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The Green of Summer

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Many of us in North America spend our summer weekends and long evenings lounging on [eco] patio furniture, playing with [green] beach balls, or waterskiing across the lake on skis [made with bio-based materials]. Perhaps you prefer standing on your [wooden] deck, barbequing with [greener] tongs and trays.

Integrating green into your lifestyle doesn't mean you have to change it. Not in summer, nor any other time of the year.

Although many consumer products are not currently eco-friendly, we can begin to make them greener and healthier.

And the real upside? Being green also doesn't have to cost more. It can cost less--much less when the savings for reduced waste disposal and environmental benefits are considered.

Recycling and carpooling to work are activities that certainly contribute to the larger, greener picture. But it is often the abundant, everyday products we use like computers, iPods and running shoes that have a larger impact on the environment than many realize.

Green specialty chemicals are changing the future of consumer products. Lignin, for example, the second-most abundant polymer in nature, is one such chemical that can be blended to progressively replace oil-based component parts. It is not only biodegradable, but a naturally occurring component part of our environment. We humans couldn't make it from scratch if we tried. Today, however, it can be extracted from wood sources relatively easily.

By blending high-quality specialty chemicals like lignin with oil-based product components already in use around the world today, select companies are making it easy for consumers like you and me to purchase greener products that are better-performing and competitively priced. Eco running shoes, eco laptops, eco summer furniture--you get the idea.

These green chemicals should be an easy sell to product manufacturers, as they are non-disruptive to existing manufacturing processes. Consider them a one-for-one replacement at the start of the manufacturing process--a little more green chemical, a little less oil-based substance. The concept is simple: the greener the input, the more benign the output.

Too often, making a product greener tends to happen retroactively, after a product has been manufactured. For example, companies often make products that are recyclable after their use.

This switch to bio-based chemicals from petroleum-based ones is an easy example of how to incorporate green inputs from the beginning of a product's life cycle. The result? Competitively priced products that are green from square one.

So, this summer, while lounging on the dock and looking up at the clouds, take a minute to consider that anything is possible.

The sky is not the limit for the green chemical industry.

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