Materials From The Past For A Greener Future

Materials From The Past For A Greener Future

12 min read

Parks can tackle sustainability challenges by rethinking use of existing resources

Increasingly, parks are focusing on building eco-friendly structures or updating existing structures with more eco-friendly materials and systems. Doing so supports the broader mission of parks stewardship and environmental protection. But how parks go about this can vary based on a number of factors.

For Bryce Carnehl, Specification Marketing Manager at Hunter Industries in San Marcos, Calif., the process begins by searching out materials with lower carbon footprints.

“I think the number-one thing we can always look at is recycled material,” he says. This includes use of recycled materials within products and in various components throughout a particular site. One example is using fly ash in concrete. Fly ash is a finely divided residue made from the combustion of pulverized coal.

Carnehl says post-consumer and post-production recycled materials, like plastics and metals, are beneficial because the environmental impacts are so clear.

“For us at Hunter Industries, the studies that we’ve done around recycled material compared to virgin material—if we were looking at the recycled material carbon footprint compared to that of virgin, we can take recycled material and run it around the world a couple of times on a boat before we even get close to the carbon footprint of a virgin material resin,” he says.

This concept—recycling, reusing, and refurbishing—certainly aligns with the intent of green building practices. However, it also stands in opposition to innovation. Carnehl says the American mindset is often one that prioritizes new solutions, but there are times when we simply need to think differently about materials we already have.

For instance, recycled plastic works well as a mechanical component in a system with performance standards, like an irrigation system. Carnehl also points to site furnishings.

“What’s your recycled material content in your steel in a piece of play equipment?” he says. “You can imagine the steel manufacturing, concrete manufacturing—these are some of the heaviest carbon loads that you see going into parks. So, it’s low-hanging fruit to say we want X percentage of recycled material in our play equipment or hardscape material.”