Sustainable Solutions is a zero-waste company. Is this more expensive?

People think that it has to cost more to be green, and we so come in the face of that. We are creating a better product at a better price.

Paul S. Howell

What is your Smart Stream process? In 1995, the year the company was founded, we were looking for less-expensive raw materials to make a cotton-based product. At the time, 240 million pounds of denim were going to the landfill on an annual basis. So we developed a process where we could extract the indigo dye and have this beautiful bleached white cotton material. The bleaching process is extremely sustainable and recovers all the water, which comes out cleaner than when it went in. We've used the cotton for a number of new products, like stadium blankets and moving blankets for U-Haul. We're developing a new box made from cotton, which will be much stronger than your typical box.

Describe the products you created for Ford and Mazda.

We take leather from the scraps of shoes and furniture, and we regenerate those back into seating upholstery for automobiles. It's breathable, soft, and sound-absorptive. We've also taken the rubber soles of athletic shoes and turned them into floor mats. That product is called Nike Grind.

And you're developing wood flooring?

An executive at Ford Motor Co. said, “We've got all of these wood pallets. Can you use them?” We developed a product called Urban Wood that goes into beautiful flooring applications for companies like Ford and others.

You also counsel companies on how to be less wasteful.

We've worked with Nike. We are in negotiations with Wal-Mart to do Urban Wood flooring for their new and renovated stores. I am amazed that they are putting muscle and money behind their talk and trying to become sustainable.

Elizabeth A. Evitts lives in Baltimore and writes about architecture, planning, and the built environment.