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  • Erika Gilsdorf

Pete Nichols & Sustainable Materials

Boulder, Colorado

What fuels Pete? The beauty of pattern in nature.

Meet Pete Nichols, the owner of Sustainable Materials.

Sustainable Materials is a company based out of Boulder, Colorado. They make innovative and sustainable interior design materials.

"Though my background and schooling is as a geologist, I was always very environmentally focused."

Early on, Pete was drawn to the patterns in rocks, which later transferred to patterns in grains of wood. In Pete's case, his aesthetic interest converged with his environmental interests to create Sustainable Material.

Visual + Sustainable

It started with researching sustainable timber. Pete's interest then expanded into bamboo, then gluing and compressing by-product wood scraps. It was the idea of producing more durable materials that could be designed to look a certain way that hooked Pete.

"You essentially can create a visual ‘recipe’. To me, this was really cool – using waste material, being able to formulate it into something visually unique, but do so with the end result being you actually made a better product."

Pete began exploring product selection and manufacturing, leading to his use of cork as an input material.

"It is super sustainable (bark of a tree that is peeled), it’s waste can be used in a multitude of ways, and depending on how you process it, you can come up with an almost limitless number of aesthetics."

The company began small, mostly using word of mouth. Now, it's been nearly 20 years and the company has grown, but Pete still says that getting the word out that sustainable technology exists can be an obstacle.

Another difficulty he acknowledges is that sustainable products can be more expensive, something many consumers find hard to justify when faced with cheaper products. Pete uses the example of bamboo to illustrate.

Most consumers think that all bamboo flooring is the same, but it isn't. How the material was harvested matters with respect to its' durability and so does the glues used in making the products. For example, non-toxic vs. high off-gassing glue is a critical differentiator affecting indoor air quality and occupants' health.

When looking at cost, Pete encourages people to look at the life cycle costs, not just the start up costs. When examined this way, he says, a floor that is durable with higher initial costs last longer and is cheaper in the long run when compared to a floor with low initial costs that needs to be replaced after only a few years.

As a consumer, it is important to think about the life cycle costs of products, including how the material was sourced and what health benefits it has for both you and the environment.

"Sustainability can drive the design, and the design can drive consumers interest in sustainability."

Thanks Pete for driving your business around sustainable products that are good for people and for the planet!

To learn more about Sustainable Materials visit their website.





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