Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. This common phrase is practiced with a new fervor by an emerging group of extreme environmentalists across the country today. Known as “freegans,” this group of ecological advocates and capitalist dissenters lives on the scraps of modern society; screaming anti-consumerism by the very nature of their lifestyles. As a movement to support the sustainability of the planet and protest federal statutes, freegans forage for the necessities of life, often by dumpster diving or recycling society’s waste to generate functional products. While they do not have stipulated rules or an organized structure, freegan’s anti-waste principles are gaining momentum across the country as Americans begin to realize the imminent consequences of waste-driven lifestyles and careless industry.
Freegans may approach their cause with a bit of over-the-top enthusiasm by the account of an average observer, but their voice of environmental concern is echoed by businesses and industrial sectors throughout the country. Among many, the construction industry has seen exponential growth in the innovative manufacture and specification of “green” product solutions. Manufacturers are producing materials from post-consumer and post-industrial waste, engineering new ways to conserve water, re-routing power to the sun, and introducing new ways to reclaim products after their useful lives. Third-party organizations such as the United States Green Building Council have emerged to distinguish environmental product claims and manufacturers are evaluating not only their raw materials and end product, but the processes of their production facilities.
Founded on the same concern for environmental health as the fanatic freegan lifestyle, commercial construction is turning toward sustainable, recycled, and renewable solutions. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recycled rubber surfacing manufacturer ECORE International produces commercial and fitness flooring from old truck and car tires, saving over 80 million pounds of scrap tire rubber from landfills each year. Many other manufacturing companies have followed suite, establishing thriving businesses out of recycling old commercial or consumer products into new materials. As an industry that employs extensive resources and generates millions of square feet of product each year, construction’s potential environmental impact exceeds that of consumer movements or individual lifestyle decisions. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers have begun to embrace sustainable principles and the associated cost of “greening” production processes has lead many competitive companies to avoid it altogether. The purchasing power of buyers will become a vital role in the continued evolution of green construction and its lasting impact on the health of the natural environment.
While some may choose to impact the planet by foraging for food in dumpsters and boycotting industrial involvement, industry itself is making notable strides in the fight for environmental progress.