How'd you like to impress your eco-minded family and friends with a toilet seat made from 100 percent recycled paper?
Gene McDonald, owner of Refresh Interiors in Pinellas Park, says his award-winning seat is made from PaperStone, which combines paper and a resin made from the oils of cashew shells.
"It's waterproof and so hard you can smash it with a hammer," he says.
Not that you'd want to.
The item is just one of many organic, renewable and recycled products featured this weekend at the Pinellas Living Green Expo, which returns to the Harborview Center in downtown Clearwater. Admission is free.
The expo is a collaboration of government agencies, nonprofit groups and businesses seeking to promote sustainable products and behaviors. Pinellas Living Green Inc., a Florida nonprofit corporation, is the main coordinator of the effort.
Organizers expect a record turnout of about 10,000 people over the two-day event as more people seek to reduce their carbon footprint and preserve dwindling natural resources.
"We're getting bigger and better, growing by about 20 percent each year," said event chairman Steve Plice.
The theme of the expo is "Save Money … Save the Environment."
"People would be surprised as to how much they can save by making some changes in their personal lifestyle," Plice said. "If they get rid of St. Augustine grass and replace it with Florida-friendly landscaping, they'll find their watering, fertilizing, pest control and maintenance costs go down."
About 120 eco-entrepreneurs, corporations, agencies and nonprofit groups will set up booths for the event. College professors, scientists and other professionals will host dozens of seminars on the most cost-effective and environmentally responsible ways to live.
So will students.
Members of the Lakewood High School hydrogen race car team, winners in the 2008 Florida Solar Energy Center's Hydrogen Sprint, will run their hydrogen-powered model race cars and explain how hydrogen fuel cells work.
Another alternative to gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting engines is the hybrid — and it's not just for cars anymore.
Endeavour Green, a Clearwater boat manufacturer, will display its low-emission, 24-foot hybrid boat in the center's parking lot. Propelled by an electric engine that can be recharged overnight, the boat has a top speed of 6.4 miles per hour. It can run up to 50 hours with the aid of a generator in the bow.
"We can a do biodiesel option if someone wanted it," said Nancy Frainetti, co-owner of the company.
Eco-conversions will show car owners how to convert gas engines into plug-in electric cars.
Bring a soil sample and "Mr. Green Thumb," a.k.a. urban horticulturist Stan DeFreitas, will analyze it.
Expo guests can learn how to build a rain barrel, create a butterfly haven, and choose the best fertilizer and pest control options.
Experts will discuss tax rebates and other government incentives for homeowners, the impact of climate change on our region, and energy-efficiency tips to lower power bills.
Gene McDonald, the aforementioned green toilet seat guy, will also bring cabinets made of bamboo, countertops made from recycled beer bottles and coffee tables with coffee bean inlays.
Shattered CDs, chopped-up credit cards, seashells and broken mirrors have found their way into his creations.
"I'm trying to smash the concept that green is bland and boring," he said.
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