Rising energy prices, evolving regulations, increased awareness of global climate change, and a growing market of customer stakeholders have all converged to push the door wide open for marketers of green products, according to a panel of industry experts who spoke today at the Polyurethanes 2008 Technical Conference in San Antonio, Texas.


“You know green has gone mainstream when it reaches the cover of Sports Illustrated,” said Michael de Franks, director of engineering for Simmons. According de Franks, the target audience for Simmons’ new “Natural Care” latex mattress with soy enhanced foam is made up of “light green” consumers, which he characterized as women who drive their SUVs to Whole Foods.

David Perry, executive editor of Furniture Today, also noted that there are “shades of green” and urged CPI members to find ways to make their product marketing claims more meaningful by using language that consumers can relate to their everyday lives, noting that “green is here to stay.”

Richard Engler, program manager, U.S. EPA Green Chemistry Program explained why, aside from the obvious benefits to health and the environment, green chemistry makes sense. “It can reduce costs, capital investment, and time to market, encourage investors, minimize unknown future liability and enable new functionality. And, it allows you to do things you couldn’t do before,” he stated.  Engler confirmed that the use of renewable feedstocks is one principle of green chemistry, and he reminded members that while “sustainability is the ultimate goal, it will take time, so plan for continuation.”

Phil Sarnacke, technical and business consultant for the United Soybean Board (USB) pointed out that all  industrial applications combined consumed only 17 percent or 3.6 billion of the 20 billion pounds of soybeans produced in the U.S. in 2007.  Sarnacke noted that the USB doesn’t “see availability as a problem to continued growth of soy polyols.” 

The conference is sponsored by the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI), part of the American Chemistry Council. More than 1,200 influential scientists, engineers, manufacturers and business leaders from around the world are expected to attend to discuss and demonstrate innovations, advances and breakthroughs in polyurethane materials and technology.  The Conference will spotlight 18 technical sessions, with many additional poster presentations on breakthrough technologies, developing markets and product innovations.