underwater scene.
JESSICA: Yes, and you know, some of the other colors are really playful and fun too. And I would encourage our listeners, if they're interested in getting a set of elementAl samples, what's the website?
JULIA: www.elemental-surfaces.com and we're also on Instagram at elementalsurfaces.
JESSICA: And also, obviously for our listeners that go to CaraGreen, you can find information on elementAl on our website at www.caragreen.com, as well. Okay, so, we talked a little bit about the naming convention of elementAl and the names like tidAl and nocturnAl. All of them have that ending whether it's, whether they're the aluminum or the copper, or the copper is like oCulus.
JULIA: Or cirCuit.
JESSICA: So that's fun. What about moxie?
JULIA: moxie is our lucky number 13 in the line. So, to backtrack a little bit, with elementAl we kind of went with 13 different products because aluminum is atomic number 13 on the periodic table. So moixe stands out because moxie has brass in it. Brass is not necessarily an element. It is an alloy, like I said, of copper and zinc and I like to think that she's the mascot of elementA, and moxie happens to be another word for brass. But moxie means you've got grit, you've got a little guts, and you’re a little ballsy.
JESSICA: It was also my mother's favorite drink, which was like some random sarsaparilla Cola or something. I think you can actually still get it. It was called Moxie. But yeah, I get it. So, it's kind of a little bit sassy right?
JULIA: Yeah, moxie's definitely got sass. It’s a very alluring, captivating color as well, it's very shiny. It reminds me of jazz music and brass and it's a little sexy and I think its great product for a commercial application, and I think it would be great as furniture design as well.
JESSICA: Yeah so, I think one of the big applications here I think would be tabletops and, as you mentioned, kind of, you know, feature walls and every one of these colors kind of evokes an application I think when you look at it. So, I think that's great. So CaraGreen's really looking forward to promoting it. I would say that, you know, one of the things that we found really valuable to our customers at CaraGreen with our other products is being able to optimize sizing. It’s something that not a lot of distributors do. But we think it kind of talks to the whole, you know, sustainability “use what you need” story. So, we try to offer great products like paper stone that come in a variety of sizes or materials like Durat that we will cast to size according to yields and things like that. So, with elementAl, you know, what type of customizations are available? Can you get different sizes than standard sheet sizes?
JULIA: Yeah you can, and you can also, while the aggregates are really beautiful, you can get them without the aggregate, so you could just get pure pigment, which is really pretty depending on what you're looking for and what cost you want.
JESSICA: You mean what, you mean a translucent panel without the metal filler? Still recycled content?
JULIA: Yes, still recycled content, which is what's so great about this product while it's versatile, whether you get the metal filaments or not it's still recycled.
JESSICA: Okay, well like I said, we were very excited about bringing elementAl into our line and promoting it starting in 2019. We think it's very complementary to our IceStone, our Lapitec sintered stone, the Durat solid surface, PaperStone, the composite surfaces and all of our other products. So, thanks for coming on, we’re really excited to launch elementAl into 2019, and again can you just tell us the website and just remind our listeners how they can get samples.
JULIA: So, you can request samples on CaraGreen's website, www.caragreen.com or you could head over to www.elemental-surfaces.com and request samples. You can also head over to Instagram, it's just one word, elementalsurfaces.
JESSICA: Great, all right, well this is Jessica with Build Green Live Green, interviewing Julia, who was one of the architects of the elementAl brand and thanks for listening.
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