SUSTAINABILITY– “is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony that permits fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.”

[This article originally appeared on page 15 of the June 2012 print issue of Rug News andDesign Magazine.]

“Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.” As stated by the EPA. (

The Sustainable Furnishing Council Green Home Furnishing Consumer Study has taken place four out of the last five years. The 2012 summary results were presented in April. The 2012 survey was comparable with 2010. At publication deadline, the complete 2012 study was unavailable.


The important statements in 2010 for buying furniture were, “quality that will last a long time (59%)” and “styles that suits me or my family (52%).” The top concerns were “toxic pollutants in the waste system (28%)” and “using up natural resources (27%).” A 40% response described the group’s position on global warming as “know a little and interested, but not doing much.”

The largest changes that are taking place in the home: Recycling at home (75%), Using compact fluorescents (72%), and tied at 69% – Set thermostat lower in winter, higher in summer and used reusable shopping bags.  The preference of terms used to describe products that are good for the environment top four are Environmentally Safe, Eco Friendly, Green and Sustainable.

The 2012 study shows that consumers’ awareness of green options has remained largely unchanged. It was noted that “consumers are familiar with terms such as organic and recycled whether they understand how the term apply to their home furnishing purchase or not.”

What does a Green survey on furniture have to do with the rug industry?  There is huge purchasing cross-over between the two industries. Consumers might be lacking in awareness of the Green options but it’s clear many business are very aware. Heightened awareness and the choice to be Green make companies careful in phrasing what they do.  They DO NOT want to promise something they are not sure they can deliver 100%.

FLOR—is an “innovative system of carpet squares.” It allows you to design and assemble any size rug.  These squares allow you to replace worn/dirty ones or redesign your rug instead of replacing it. This type of rug use is a step toward being Green. Patrick Skertich explained to me why FLOR went Green. “FLOR’s parent company, Interface, has been a pioneer in the sustainability movement dating back almost 20 years. Interface’s late founder, Ray Anderson, had an “aha” moment in 1994 when he looked at the company he had built and saw an opportunity to be a good steward of the environment” while continuing to build a successful business.  Over the years, Interface has “created innovative manufacturing processes to reduce our waste and eliminate toxins from our products and facilities. And we pioneered new ways to reuse valuable resources. Our innovative solutions allow us to recycle carpet backing and carpet fiber and have put us on the path toward eliminating the use of virgin materials and closing the loop.”

It was a natural step for FLOR to start a recycling program. They chose to pass on the opportunity; to participate onto their consumers.  FLOR’s Return & Recycle Program is simple:

1. Pack up your tiles. Cut them down to size if need be to fit in the box.

2. Call FLOR customer service and they will email you a pre-paid UPS label.

3. “At our Georgia facilities, face fiber and backing are cleanly separated using a new patented technology, Reentry 2.0.”

4. “The separated type 6 and 6,6 nylon face fibers are sent to our fiber partners to be reconstituted into new recycled nylon fibers.”

5. “This new post-consumer recycled fiber is then available for purchase to be used in future products.”

6. “Once the face fibers are sheared off the backing, the backing is then shredded into small pellets and heated /melted using our patented Cool Blue™ technology to create post-consumer recycled Glas Bac®RE backing.”

OBEETEE—In asking Mr. V.R. Sharma of Obeetee, Inc. about their sustainability, he responded that their corporate philosophy is “our duty to our customers and employees, as well as to the community at large, to vigorously pursue an ethical, responsible and sustainable corporate philosophy. Obeetee’s philosophy of CSR or Corporate Sustainability aims at creating conditions for better quality of life for everyone, now and for future generations.  The company works with a social conscience without ignoring economic growth and development.”

In pursuance of its policy on sustainability Obeetee has taken steps as follows:

Pollution Control–A state of the art Effluent Treatment plant has been installed by which all the effluents out of the dyeing plant are treated to pass the specified standards. Hazardous waste disposal is done through a Government approved unit.  Air Pollution from boiler emissions is filtered through multi cyclone plant so as to minimize harmful carbon particles within the parameters allowed under law. Noise pollution measures have been adopted at the power generation plant.

Use of Bio-Degradable Fuel–Bio-mass (rice husk) is used as fuel in the boiler for steam generation and the same bio-mass is used for a Gasifier, for eco-friendly power generation. This project for power generation is registered with UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

Energy Conservation–Plants have been installed for obtaining hot water from condensate recovery for boiler feed water. Also, the heat out of the hot effluent is reclaimed and used for pre-heating the water used in dyeing of woolen and other yarn.

Use of safe dyes–Only safe dyes, free from any of the banned amines and heavy metals are used in dyeing. In addition to the certificates obtained from the suppliers, the samples are also tested by independent laboratories.

Rain water harvesting–Obeetee has installed rain water harvesting systems at several locations to maintain and improve the level of underground water – a serious concern in India.

Human Rights–Obeetee has an immaculate record of ensuring that its employees are well looked after, provided with good working conditions and receive all the social benefits as required under law and more.  Obeetee has been recognized by the International Labour Organisation and the International Finance Corporation for its efforts in ensuring child labour free production of carpets and for instituting welfare measures for children so that they have a viable alternative.

Disclaimer: Over the past 20 years, I have been a guest at Obeetee. I have seen first hand this sustainability process evolve.

CHILEWICH—is known for its innovative use of textiles for a variety of applications, from placemats to floor mats.  They have two parts to their sustainability activity.

Part one is the ease of cleaning Chilewich textiles—“washed with just water and bio-degradable detergents, helping the user reduce energy and laundering costs while maintaining a sophisticated and modern aesthetic. “Chilewich fabrics are covered by the `Guard program certified by the GreenGuard Environmental Institute, which protects human health and quality of life through the reduction of chemical exposure and improved air quality.

Part two of Chilewich sustainability impact is the recycling of their single material products (not mixed composites). The recycled material gets used in a variety of industrial uses. They continue to explore ways to keep materials out of landfills and re-use important material resources. Chilewich floor coverings use mixed materials to increase durability and help withstand wear-and-tear,  making it difficult to separate later in the recycling process. Chilewich’s key environmental developments currently being worked on to solve this problem include:

Vinyl fabrics-use of Microban® in flooring and placemats, which eliminates mold and mildew.

Sustainability is a big word with an even bigger meaning and larger impact then any one person can write about, or a company can talk about. As we, as individuals, better understand and become aware of what sustainability means, more companies will step forward and share what they are doing to be sustainable. For now it is a relativity new path of corporate awareness and they are still working through the process.

To learn more about any of these companies’ sustainability efforts, visit their websites.

[This article originally appeared on page 15 of the June 2012 print issue of Rug News andDesign Magazine.]