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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

The Business of Going Green - Charlotte men offer creative solutions for sustainability

By Lisa Moore

Going green is the current mantra for environmental responsibility. Concerned citizens are increasingly looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint to help mitigate the burden we have put on the planet. Three Charlotte companies at the forefront of the green revolution have taken recycling to another level, offering products that will make you the envy of the neighborhood.


Grease is the Word Fat City Formulae

Rich Deming and Mike Gorman despise petroleum – not only because of what society has to do to get it, but also because it is in countless household products, exposing us to harmful toxins.

Inspired to save the environment while having a lot of fun, these local green entrepreneurs started Fat City Formulae in 2007, and have developed several ways to replace these hazardous materials with recycled fruit oils and vegetable oil from area restaurants.

Fat City produces the Poor Richard’s line of products, which includes BrightLight charcoal lighter fluid, PorchTorch tiki torch fuel and WoodServe wood sealer. Their patent-pending products are made from 100% recycled and waste stream material that biodegrade in 24 hours and are not hazardous to humans.

“We just think it’s irresponsible for people to keep hazardous chemicals around the house if they don’t have to,” said Gorman, who is also a partner in the biodegradable food service company Carolina Green Supply. “Once you use any of these products, you can’t stand to handle and smell the petroleum equivalent.”

In an effort not to use plastic bottles or anything that was manufactured for Fat City’s first-use, these modern day scientists strive to solve problems in an innovative manner. The guys recently struck a deal with the Noda wine bar Dolce Vita to reuse their empty wine bottles for their products. They are currently seeking a source to recycle 1.5 liter wine bottles for PorchTorch and WoodServe to become completely plastic free.

Gorman and Deming plan to grow their company organically and enjoy developing ideas for new products at their funky NoDa man-cave warehouse. The next one available soon is the user-friendly Instant Ambiance -- reused beer bottles, full of all-natural fuel, with wicks and wick holders included. 

Deming, whose primary occupation is as an energy consultant to corporations and governments, says users can simply pop the top, put the wick in and light. The bottles can sit on a table or drop right into a standard torch holder.

“You can use them and then discard them in the recycling bin, comfortable in the knowledge the bottle was on it's way there anyway and you just got another use out of it.”

The Poor Richard’s line is currently carried locally at Charlotte Energy Solutions, the Common Market, and the Healthy Home Market and Earthfare grocery stores. The products are also available from Fat City Formulae’s website


Everything Old Is New Again Southend Building Products

Homeowners with a taste for history and authenticity may gain a new outlook on old materials when they build or remodel with architectural salvage. Southend Building Products provides high quality, environmentally-friendly building products that offer unique and interesting alternatives to products offered by chain home improvement centers.

Will Dellinger founded the company in 2001 because he was inspired to save rare woods and brick from the landfill and to re-manufacture them so they could be used again. Today, the company is co-owned by Paul Atkinson, Mark Harmon and Jeremy Rozsak and they strive to educate customers on the benefits and beauty of reclaimed materials.

Southend’s customer base ranges from flooring distributors, dealers and manufacturers to builders, architects, timber framers, and homeowners. The store offers reclaimed timbers, flooring and custom millwork in rare species of antique woods such as antique heart pine, wormy chestnut and antique oak as well reclaimed brick.

“These materials are over 100 years old and have time-worn characteristics such as occasional nail holes or aged patina, so it is not hard to get excited about the history and rare beauty of these reclaimed materials,” says Atkinson, CEO of the company.

Atkinson says finding quality products is a real treasure hunt. The staff searches for barns, textile mills or other factories built pre-1920 that are obsolete, unoccupied and where redevelopment is not an alternative. “We inspect the material in these structures and if it looks good and we can make the numbers work, we deconstruct the building, saving as many of the materials as possible,” he adds.

To further assist customers in going green, Southend also offers rain collection systems, non-toxic finishes and glues, non-reclaimed green flooring such as bamboo and cork and will soon unveil a line of solar panels and solar hot water heaters. Long-term goals are to open a retail store as a one-stop green building shopping experience and to partner in developing green communities and developments.

Atkinson encourages people to do something different when building or remodeling. “You could use the standard new flooring that is so common these days or you could use wide-plank antique heart pine or antique oak salvaged from a mill built in the 1800’s,” he states.

“Building with reclaimed materials helps your home stand out from the norm. It gives it character, charm, and a story to tell that is uniquely yours -- and it is good for the environment.”

Southend Building Products is located at 2130 N. Tryon Street. For more info visit


Not Just Another Brick in the Wall Green Leaf Brick

Your home or business can now be just as green on the outside as it can be on the inside thanks to Green Leaf Brick. The Charlotte-based company manufactures new masonry bricks composed from 100% recycled materials and fired in kilns with clean air objectives.

Green Leaf Brick takes responsible action to make an immediate effort towards preserving the world for future generations. They do their part by reducing landfill space, composing from industrial byproducts, reducing harmful air emissions and creating a building material that can last for centuries.

James Kolodziey, a partner in the company founded in 2007, says the bricks meet the highest quality standards for aesthetics, strength, sustainability and environmental awareness. “You don't have to sacrifice the appearance of the brick and the building to be environmentally sensitive,” he says.

Green Leaf Brick can produce almost any size, shape, color, texture and personalized monogram desired and they are just as safe and strong as any commercially available brick. The company takes materials that have lost their value in the economy and are considered waste and make a very high quality line of brick and pavers. 

“We employ mining and manufacturing waste streams earmarked for landfills and divert it to our facility,” says Kolodziey. “Our country throws away far too many things that could be made into something useful if innovation could utilize it in another application.”

To be considered for composition of a Green Leaf Brick, materials need to have close proximity, be readily available, possess excellent ceramic properties, meet safety in handling criteria, while contributing to the company’s aesthetic focus.

“I’m fortunate that we have the perfect storm here with a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant surrounded by a local economy with mining and manufacturing firms that produce waste streams we can use,” Kolodziey states. Examples include technical ceramics, waste water treatment solids, steel manufacturing firms, mining operations and post consumer materials such as glass. 

Kolodziey says he gets frequently calls from people inquiring if he wants their waste products; some can be used, but most cannot. Careful evaluation is required to make sure the material functions in the composition, but also it cannot contain anything toxic and must meet recycled source guidelines.

Green Leaf Brick plans to continue perfecting the manufacturing process and to improve economy of scale. Kolodziey would like to duplicate what has been developed here in other parts of the country, but realizes that will be challenging. 

“We are constantly learning new applications for waste streams beyond making brick and I’d like to devote some time to explore areas we can take this concept and make new products from discarded materials,” he concludes.

To learn more visit

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