Businessman Sees Green In Environmental Products

Selling A Cleaner World

October 28, 1991|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

Richard Pritzlaff is counting on the world becoming a "greener" place, and he's staked his new business on it.

In the Annapolis businessman's "green" world, people shower with restricted-flow shower heads, brew coffee through washable cotton filters, hang cedar-block mothballs in closets, store food in cellulose bags and diaper babies with washable cotton liners.

Pritzlaff says he believes consumers will demand more of such products as natural resources become more strained.

But, he says, those items are not always widely available and sometimes can be found only through obscure catalogs or at health food stores in limited supplies.

After two years of researching just what's out there, Pritzlaff has started Environmental & Recycled Products in Annapolis, supplying environmentally sound products -- everything from paper to industrial strength cleaners -- to retailers, institutions, businesses and, in bulk, to individual customers.

"As the world becomes more populated, we can't continue to use and throw away products," says Pritzlaff, company president. "With lack of landfill space and the rate atwhich we're using natural resources, we need to use products that are made from recyclable materials that decompose and that have ingredients that come from renewable resources."

Pritzlaff has been interested in environmental issues since his days studying engineering at Vanderbilt University. He put that interest on hold to write militarysystems proposals for a defense contractor, work as a risk analyst for a bank and teach physics at the Severn School.

Finally, he lefta job as a business consultant for non-profit agencies to combine his interest in the environment with his desire to start a business.

After months of research -- perusing catalogs, reading environmentaljournals, conferring with scientists -- Pritzlaff compiled a list ofproducts he believes are the best, most convenient and most competitively priced in various categories. He shies away from already widelyavailable products.

He sells biodegradable cleaners, organic fertilizers made from Vermont dairy industry by-products, ice melters that also help soils and plants, aluminum can crushers, recycled motor oil and a foaming wasp and hornet killer that relies on suffocation rather than chemicals.

He's got diapers with cotton liners that can be washed at home rather than through a chemical laundry service, biodegradable laundry liquid, trash bags made from plant fiber instead of plastic, packing material made of recycled craft paper instead of plastic foam and various grades of recycled paper.

Then there are synthetic engine lubricants, rechargeable batteries, packages of fruits and nuts from the Brazilian rain forest, air freshener made from citrus oils and spot remover made from enzymes from the digestive tracts of oxen.

His cleaners are derived from vegetables, not petroleum, and therefore won't build up harmful fumes in closed spaces. Petroleum, which fails to break down in waste water, either ends up in the landfill or pollutes the Chesapeake Bay.

Customers "can spend timeand do the research, but I can save them that and convince them through documentation," Pritzlaff says.

Among his customers, Pritzlaffexpects small, local grocery chains, independent hardware stores andhealth food stores.Those customers typically would order through health food distributors, who offer less variety in product lines, Pritzlaff says. So far, most of his customers have come from outside the region; he sells to environmental stores in Maine, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.

"It's a brand-new marketplace," Pritzlaff says. "Small environmental stores are getting started, coming looking for environmentally sound products and not finding them available.

"I believe the consumer demand is there. Consumers make buying decisions based more and more on the environmental quality of the product."

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