A few years ago, Adidas made headlines by introducing a running shoe made from plastic removed from the ocean. Could this be a model for building products manufacturers?

The Adidas Parley shoes (which has expanded to include apparel) was among the most brilliant marketing maneuvers we’ve ever seen. It was a perfect combination of addressing an important problem, sourcing raw materials, building brand reputation, and creating an irresistible story around their products.

To our knowledge, it’s been unmatched by any sneaker company. But now, it seems, Trex is getting into the act, and perhaps taking it a step further. And they’re currying favor with an important customer demographic in the process.

Recently, I was visiting colleges with my son, and we were on the campus of Wesleyan University. In the student union, I noticed some recycling bins emblazoned with the Trex logo.

The bins are part of the Trex Recycling Program. Through the program, Trex collects plastics at school, university and community locations. That material is then recycled to create Trex decking and railing products.

This program is set against the backdrop of not only increasing concern over plastic waste and ocean pollution, but also the crisis facing recycling programs. The issue of plastic is growing beyond the oceans, as the financial viability of recycling it is causing a glut of unprocessed milk jugs, soda bottles and grocery bags.

It’s an issue that concerns nearly everyone, but it’s especially important to young people – Millennials and Generation Z who will soon have to deal with the sins of previous generations. And who will also be buying homes in the not-too-distant future.

Unassailable Authenticity

That’s where programs like the one Trex is offering can make so much sense. Like the Adidas example, Trex appears to be bypassing the traditional recycling channels and collecting the material themselves.

What makes the Trex program so compelling is they’re getting the plastic before it has a chance to even get to the waterways, where it can cause harm to wildlife.

But what really makes the initiative so brilliant is that it works on so many levels. Where other companies work admirably to drive awareness and raise money for certain issues, this initiative is baked right into Trex’s operations.

Trex is also creating a compelling story around its products, and the materials from which they’re made.

Most importantly, the company is generating tremendous corporate goodwill and brand awareness, especially among the young people who see the recycling bins every day.

This is an instance of foresight and long-term thinking that many companies seem to lack. Most of the students who see and use the recycling bins are a good five to ten years away from buying a home, maybe longer.

But when the time comes for them to make decisions about outdoor decking material, they’ll remember Trex and their message of sustainability. Not just because they saw the logo on recycling bins, but because Trex allowed them to be an active participant in creating the products and reducing plastic waste.

The way this program is set up, and how everything just works together, it allows them to present a story with unassailable authenticity. They’re presenting themselves as a brand that’s not just concerned about sustainability, but whose products are built around it.

We are duly impressed with Trex’s initiative, and see this as a model that other brands, especially building products brands, can follow.

Earth Day was this week on April 22, and many of our client brands have taken a cue from the event to raise awareness about the environment and to show how they contribute to the health of the planet. Tile Doctor, a provider of eco-conscious products and solutions for the tile industry, focuses on offering products that are both sustainable and have low environmental impact. The company is the exclusive U.S. distributor for Litokol, an Italian-based company known for its innovations in tile installation products. At Coverings in Orlando earlier this month, K&A launched the Litokol ZHERORisk® campaign, promoting a line of non-toxic, non-corrosive and sustainable tile installation products that are safer for installers, buildings and the environment. Our plant-a-tree program donates and installs a tree for every order of ZHERORisk products. The program not only showcases the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship but also recognizes its customers for opting to choose eco-friendly products that are helping both people and the planet.

According to a recent Nielsen report, “Sustainability sells” — and that’s the point of Earth Day — to wake us up to the need to reign in our pollution and take the extra steps needed to maintain the health of the planet. And if that fits with a brand image, it provides Building Product brand marketers an opportunity to align with the values of their customer base while promoting their building materials.