Monday, October 19, 2009

Vetrazzo in Milan, Bangkok, Cologne, Daegu and New York!

By Melissa Hawkins, Senior Designer and Sustainability Manager

Each of us has interests that shape the perspective by which we experience the world; I experience the world through materials. I am fascinated by materials, what they are made out of, are capable of, and what opportunities they represent. This interest led me to Material Connexion.

After I first read about Material Connexion in I.D. Magazine, I knew had to get Vetrazzo accepted into this impressive library. Material Connexion is one of the world's largest innovative materials libraries with five locations throughout the world, New York, Milan, Bangkok, Cologne, and Daegu. This list made me consider becoming a librarian! This global presence helps make these unique materials accessible to a bevy of potential clients that range from Fortune 500 companies, architects, designers, to other material geeks. Access is based on an annual subscription.
The process included getting to speak with a Materials Specialist, Beatrice Ramnarine. She explained that once we submit samples they are subjected to an examination and vote by a panel of cross-discipline “creatives”. It felt like being a contestant on a reality show, I could hear Heidi Klum saying, "Either you're in or you're out." They would let us know.
It was a difficult wait but finally the day came to hear the final judgment. Naturally we made it, but even working with Vetrazzo, the most beautiful recycled glass counter top material in the world, one must be humble. Visit Material Connexion,, not only can you check out the fascinating world of materials, but you can also learn about trends, conferences, speakers, or become part of the Material Connexion Brain & Talent Bank.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rosie's Girls Tour the Vetrazzo Plant

By Karen Righthand, VP of Marketing

Recently I had the opportunity to lead two factory tours to groups from Richmond’s “Rosie’s Girls” Camp. Rosie’s Girls is a three week camp for girls entering 6th-8th grades that encourages participants to develop and strengthen their capacities and confidence and helps them expand their perception of the range of educational and career options that are attainable in an atmosphere that is fun, supportive and positive. Needless to say, I was honored when the camp officials requested that I lead the tours. They want the girls to experience work environments that are somewhat non-traditional for women and to meet women in leadership roles.

Of course, the name of the camp hails from Rosie the Riveter, the fictional World War II icon who represented the women who went to work in the shipyards and factories to fill the shortages left by the men fighting overseas. When the first tour arrived and the bus doors opened I was surprised to meet two actual Rosies, women that had worked right here in Richmond. Also accompanying them were rangers from the National Park Service who are a partner in the Richmond camp and a driving force behind creation of the Rosie the Riveter Home Front National Historical Park.
The permanent home of the Rosie the Riveter museum will be here at Ford Point where the Vetrazzo factory is. It is fitting that our historic building, once the manufacturing site for Ford cars and the assembly plant for tanks and Jeeps during the war, now houses a new type of manufacturing; manufacturing of green building materials. This is what the girls came to see. Instead of blue collar jobs we are creating green collar jobs and transforming millions of pounds of local waste glass into gorgeous and green countertops.
If you read my previous blog on the Vetrazzo Victory Garden you know this was a trend during the war. As we started our tour the ranger asked if our garden could be part of the Home Front Festival coming up October 3rd where Victory Gardens will be featured. I guess I better plant some Fall veggies! I think the older Rosies were the most surprised by our product and process. One told me, “I’m really glad the glass is being kept out of the landfill and put to good use.” “We saved everything back in those days but I guess we threw away bottles.” Everyone was surprised to learn that glass doesn’t decompose in a landfill.
My dad was a WWII veteran and my mom a nurse in the Army (where she met my dad) in the Korean War so it was special for me to have these Senior Rosies in our factory and show them what we do. They made a huge contribution to the war effort and to how women are perceived today. I felt proud and hopeful to share our green technology with these promising young women who are the Rosies of tomorrow. We must do everything we can to educate, empower and support our youth. They will be in charge some day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vetrazzo's Newest Glass Source

For Senior Designer Melissa Hawkins, some glass recycling programs just don't go far enough. An avid thrift store shopper, Melissa noticed a surplus of glassware that, if unsold, would end up in the landfill. "Due to concerns of contamination, municipal recycling programs only want bottle and jar-container glass. Container manufacturers buy the cullet, (crushed glass) from the recycling programs to remelt and mold into new containers. Contaminates, especially porcelain, can cause expensive equipment damage," explained Hawkins.
Inspired to recycle the multitude of “contaminates” or non-container glass, such as Pyrex cookware, dishware, and vases, Hawkins contacted several of the larger thrift store organizations. Phillip Arca, Executive Director at the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Oakland California, was willing to set-up a test program at their sorting facility.

Now thanks to The St. Vincent de Paul Society and Vetrazzo, chipped or otherwise unsellable glassware is collected in blue barrels for bi-monthly pick up. The quantity is relatively small but it is another example of the community, and creativity, supported by Vetrazzo in effort to keep recyclable glass out of the landfills.

On a side note, I have the pleasure of carpooling 4 days a week with Melissa, also known as Vetrazzo's Sustainability Officer or Waste Cop, if you will. At least one ride a week Mel will start to brainstorm a new way she thinks Vetrazzo can step up its game and cut down its waste. I'm not kidding when I say due to her passion we have barely avoided a number of fender benders when she gets on a roll... or sees a tire tread on the side of the freeway she could turn into art.
Trafficology Pendant Lamps by Melissa Hawkins

Recently with the help of Vetrazzo VP of Manufacturing, John Sabol, Melissa was able to work out a partnership to recycle a previously un-recyclable by-product of the Vetrazzo manufacturing process. Their efforts will save Vetrazzo money and keep our manufacturing waste out of the landfill. More on this and the rest of the Vetrazzo path to sustainability through responsible manufacturing in an upcoming blog...

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Vetrazzo Victory Garden

This blog entry comes from Vetrazzo's Vice President of Marketing and resident gardener extraordinaire, Karen Righthand. She proves that if she can grow produce here, she can grow it anywhere:

One bright morning earlier this spring, I strolled out of the Vetrazzo plant after a production staff meeting and the sun hit me square in the eyes. As I squinted looking out the door of the plant at the parking lot, I imagined corn growing in between the parked cars. I don’t know how it came to me but contained in that very moment was the seed of inspiration for our current garden.
You see, I’m a gardener. I love to grow my own delicious fresh food, eat it and feed it to others. It’s so satisfying. And one thing is true of every gardener. No matter how great their garden is, or how much they grow, they always want more. For me, I live in a hilly, tree-laden landscape so finding open, flat, full-sun plots of land where corn could grow is rare. Why not turn a useless parking lot median into a food-producing oasis, I thought.

How fitting is it to have a Victory Garden at Ford Point? As many of you may know, during World War II the Ford Plant was converted to Tank and Jeep assembly. This is the birthplace of “Rosie the Riveter”. “Rosie” and the Victory Gardens so many Americans planted, were symbols of everyday Americans’ patriotism and support for the troops. All across the country, everyday people managed to grow 40% of the fruits and vegetables consumed on the homefront in Victory Gardens.
I ran my idea up the flagpole all the way to the developer of the Ford Point building and he approved it. As a matter of fact, they started putting in irrigation and landscaping around the entire back of the building shortly after I made my request. I met with the foreman and told them what area I’d like to plant and inquired how the irrigation would be done. Turns out they weren’t planning on irrigating the parking median, but only the plots closest to the building. The median was slated for rock mulch…
I met with the production staff to share the garden idea, and asked if anyone had anything in particular they wanted to grow. Alberto asked if we could grow lemons! Why not? So we decided to plant citrus trees in the median. We’d have to water by hand until the trees were established, but at least they would bear fruit, be evergreen and once established they’d be pretty carefree. They were planted mid-June and luckily they are still alive. I must admit, I didn’t count on the stiff breeze blowing off the bay on our little babies all day long. That’s gardening, you learn as you go.
After we decided to go for the garden, several things happened. Juli started some seeds at home in containers saved from our takeout lunches. I brought in some seeds and a growing tray one Friday and many fingers poked seeds into the soil. Even our CEO James’ mom sent some of her favorite seeds to cheer on our project.
Every big idea has its dark side and there were two things I didn’t really factor in. One, how much time it would take to till up the cement-hard clay of this former superfund site and two, I already had my own pretty demanding garden at home tugging at me. Oh and of course, we have a business to run. But the plan had already been set in motion; there was no backing out now.

We broke ground first in the median for the trees then later that week we mixed some compost into the area around each irrigation hose and planted our seed starts. We have a collection of squash, tomatoes and peppers. Also some beans and corn. Under our sign we planted dwarf sunflowers and the Cosmos that James’ mom sent. I was pretty shocked to see the bean, corn and sunflower seeds we direct seeded actually germinate. It’s always exciting when seeds sprout. It’s extra exciting when you weren’t sure the soil you were planting them in could sustain life.
I don’t think we’ll have much more than a token harvest this year, but each season we work the soil, it will get richer. This is where compost comes in! I compost at my own home. I bring the compost bucket from the office home and dump it in my backyard bin. The plan is to bring some of this rich amendment back to use in our Vetrazzo Victory Garden.
The plant staff have been terrific stewards, making sure the garden stays watered. I hope they enjoy watching it grow and I hope there will be some food for them to harvest and enjoy. It will really be a sweet day when we pick our first lemon. I think I’ll have to give it to Alberto.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vetrazzo's 4-Legged Waste Diversion Program

So, now that you know that the purpose of the blog is to shed some light on the Vetrazzo culture, let me introduce you to Vetrazzo’s newest and most behind-the-scenes star… Mama Goat.
Yes, our one-and-only quadruped star is a goat. But not just any goat. You may even call her The G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time). Her name is Mama Goat, but her bucket here at the office is labeled “Goatie”. She belongs to our office assistant, Sharon, who rescued her from abandonment 5 years ago. Goatie is a short, yet important, part of our office waste diversion program.
The first leg of the Vetrazzo office waste diversion project is your typical office recycling program. Every Wednesday and Friday we weigh our paper, plastic, aluminum, etc. and log it so that we can set a benchmark for next year to reduce not only our garbage, but the amount of recyclable waste that leaves the office.
I am the second leg of this program and the first line of defense when it comes to unconsumed grub… I’ve been to Thailand…I eat anything and everything…
I hate wasting food and therefore I consume everybody’s leftovers, within reason, before they can make it to Goatie’s bucket. If it wasn’t for me Goatie would be the fattest goat in the ‘burbs and may not like having her picture taken…like this goat…
Goatie is the third leg, getting second dibs on the food before it hits the compost bucket. Sharon takes Mama Goat’s bucket home every Wednesday and Friday, filled with whatever food munchies I didn’t want (like stems and peels) and mixes it with Purina Goat Chow. We’ve heard this brings a big goat smile to Mama’s face. I have no idea what that looks like so I found this picture of a smiling goat for you to reference…
The fourth leg is composting. Our VP of Marketing keeps a tub in the kitchen for un-goat/Murph-worthy scraps such as coffee grounds, tea bags, cheese, etc. Karen takes that tub home every two days and deposits it in her compost pile. Riding home with a bucket of food waste takes dedication, and if you think it doesn’t, take a look at the food waste left in your company kitchen garbage after a lunch… stanky!
I already mentioned that the goal here is to cut down the amount of waste exiting this office down to the bare minimum, but to some degree we are up-cycling as well. The bottles we recycle make it into a Vetrazzo countertop. The food I eat keeps me in a good mood to write these blogs. The food Karen composts will eventually make its way as soil to our Victory Garden at Ford Point. And last, but not least the food Goatie gets gives her the jump start she needs for her typical goat weekend activities of baying, walking the dog and goat boxing Sharon’s son…
Mama Goat is undefeated, as Shawn never actually throws a punch. Next time Karen will introduce you to the fruits of our waste diversion labor, The Vetrazzo Victory Garden…

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vetrazzo Company Culture

As I sit here looking at a couple of empty 32oz Tecate bottles I brought back from a trip to Mexico last year to split with our CFO (who likes the Tecate Light, but graciously accepted the original) I think about the company culture that makes Vetrazzo what it is. See, I go down to Tecate, Mexico once a year with an NGO called Club Dust to build houses in a shanty town called El Nino. I was only 3 months into my job here at Vetrazzo when the management team happily gave me paid time off to go on this trip. I have just now returned from a very successful trip this year.
Many large corporations will have some sort of paid philanthropy policy…what makes Vetrazzo different is that we have 2 people in our entire Marketing Department, so encouraging half the team to take off for a week is a unique choice. Where I went and what I did are only small details that bring me to my main point: Vetrazzo is a different kind of company.
This blog will mainly be about the company culture of Vetrazzo. I am trying to have a conversation about a different way of doing business and, though there are some great examples of this here at Vetrazzo, the conversation will not always be about Vetrazzo.
I want to talk about socially responsible business practices such as providing healthcare to all workers or bringing manufacturing back to the USA. I love to write and everyday I see something different and interesting that happens at Vetrazzo or I read about a sustainability trailblazing company like Interface. It’s not hard to see new ways that we push ourselves towards sustainability or find true life events that validate our belief that there is a story in every surface™ we create.
The stories told by the unique types of glass you will find in a Vetrazzo surface are not the only stories about Vetrazzo. It is the stories like mine or our Office Assistant’s goat that eats our lunch leftovers, that truly determine Vetrazzo’s story. More on Mama Goat in the next post...
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