Green Built Alliance is hosting a work-based learning intern from Nesbitt Discovery Academy for the spring semester of 2018. During this time, students are tasked with exploring the fields that interest them the most, and our intern is drawn to career paths related to sustainability. She will be sitting down with numerous members who agreed to have her visit their job site to learn more about their particular line of work.
Green Built Alliance intern Kathleen Jacobsen visited our members at The Arch, where she sat down with owner Catherine Silver.
GBA: What first peaked your interest in this career path?
Catherine: Before I got into this business, I was an elementary teacher. I have an interior-design background. I kept integrating all my artistic abilities in whatever I could do in school education. I felt this desire to work more with the architectural components of interior design. Working with flooring, finishing, and interesting products really inspired me and I wanted to work with it. Working within the design community is really enjoyable and I have learned a lot from it.
GBA: What is your specialty?
Catherine: Well we’re a little bit diverse because we offer a number of things from flooring to pizza ovens. We have a wide range. We offer finishes that are healthy such as American Clay Earth Plaster finish, other natural coatings, floor finishes, and other wood finishes. We sell sustainable flooring, sustainable finishes, and we sell our wood-fired pizza ovens.
GBA: How is your work sustainable for the environment?
Catherine: We have no added urea-formaldehyde or VOCs in our products. We also have a lot of certifications for our products such as Green Guard Gold- or FSC-certification. We look for finishes that are healthy and we have a lot of clients who come in that are chemically sensitive. We make sure that we don’t carry anything that would be harmful to our air quality or anyone’s health. Our floor finishes by Vermont Natural Coatings consist of a binder which is a byproduct of cheese called whey and it provides an extremely strong bond. We focus on finishes that are good for the environment and we pay a lot of attention to the products’ background.
GBA: How has your company made a difference?
Catherine: I would say we have helped a lot of people with chemical sensitivities; for example, American Clay doesn’t mold. American Clay takes in a lot of moisture and releases it naturally so it is a great choice for a bathroom. Since no condensation can appear on the clay, it is a healthy choice. I’ve had clients sleep with my products to see if they had a negative or positive reaction to them. Having a good value and a healthy product in your home definitely makes a difference creating a healthy environment.
GBA: Why are you passionate about teaching our community what you do?
Catherine: A lot of people don’t know about American Clay until they’re near it and that is one reason why we offer workshops. I love the clay because it offers an interesting design aspect as well as being healthy, and I like sharing a fun finish that can improve someone’s living quarters. It is nice to be able to educate people and customers about finishes they may not be familiar with. Our products are somewhat niche as we offer a lot that others don’t, and I believe we’re the only full-service dealer for American Clay in North Carolina right now.
GBA: What do you love most about working here and doing what you do?
Catherine: I like talking with people who are in the design world, whether they are architects, builders, homeowners, chefs, and more. We have had a lot of talented people come in just to look at our pizza ovens and getting to talk to those who work in the food industry is very fun. I am amazed that I have gotten so interested in the flooring industry because it is connected to our climate and our forests.
I have friends such as Kim Porter with the Environmental Paper Network or others at Dogwood Alliance who help me fulfill my interests; paying attention to sustainability. I pay close attention to my products and make sure that all of them are healthy for the home and the environment. I would have to say that my absolute favorite thing about doing what I do is being able to get involved with projects. I like to have some input because I do come from an interior design background and understand and appreciate the architectural components.
GBA: Why are you members of the Green Built Alliance?
Catherine: We have been with the Green Built Alliance since we started our business in 2004. We have been with them for quite a long time. I have enjoyed networking which is really great because there are so many different resources. I think Green Built is one of the best organizations in the southeast and has been groundbreaking in the green-building community. There is a lot of skill and knowledge impacting our community and it is great to learn and be a part of it. I am also very supportive of the mission that the Green Built Alliance has taken on.
GBA: Why are you passionate about green building and the work of the Green Built Alliance?
Catherine: In this day and age in the year of 2018, I couldn’t think of a more important focus than sustainability. Protecting our environment is critical and it should be the way that we do things looking towards our future. Educating the community is something that Green Built Alliance is doing very successfully and it gives people the opportunity to impact their community in such a positive way.