Since the 1990s when sustainable design first emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the lodging industry, carpet and floor covering manufacturers have found themselves at the forefront of the movement. Among other flashpoints, the category entailed heavy manufacturing, use of synthetics treated with chemicals in place of natural materials, waste byproduct perfect for recycling, and raw materials and finished product both typically transported a long distance, exacerbating the carbon footprint, among other environmental grievances.
But the country’s leading carpet and floor covering manufacturers, to their credit, chose to grab the bull by the horns, aggressively tackling one sustainability issue after another. Nearly 20 years later, the industry’s strides have been significant. Vendors have managed to position their products as environmentally friendly, while still remaining current when it comes to introducing stylish designs and color palettes and pioneering state-of-the-art production techniques.
Following are initiatives that seven leading companies have been working on:
• High Definition Printing Translates Into Less Waste. Earlier this year Durkan unveiled a new carpet printing method that employs a 25 dpi system, which results in carpeting with deeper color penetration and more elaborate design precision. High-speed valves that are computer-controlled make it possible and results in resolution that is 56% higher. The new method delivers 625 pixels, a big advance over the prior method’s 260 pixels, and can utilize up to 12 colors. Machines equipped with 25 dpi technology are also faster, which translates into greater efficiency and less waste. Less waste, in turn, benefits the environment.
“We’re committed to the environment and to continuing these cutting-edge capital improvements,” noted Lee Blair, senior vp and global head of hospitality for Durkan’s parent, Mohawk Industries.
• Working In Step With LEED. Lexmark Carpet Mills has been careful to ensure that all its products are suitable for hotels and resorts that are pursuing the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification and can help contribute toward points. The Carpet & Rug Institute has also certified that Lexmark’s products are Green Label Plus.
Lexmark Carpet Mills’ in-house dyed nylon system, Lextron Enviro-Green, results in carpet that contains 10% pre-consumer recycled content. Among Lexmark’s new product lines is Pure. CEO Todd White describes the Pure pattern as “layered organic” and is intended to evoke ripples on water.
•Improving Their Carbon Footprint.
Modular carpet manufacturer Interface Hospitality recently became the first manufacturer to adopt the “Architecture 2030 Product Challenge.” The Challenge calls on designers and construction companies, as well as manufacturers, among others, to reduce their carbon footprint by 30% from the present product average through 2014. As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, companies pledge in addition to improve on these reductions further in the years ahead.
According to John Wells, president of Interface Americas, his company is on board to meet these longer-term carbon footprint reductions: 35% by 2015, 40% by 2020, 45% by 2025, and an ambitious 50% by 2030.
•Promoting Chemical Transparency.
Ascend Performance Materials, associated with Clayton-Miller Carpets, not only alludes to its product safety and environmental record, but goes so far as to spell out the specific chemical agents used in its manufacturing processes. The 14 listed chemicals are broken down into five categories from dibasic acids and esters to chilating agents.
Ascend is also unusually transparent in spelling out its mission, when it comes to Environmental, Safety, Security, & Health (ESSH) issues, pledging to implement processes that focus on prevention of injuries, illnesses, and environmental impacts.
•Ramping Up Recycled Content. Aqua Hospitality Carpets and its parent company, the Beaulieu Group, have a history of focusing on manufacturing methods that incorporate recyclable materials back into the product. Aqua’s Nexterra carpet tile backing, for example, contains a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content from two sources: polyethylene terepthalate (PET), which also happens to be what plastic water and soda bottles are made of, and post-consumer glass.
According to senior vp of sales & marketing Steve Ladd, Aqua manufactures with Avalar nylon that contains a minimum of 25% pre-consumer recycled content. All Aqua cushion, meanwhile, contains 70% pre-consumer and 30% post-consumer recycled content.
•New Name, Same Values. Sixteen months ago, the Oriental Weavers Group reorganized and rebranded its hospitality carpet company, in the process creating OW Hospitality. One of the things that remained the same was the company’s dedication to manufacturing sustainable products. According to Mohamed Farid Khamis, chairman of Oriental Weavers, the company has continued to source Axminster carpet with minimal impact on the environment, specifically by minimizing the adverse impact of manufacturing on water, air, energy, noise levels, and solid waste emissions.
• Blogging ForThe Environment. As an extension of its commitment to green manufacturing, Tai Ping Carpets have begun trying to reach an Internet friendly audience by taking to the blogosphere to communicate about sustainability. “Recycling wool is the biggest sustainability challenge facing manufacturers,” one blog entry noted. Unlike man-made materials, wool doesn’t melt and can’t easily be transformed into new man-made products.
However, to prepare wool products like Tai Ping’s Axminster carpets for recycling is not easy because it is a mixture of natural and man-made elements. Chopping it up results in small pieces that are difficult to handle and re-form. But Tai Ping researchers have had some success. They have found that carpet backing holds the greatest promise for the company’s waste material. In fact, carpet fiber and other manufacturing waste could comprise as much as 85% of a recycled content pad.