A couple of weeks ago, we lost a very special man. Paul Hughes, a long-time environmental activist and green business entrepreneur, died from a massive heart attack.
Following his graduation with a degree in political science/public policy from the University of Toledo, Mr. Hughes had focused his professional life on the environment. For a while, he had his own environmental consulting business and then worked for a company that converted homes and businesses to CNG, compressed natural gas and moved away from oil. He soon discovered that work in the corporate world was not for him, and was often at odds with his firm belief in protecting our environment and working for a more sustainable way of living.
He went on to dedicate himself to business and non-profit activity to further his goals. He brought both passion and creativity to organizations such as the Sierra Club, at the forefront of the environmental movement. At the same time, he waded into the parallel world of political activism. He moved to the Green Party where he found a deeper commitment to the environment and the fight against growing inequality in America than is present in today’s Democratic Party, one too often conflicted by corporate big bucks. Paul became the Green Party leader in Northern Virginia and recently led the successful effort to get Green Party Presidential candidate and genuine progressive Jill Stein on the Virginia ballot.
His first green business, DeConstruction Services, LLC, is a for-profit demolition and salvage firm designed to keep building supplies out of landfills. About 40 percent of U.S. municipal landfills are loaded with such building materials. Thanks to Paul, DeConstruction also hires and trains the difficult to employ—e.g., people who’ve served time in jail or in drug rehab and had few opportunities to put their lives back together.
DeConstructed home materials such as granite surfaces, electrical fixtures, appliances of all kinds that his crews removed, were well received by nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity. But there was far more coming out than such modest users could absorb. So, Paul created the non-profit ReBuild Warehouse, to which homeowners could contribute gently-used materials from de-constructed homes and get a tax deduction. Home builders and buyers go to ReBuild to buy used, often vintage, materials in new construction. And, ReBuild creates more green jobs.
Three years ago, Paul worked with creative Reston folks to merge RCA’s Sustainable Reston Committee with his Fairfax Coalition for Smarter Growth. Thanks in part, to resources from the coalition, Sustainable Reston is already having an impact here, through educational programs and the community garden at Cedar Ridge, in cooperation with other Reston community organizations.
Our region has lost a very special human being, a passionate and productive progressive leader who will be very hard to replace.