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Episode 15 – Meet Our Brands – Healthy Materials 101

Discover how you can green your life by building a knowledge base of current sustainable and eco-savvy trends. This is Build Green Live Green.

In this episode, we will cover the healthy building materials that CaraGreen distributes. We are here today with Jessica McNaughton and Kim Loftis of CaraGreen.

JESSICA: Hi this is Jessica.

KIM: And this is Kim.

JESSICA: We are here with our podcast Build Green Live Green and today we thought we would do an episode about ourselves. We tend to be quite humble and not self-promoting, but we thought it was important to let you know, really, who CaraGreen is and what products we represent and how we bring those products to market. Because we do have a very unique business model.

KIM: And we have a lot of products that people haven't heard about before, so I think it's important to give them some airtime and then we have quite a few products that people probably have heard about before, but they may not be aware that there's new colors or new formulations that have made the products better or that they have a new category, product line, or collection, so just a refresher on some of those brands too.

JESSICA: And I think it's timely, because we've just recently revamped our tagline. We used to say, “Sustainable Architectural Materials,” and that was because we were really focused on architects and designers specifying our green products and over time, as we've added more products and we've looked at them as a group, we realized that our products make interiors healthy. So, we've rebranded our tagline.

KIM: Right, and the word “healthy” has a little bit of nuance to it. So, when we think of health, we're not only thinking of occupant health, the people who those products or materials affect when they're installed in this space, but we're also talking about overall health of the environment. Maybe even the harvesting practices of those minerals or materials or woods. So, it's a very broad, kind of, definition of health, but it can mean some very specific things at the same time depending on exactly what we're talking about.

JESSICA: Right so we're talking about being health conscious, we're talking about the health of the planet, the health of the people, and the health of the materials. So, our new tagline is, “CaraGreen- Healthy Building Materials.” So, with that, we will talk a little bit about the different materials that we have. And what I'd like to briefly mention is our value proposition that we bring to all these brands is not just distribution. It is marketing, it’s sales, it's being ambassadors, it's getting, you know, getting the ground work. It's all the work that we do in Salesforce, from a marketing standpoint on social media promotion and our newsletters. We really have a very different approach to bringing products to market that goes beyond traditional distribution. Distribution is a, “we’ll do it if you really need it,” but our business model really supports us taking your brand and trying to get it as close to a household name, if that's what you want, or a bespoke product, if that's what you want.  But it's our expertise and really framing your product the way you want it to be perceived out there and we just have all the avenues and tools to be able to do that in the most effective way, I think, in in the southeastern United States, if not even a larger area.

KIM: And we talked about that in our podcast that we recorded recently about who CaraGreen is and went into some of those value propositions that we bring to the table as a company.

JESSICA: Alright, so let's start with one of our more mature products that people may be aware of and that’s IceStone.

KIM: Yes, IceStone is a beautiful material. It's made from concrete and recycled glass, so, as you guys can imagine it has a very beautiful stone look to it. But it has that recycled glass, so it has a little bit of shimmer to it. Some of the colors have recycled seashells as well, so that brings a different level, of kind of, somewhat biophilic design in there, bringing that nature into the product. It's made in Brooklyn, New York, so, it's made in the USA. We love touting that aspect of the material, especially in light of some of the issues that we've, again, talked about on our podcast, some of the quartz issues. So, being made in the US is a really great thing. We know that it's going to be available, we know what it's made of, we know what's in there, that it's not harmful.

JESSICA: And IceStone is one of the only surfaces, certainly quartz is not, certainly granite is not, but IceStone is Cradle to Cradle Certified.

KIM: That's true, yeah.

JESSICA: So, made in the USA, Cradle to Cradle Certified, its 70 percent, 65 percent recycled glass?  Yes, so high recycled glass. The seashells really make it, you know, some of those colors are neat and all of these are available, you can look at them on our website, www.caragreen.com website.

KIM: Perfect place to look at different colors.

JESSICA: But you’re right, IceStone is the perfect replacement for someone who wants that quartz look but they want a more sustainable story and they want something made in the USA.

KIM: Yeah, you can look at it and say, “oh, that's recycled glass.” People know and can, kind of, understand just from looking at the product, so I think it tells a really good story.

JESSICA: And then my- one of my favorites, PaperStone.

KIM: Yeah, PaperStone is actually made in the US, as well. So, we, again, love that, to, kind of, tout that aspect of products when we can. But PaperStone is made in Washington state. It's made from recycled paper, most of their colors are 100% recycled paper and a petroleum-free phenolic resin.

JESSICA: That is their proprietary resin.

KIM: Yes, they developed it themselves.

JESSICA: And the nice thing about the PaperStone resin is, unlike other resins that are out there, quartz and the like, you know, they are, you know, petroleum-based and they can have a lot of, kind of, caustic chemicals in them. And PaperStone, their's is derived from cashew nuts? Yeah, so, it's a very healthy resin along with the recycled paper.

KIM: A lot of people here PaperStone and they're like, “well, that doesn't make sense, what could you possibly use that for, there's no way it could be durable?”

JESSICA: But its paper turned into stone.

KIM: Exactly, those paper fibers are fully encapsulated in the resin. So, they're not exposed, they're, you know, safe under that resin material. I actually just had it installed in my house, you have it as your kitchen table top. So, we both have personal experience that it really holds up well. I have it in my bathroom and laundry room.

JESSICA: Remember the fish tank test we did in the office?

KIM: Oh, that's right.

JESSICA: Just to prove it to ourselves, we dropped a piece in a fish tank for months on end and when we were done with it, the only thing that came off was the label.

KIM: That's true, that's true. PaperStone has a really nice organic look, it's got that recycled paper, so they're more muted tones for the most part. Really beautiful, nice matte finish and nice and warm to the touch.

JESSICA: You get this organic look, this warm feel, it's uniform all the way through. It's often used for countertops, which is what we've talked about here, right? But furniture, benches, tabletops, window sills, knife handles, cutting boards, jewelry- we see it used for so many things. Pool tables, handles on anything, utensils.

KIM: What are those like, the speakers, the audio speakers, yeah, we've seen people use it for recently.

JESSICA: Guitars, it's so easily workable. Woodworkers can work with it, so you don't have expensive stone fabrication, but you get the performance of stone. So, it really is a handyman, DIY, remodelers dream.

KIM: I'm so glad you mentioned that because we should tell our listeners to check out the Stone and Sons’ video. So, Sean Stone of Stone and Sons did his outdoor countertop in PaperStone and created a how-to video and showed how easy it is to cut PaperStone. He had never worked with it before aside from the test piece that we sent him. So, he did a really beautiful job and it shows the workability of the material.

JESSICA: Yeah, and that's @stoneandsons and it's also on PaperStone’s Instagram, the handle is @wearepaperstone. So, the next product is one that we've, probably one of the ones we’ve had the longest, and it's Durat solid surface, out of Finland. And as everyone knows, the Scandinavians are 10 years ahead of us and Durat is no exception when it comes to solid surface. Everyone thinks of Corian, grandma's countertop, it's kind of got this dated look, they've tried to rebrand, but it's almost too little too late. Big DuPont company, was a chemical company, started it, you know, where as Durat was designed by three Finish designers who I know personally and they just love their brand, they're so true to their brand. It's beautiful, it's colorful, it really embraces this whole new “scandicolors” trend that we're seeing. Fully customizable, you can get any color that you want. Integrated sinks, you were just at NC State, they have that beautiful install where the sinks all match the school colors. They're integrated fully, you don't have any seams. So, you can get, it's really clean, it's great for hospitals. Again, really workable, anyone who works with solid surface can work with Durat. Also made in the USA, Durat's just a really great option and we just have such a good partnership with them.

KIM: Yeah, I think that one of the things that really sets Durat apart are the two things you mentioned about custom color. I mean, that's really not, nobody else offers that. Custom color solid surface? With no minimum? Absolutely I mean we get people there matching their RAL, Pantone paint colors, logos, so, you know, it really has been very helpful for designers to have that. And then the sinks that you mentioned, as well, having that sink match your countertop is crucial in a lot of designs when you want something that looks seamless and that looks, you know, monolithic in color. You don't have to compromise for a white or a bone colored sink just to have the same material. So, it's a really great offering that they have, and again, if you guys are not driving or wherever you are, if you can look at our website as we're talking about these you can see some really great photos- www.caragreen.com.

JESSICA: The other one I'd like to talk about is Lapitec and Lapitec is truly the answer to “what's next” in surfacing.  Other brands that we've mentioned are the sustainable answer, you know, the recycled content answer, the solid surface, the concrete, the paper alternatives. But the true alternative to man-made stone is Lapitec. It was invented by the people that created quartz. It's just minerals, so you don't get this high silica content that you have in quartz that's literally killing thousands of people. Lapitec is a sintered stone- I would encourage anyone who has not heard of Lapitec to go out and look into it. It's great for flooring, it's great for countertops, it's great for exteriors. It actually breaks down pollution in the air, it eliminates odors. It can't be stained, etched, scratched unless you have diamonds, if you're running around with diamond shoes, Dorothy, no, those were ruby slippers.  But no, Lapitec truly is the next-generation material and we're really excited to, you know, watch the sintered stone category really catch on.

KIM: And it has some beautiful features to it as well. So Lapitec, being made of just raw minerals, their color palette is, you know, somewhat neutral, some people say, although they do have, you know, their new Urban collection which has a little bit more glitz to it.

JESSICA: Then they have the marbling options as well, yeah.

KIM: And then they offer seven different textures. So that's another thing that really sets it apart. You can use the same color and different textures or use the same material inside as you use outside. So, the applications that Lapitec can cover are pretty endless. We're talking about it on the heels of some of our countertop materials, which you can certainly use it for, but we're really excited to see it used for exterior cladding for the air cleaning capability you mentioned.

JESSICA: Absolutely, that's Lapitec and then Kirei EchoPanel, and Kirei in general. Kirei started out with their sorghum board, Kirei Board and, you know, it's a really nice, lightweight organic looking finish, you do see it in a lot of Whole Foods’. And then they added the CocoTiles and some of the bamboo lines, which I think they discontinued the bamboo.  But they've now got into EchoPanel, which is this beautiful acoustic panel and beautiful colors, so many different systems, shapes, collections, patterns, and we see so much of this used and it's a great solution after the fact, as well as an upfront design. So, we're really excited about EchoPanel. It's recycled PET plastic bottles and it's rigid and it's just it's more economical than other acoustic solutions out there and it's way more attractive.

KIM: And they've done a really good job at incorporating their systems. I think when we first started out working with Kirei, designers wanted all of these systems and they were, kind of, in pieces and parts. But now they're so easy to get. It comes with all the hardware, it comes with, you can get the drawing, so you can plug them into your drawings and make it a lot easier to design it into your space. Whether, like you said, before or after the fact.

JESSICA: TorZo Surfaces, that's another one that that we have that, it's bio-based panels infused with an acrylic resin. They have a handful of different colors in each line, they have several different lines. It's a nice organic, durable look that you can get for furnishings and counters and bar tops, you see it a lot as well.

KIM: And then we have Wonderwall, which is reclaimed woods, a lot of them come from southeast Asia, but they have products from all over and they also have like some bog wood, which comes from the river. But all of their materials are reclaimed. They’re formed together in these panels that create really beautiful accent walls.

JESSICA: Yeah, the feature walls and like the desk fronts and stuff that looks really nice. ReSAWN Timber, they have two lines. One is a standard wood line, but they use really high-quality wood to come up with these very durable, you know, cladding and flooring options, very thick wear layer, and just some of the finest wood, some of the highest quality flooring you're going to see out there is by reSAWN Timber.

KIM: Beautiful selection of colors and finishes.

JESSICA: And then they have the shou sugi ban line, which is the charred wood, which is that Japanese technique which, kind of, preserves the wood, but also gives it a really pretty aesthetic and that is, that comes in a bunch of different colors as well. There's cedar, there's cypress, there's Accoya, there's Kebony, you know, they have a lot of different wood options and finishing options. So that's great, again, for feature walls, cladding the exterior of the building. We see a lot of people doing that because it holds up to wear and the elements once you use that charring technique.

KIM: And then Plyboo is one that we've had for a long time, as well. Plyboo has been around for a while, this might be one of those brands that people have heard of before. Plyboo started out making, kind of, a standard bamboo plywood that has, like, a three-layer look to it, and they’re natural carbonized and they're fully carbonized, I think that's what they call their colors. So basically, the browns. And then they started making products where the panels are routed into them, they have some where holes are drilled through them in different patterns. So, they're really beautiful. They have a ton of great different options.

JESSICA: There's like a gray finish now.

KIM: They offer some stains and different paints, and then flooring as well. So, they have a few different product lines, and then they've really created some new trendy-looking wall panels for, again, accent walls. So, beautiful material all made out of bamboo.

JESSICA: Yeah, even working with some, kind of, high-end designers on some of the lines that they've introduced, as well. One brand that I'm sure that none of our listeners have heard of, unless they're active CaraGreen blog followers and newsletter readers, is the elementAl brand. And the elementAl brand was created by, you know, a group that really wanted to look at the recycling problem that was facing America in the world right now, where China stopped taking our recycling. There was a whole podcast on this, I won't get into it, but again, that's on www.caragreen.com/podcast. elementAl is 87 to 93 percent recycled content. It is recycled plastics, acrylics, and metal. So, people may be familiar with the brand Alkemi. elementAl is similar in look, but they also have a line that doesn't have the metal filler in it, and that's the one that's 93 percent recycled content. So, elementAl went out and said, “I'm going to bring a product to you that talks about this problem, that was made to address this problem. So, if I'm doing my little part, what are you going to do, architects, to design better?” So, I really like the story and the reason behind elementAl. So, that's a great product. And any of these products that we mentioned that you want samples of, just, www.caragreen.com, go to our homepage, there’s a “request samples” button right there.

KIM: Another product that people maybe haven't heard about is Bark House, they are a pretty small company, they're located in North Carolina, where we are. They're in Spruce Pine, so a small little mountain town, and they salvage tree bark. So, they're not getting it cutting down trees for the purpose of their bark. They have relationships with companies that are using the trees for something else, they harvest the bark first so that they can use it, they make these big huge beautiful panels out of them. They've just introduced a couple of new products made out of pine. Their, kind of, bread-and-butter product that they've had for forever is their poplar panels. That's the one that's, kind of, been around for a hundred years and, you know, people used to clad their cabins out of it.

JESSICA: They still are with Bark House.

KIM: Yeah, that's true, that's true. So, really beautiful, you know, obvious nature products and, you know, people are like, “is this really bark?” And it just really is literally bark. So, a beautiful product to bring the outdoors in.

JESSICA: Its Highland Craftsman is the parent company of Bark House. But you know, the bark, there's pin cherry, there's birch, there's the poplar, there's, they even have, you know, felled trees. If a tree falls in Spruce Pine, they call Bark House, yeah. You know, they call Bark House and they take the tree and they even have those giant live edge tables. I mean, I bought one for my husband for Father’s Day, I think it was, I bought this huge live-edge slab and he made a, like a, what do you call that thing? Credenza, yeah, out of it and, you know, he loved working on it and it's really pretty, it was really neat. But Bark House supplied that too, so all sorts of, you know, kind of recovered wood products they have. So, let's get into our last category which is a little bit different than the other interior products that we have, it's a little bit behind the wall, but are the insulation lines that we have.

KIM: Yeah so, we have a couple, UltraTouch and Havelock. We've had UltraTouch for a little bit longer, Havelock is our recent add.

JESSICA: I just want to clarify- insulation, we're talking about wall insulation, the replacement for that Pink Panther stuff that people put in the walls, it's fiberglass, it's toxic, it shouldn't be touched, it shouldn't be in your walls, but there's some really good lobbyists that have kept it in there. Just because it says “formaldehyde free” doesn't make the fiberglass fibers any better for you. So, we have these two lines, UltraTouch and Havelock, and I'll let Kim elaborate on those two lines.

KIM: Yeah, so, UltraTouch is made from denim, so, it's a high percent of recycled denim and cotton. So, UltraTouch is treated with borates which give it its fire resistance. It also makes it resistant to pests and mold and things like that. So, it's perfect, it's an equal replacement for traditional insulation. It has better acoustic performance.

JESSICA: And it's all recycled. Recycled fibers.

KIM: Yes, yes, that denim gives it a better acoustic performance because it's more dense than traditional fiberglass insulation, so you're going to have better sound performance within your space, as well. So, it's a really great option for not only acoustic performance, using something that's recycled, but it's going to give you better indoor air quality as well. So, it ticks a lot of boxes for a good healthy interior environment.

JESSICA: It's taken a while for the denim insulation to really catch hold in the walls, because fiberglass is so cheap, and no one can see behind the wall, so they're not looking at it and seeing that there's this carcinogen in their space. But guess what, I order that Daily Harvest, I order that Plated, you know, the meal service thing, I’m not that lazy, I like to cook, I just have three kids and a husband. Those meal service things come in and they are wrapped in cotton insulation.

KIM: How would you feel if it was wrapped fiberglass?

JESSICA: I would be very unhappy.

KIM: Exactly.

JESSICA: Yeah, so, and I bring all that packing material that comes in, and I bring it into the office and Sandy wraps up our samples and sends that back out in those. But they use that because they know it's healthier. If I'm going to be ordering Daily Harvests where half the ingredients, I don't even know what that is, today I drank something called Magik. I think it looked like dye, but it must be some natural thing. Anyway, it was gross. But, yeah, so, they wrap all those food service things, are all done in the cotton. 

KIM: What your point is, people see that, and they touch it and they feel it. It's a great insulator. So just because fiberglass is a good insulator, they're not going to want that wrap- or their food wrapped around it.  So, same thing for your house.

JESSICA: You just redid your house and you are putting in a nursery.

KIM: Yes, new baby on the way, and I was very concerned about the air quality in our house because there's really no way around, in my current life, having, you know, treated wood, plywood all that sort of stuff, used on building your home unless, you know, you've got a ridiculous budget, which I'm just not there yet. So, I wanted to make sure that I had something in the walls that was going to protect my family, so Havelock was the first thing that came to mind.

JESSICA: So, we transitioned from talking about UltraTouch which is the cotton, denim insulation, the blue insulation to talking about Havelock Wool, which is a wool insulation. It's not as dense as the UltraTouch insulation, but they're all available in R7, R13, R19 for walls.

KIM: Yep, so we bought the interior and the exterior versions of Havelock, so that it would go around the girl’s rooms and then in between the walls.

JESSICA: And can you explain how the Havelock performs and why you chose that instead? Also, kind of touch on the all-or-nothing approach to insulation.

KIM: Yes, so my original reason for choosing it was because of those unhealthy building materials that I mentioned that are going to off gas, and one of the most attractive things for me, personally, to Havelock was that it actually sequesters formaldehyde, so, pulling that out of the air and knowing that that's not in my home.

JESSICA: And formaldehyde is in those things you mentioned, the treated woods and all that stuff. There's formaldehyde in them. There's not a lot of materials that are going to permanently sequester formaldehyde, take it out of the air and clean the air, like an air filter.

KIM: Right, right, and, you know, it's really important to have thermal comfort in your bedrooms as well. We had an issue, that sort of issue, in our house before, before we renovated, so, you know having the thermal comfort in those room, so it's really important to me.

JESSICA: And you think about sheep out in the environment, wool is their natural insulator. So, Havelock is the ultimate example of biomimicry and how we've looked to nature to solve a building problem.

KIM: Absolutely.

JESSICA: And it's not an all-or-nothing thing. You can just put it in the nursery without having to have insulate your whole house in Havelock. So, you can make a small step in the right direction and have a big impact on the well-being of your children in that space.

KIM: Yes, then that's why we chose what we did, and I also learned that your entire house, all the interior walls are not insulated. So, I didn't have to buy as much as I thought I did. So, that was a good surprise too.

JESSICA: Well, that's great. Okay, so we've touched on the CaraGreen product lines. Our hard surfaces like IceStone, Lapitec, PaperStone and some of the wood products like TorZo, Kirei for acoustics, and then the insulation products. All of these are available on www.caragreen.com and you can also follow us on Instagram.

KIM: @caragreenproducts.

JESSICA: And check us out on LinkedIn. We try to cover a lot of these industry topics and be a little bit antagonistic. They can get the conversation going, or I certainly do anyway. So, we welcome your comments, your suggestions. If you have new products you want us to look, at we will happily look at them. If you want us to carry and promote them and add our value-added service, we're happy to do that, too. We also welcome any topics that you'd like to hear about from CaraGreen.

KIM: Yeah, we hope you join the conversation and let us know what you think.

JESSICA: Thanks, this is Jessica.

KIM: And this is Kim.

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