Jay Bolus, VP of Technical Operations for MBDC

Jay Bolus, MBDC

Here at Planet Green, we often talk about how we as consumers can purchase wisely and then, after the product's lifecycle, discard responsibly. This often revolves around the famous third R--recycling. Though still one of our best options, recycling hasn't been perfected. Many municipalities don't recycle certain materials. The process requires energy consumption. And we still end up with stuff in the end.

Envision a world then where products could be sent back to the place they were born, for reuse. Thanks to 'Cradle to Cradle' design from green gurus McDonough and Braungart it's starting to happen.

We caught up with Jay Bolus, VP of Technical Operations for MBDC (McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry)--the global consultancy group that helps manufacturers like Aveda, Kiehl's, Shaw, gDiapers and the US Postal Service implement this Cradle to Cradle framework. On a typical day Jay can be found juggling projects, evaluating the impact that product chemicals and materials have on human and environmental health or helping develop Cradle to Cradle, ecologically intelligent products. It's no wonder he was recently named one of the top 100 most influential people in business ethics by Ethisphere magazine!

Planet Green: How did you get into this line of work?

Jay Bolus: I've always had an interest in ecological issues and a strong desire to work in an area where I could have an impact on improving the environment. I was in the right place at the right time when Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart started MBDC and have been here ever since.

PG: What was your "a-ha" moment?

JB: I attended a lecture series taught by Bill McDonough at the University of Virginia. At the time I was getting a graduate degree in Environmental Engineering and learning how to clean up contaminated ground water, how to size pipes for wastewater treatment facilities, etc. Bill came along and started talking about putting design "filters" in our minds instead of at the end of pipes and designing toxic things out of products up front rather than having to deal with them at the end.

PG: Who is your green hero?

JB: Kermit the frog. :)

PG: What is your ultimate green goal?

JB: To transform the way all products are conceived, designed, and manufactured. The conventional "cradle to grave" paradigm is broken. It's time for a new one.

PG: What is your motivation?

JB: My children. I want to do whatever I can to try and make the world a better place for them.

PG: What is most important to you, ecologically speaking?

JB: Far and away the most important thing to me is the elimination of toxic chemicals and materials in the products we use on a daily basis.

PG: What is the most challenging part of your job?

JB: Dealing with suppliers/manufacturers stuck in the old paradigm of product design/manufacture.

PG: What is the most rewarding?

JB: Seeing our work translate into real, tangible changes in the way a company designs and manufactures products

PG: Of the people you have worked with, who impresses you most?

JB: I'd have to say everyone at Steelcase Inc. who have worked to transform not only their company but their entire industry around the concepts of Cradle to Cradle®.

PG: What green thing do you do everyday?

JB: Recycle anything I can get my hands on.

PG: What do you wish you could do?

JB: Design products. If I could go back to school and get another degree it would be in industrial design. Designers have the ultimate power over how a product looks and feels, and also how it performs from a sustainability perspective.

PG: What is your biggest eco-sin?

JB: I own a Volvo XC90 SUV and it gets about 12mpg around town. However, it's the safest car I could find and my wife uses it to cart our kids around, so somehow I'm able to justify it.

PG: If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

JB: Guaranteed access to clean drinking water for everyone. This is a basic human right, but unfortunately it's becoming increasingly difficult to find good sources of clean water around the globe.

PG: What is your best green advice?

JB: Don't underestimate the power you have as a consumer to influence change. Demand greener products from retailers and manufactures. They will listen.

Change Makers is series of interviews with people famous and obscure who are creating a more sustainable world through their work. Meet more Change Makers here.