Chemical engineering professor Richard Wool is someone who does things differently. Under the auspices of "green chemistry," the University of Delaware researcher uses eco-friendly products like vegetable oil, flax seed, and even chicken feathers to make everyday products from tape and foam to shoes, roofing materials, and even car parts.

It's a whole new way of making products for a global consumer base.

The EPA recently gave Wool its Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.  His work is credited for steering manufacturers and consumers away from petroleum-based products.

"We realized in the past 20 years that we were indeed running out of oil while simultaneously we realized we were having a global warming issue," said Wool. Those factors and others prompted scientists and companies to "revolutionize the development of materials and change their practices to be very green and economical at the same time."

But how realistic is this? Wool says it's possible, but the customer will have to demand it.

"For example, people love leather," which is made from the skin of cattle. "If we say we have this material that can replace leather — and vegans in particular are very happy with that — then our materials will become adopted."

To hear Dr. Wool discuss his work with WHYY's Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn, click the audio player above.