It is a pretty simple concept and perhaps so simple that properly cleaning dirt off people's shoes before it comes into a facility is overlooked on 95 percent of all interior spaces regardless of the segment. Now we all know that people don't stop to actually wipe their feet when they enter their office building or the local retail store but the fact remains that cleaning off shoes is where success begins.
Consider the fact that every entrance to a building is the filter to the space similar to a filter on an HVAC system so stopping dirt from entering a facility is the first priority to keeping a building clean and driving down cleaning and replacement costs. Then consider that if you have 12 - 15 feet of quality walk-off products, equivalent to at least 8-10 footfalls, you will reduce the amount of dirt into a building by 80 percent. So why to most buildings have less than 4 feet of walk-off equivalent to 2 footfalls? It just doesn't make fiscal sense or environmental sense because it then costs 5 times more to maintain and that mistake drives replacements up by a minimum of two times.
If owners and specifiers would increase the walk-off product to 15 feet then people would just walk into a building and actually wipe their feet without even knowing it. The interior space would look better longer, the employees would be happier, the customers would have a better experience, the operational costs would be significantly reduced and it would be a much more sustainable solution. In the future when the conversation of green carpet or sustainable flooring comes up please remember to wipe your feet.
Eco friendly everything has become much more than a passing fad it has become woven into the fabric of our very society. Only a decade ago people hoped to recycle materials from their homes and today most people recycle everything from cans, paper, plastic and anything else they can to reduce their environmental footprint. In most aspects of our lives the trend to greener living and green materials becomes greater every day and this is a good thing for our towns, our environment and also our financial future.
Perhaps one of the most unknown and little discussed markets that continues to lead the way of sustainability, environmental initiatives and eco friendly gains is the commercial carpet industry. When most people think of carpet they envision the fuzzy stuff that covers their floors at home in their living rooms and bedrooms. Rarely do people think about the millions of square feet of office floors that have carpet installed for their comfort and convenience during the office day.
Unless someone is a commercial architect, interior design professional, facility owner, general contractor or someone involved in commercial property management, most people never think about carpet at the basketball arena, courthouse or schools. Fortunately, thanks to several very dedicated manufacturers of commercial flooring products, the commercial carpet industry is one of the leading industries in the united states for advancing environmental changes and improvements in the green movement through the production of eco carpet.
Several of the largest commercial manufacturers offer entire lines of carpet made from recycled content materials that can be recycled and made back into new product. These are called 100% closed loop, cradle to cradle operations. The longest lasting operation has been in place since the early 1990’s by a company called Tandus Flooring. They have been taking back used material that they manufactured since the late 1960’s as well as old carpet tile from all the major manufacturers, reducing the material, then re-extruding it through a safe process and turning it into new 100% recycled content carpet tile backing. This truly innovative process can be done forever and offers a tremendous alternative to dumping the millions of square yards of used carpet tile into the United States’ landfills.
The first and most important step to becoming a sustainable manufacturer is to be able to be responsible for the products that you make and take them back and turn them back into itself again and keep them from the landfills. This is what nature does by recycling itself and cleaning up after it produces waste whether that is in the form of leaves or volcanic ash. Some people call this Biomimicry which is an emerging practice that studies natures best ideas and then imitates them to solve human problems. The commercial carpet industry has taken notice of natures processes and is imitating it in how they manage their waste and production.
Think about all the products that are made and imagine if all of them could be taken back and made into themselves again infinitely. Imagine what the world economy would look like with cars back into cars, computers back into computers and all perishable containers back into themselves. Think of the waste we would save and the cost of production we would reduce. That is what is happening in the commercial carpet industry and it truly is something to be applauded and emulated in all sorts of manufacturing businesses. Just recently,Tandus Flooring became the first manufacturer to get global third party certification for their reclamation center for flooring. This is the first of its kind globally and sets the environmental bar for the rest of the industry and manufacturing of all industries.
It is good to see eco carpet leading the way in the green movement. Hopefully other industries can learn from leaders in the commercial carpet industry about how to change their paradigm and shift their processes to a green model of eco manufacturing and taking back product into a closed loop system. Let your business, school and office facilities people know to be sure to use eco carpet and support the leaders of the green movement. Even if your carpet isn’t green in color it can be environmentally friendly and an eco carpet.
There is a lot of discussion these days about what the best choice for a sustainable interior floorcovering should be and the debate continues. Some architects say that LEED carpet tile is the best solution. Most of them say this based on the fact that broadloom carpet cannot be recycled into itself yet in a closed loop system. Others say this because carpet tile can be replaced and is a longer term solution without some of the problems of broadloom. LEED carpet tile is a great solution for many environments. This article looks at the pros, and yes, the cons of the discussion and what flooring really is the best choice for what environments.
LEED carpet tile really refers to carpet tiles that can help with LEED points on a project and are generally those tiles that are considered environmentally friendly. Many carpet tiles these days have this designation and if they don’t really, their marketing teams do a great job convincing some architects and designers that they should be considered anyway. This is why it is important to really look at the facts and the specification details of the products being considered and make sure all marketing claims adhere to the Federal Trade Commission guidelines of environmental marketing claims. Otherwise, you could be getting duped by a slick marketing MBA graduate who knows how to push your green buttons. Also, using only materials that have independent third party certifications so you know you can trust the claims you are evaluating is a very smart idea as well.
All that said, are LEED carpet tiles the best choice for an interior environment? Often times they are due to the fact that the top companies in the carpet tile industry can all be recycled back into themselves in a closed loop system. This is the single most important factor for an environmentally responsible mill. If a company has no plan for what to do with the materials they make then they really should not be considered a green carpet tile anyway. But what about the negative side of carpet tiles?
Consider that often times carpet tiles are replaced rather than cleaned since it is easy to pick them up off the floor when a spill or stain occurs. That process is wasteful of materials and capital. Often times it is better to clean the floor with a green maintenance program than pull up expensive carpet tiles and toss them in the garbage and send them to the landfill. Additionally, this practice often leaves facilities with splotchy and quilt-like floors that have new and old tiles side by side which looks terrible. When this happens the floor starts looking so bad that all the carpet gets replaced prematurely. In this case the selection of a LEED carpet tile might not have been the best choice. Perhaps a hybrid resilient flooring like VCTT might have been a better solution.
Bottom line, LEED carpet tile can be a great choice for certain environments but it is not always the best solution for every interior space. Make sure you consider ergonomics, replacement cycles, needs of the users, recyclability, the true need of replacement materials, and the maintenance program of the user. This will help you choose the right product for the right application.
Manufacturing firms that have gone green are finding that it saves them thousands of dollars each year to operate eco friendly manufacturing facilities. Going green cuts down energy costs and can even save money on insurance rates. Experts predict that green manufacturing will be the most popular trend in the next five years. So what is eco friendly manufacturing? Here are three keys that help to clarify.
Reduce Waste -The first step toward going green and operating an eco friendly manufacturing facility is to find all the waste in the manufacturing process and reduce the use of raw materials. Manufacturers should look closely at the harmful waste and emissions their company may be producing. One way to do this is to go through the ISO 14001 process which will put a manufacturing company under the microscope. This certification process, even if not achieved by a manufacturer, will identify areas that need focus and improvement. In the flooring business one other indicator of an eco friendly manufacturer is to have your products meet the NSF-140 standards criteria. This will make sure the products are not harmful to anyone and meet the most advanced requirements in the market today. Additionally, employing solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources to reduce energy costs definitely is a sign of a green company. This can also include using innovative methods such as employing bio-diesel waste to run boilers and other elements of an eco friendly manufacturing facility.
Recycle -The simplest and most obvious way to go green is to start recycling and the first place to start as a producer of goods is with the product the company manufactures. If a company has no way to reclaim and recycle the materials they are selling and putting into the market then they should not be considered an eco friendly manufacturer. Companies should first take responsibility for their own products, taking them back and then turning them into the same product in a closed loop, cradle to cradle system. This means they should be selling recycled content materials and fully recyclable products and if possible, also looking at ways to divert other waste streams and use those recycled materials in their manufacturing process. After that is accomplished, an eco friendly manufacturer should look at every area of their company and find materials that can be reduced, reused and recycled. Recycling products within an operation will save any company considerable dollars and is a good sign of an eco friendly manufacturing business.
Eco Training and Education - Knowledge is power and it is vital that associates understand the importance of sustainability, going green and the benefits to the environment, the economy and the community. A formal training program should be put in place to teach each employee about the benefits to themselves and their families as well as how it benefits their employer. Many eco friendly manufacturers take their staffs into the local community to work on environmental projects that help their towns as additional ways to teach the company through activities. Some manufacturers have found success by offering incentives to staff members that regularly practice recycling and employ other green initiatives such as reducing energy consumption in addition to adding alternative energy systems to their homes. As a baseline, eco friendly manufacturers hold regular meetings to train associates on the value of taking steps to becoming more sustainable.
As a society with bountiful natural resources and enormous wealth, it is easy to overlook the impact of our everyday choices and habits. Rethinking what, why and how we buy can have a tremendous effect on re balancing our demands on natural resources, energy, water, air, habitats and land. Architects, designers, contractors and building owners should reward eco friendly manufacturers with their business for taking doing the right things environmentally.
If you are in the commercial interiors business the question is asked regularly about LEED carpet and eco friendly manufacturing and what the differences are between products and processes. This can be a very challenging question to research because there are many schools of thought on this and a diversity of manufacturing systems using various raw and recycled materials can all be called LEED carpets.
We should first note that LEED carpets is a term that really means materials that can earn LEED credits and those that are environmentally friendly as there really is no such thing as a LEED carpet. Architects and designers can select products that may earn LEED points toward satisfying the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED® Green Building Rating System™. Points may be earned in the materials and resources section for the recycled content credit 4.2 and 4.2 as well as the local and regional materials points. This has to do with products manufactured within a 500 mile distance to the ship to and installation site.
Under the LEED Indoor Environmental Quality, points may be given for Low Emitting Materials Credit 4.3 and people thinking beyond the LEED carpet ideology and deeper into the issue of what is really green carpet would look for products that are installed using environmentally friendly, low off gassing adhesives as well as peel and stick systems. Some manufacturers can help with an innovation point for a variety of reasons which should be requested by each manufacturer when specifying a project to see if there is anything that may qualify but it should always be remembered that the term LEED carpet is really just a phrase designed to find eco friendly green carpets.
Another thing to review is if a material meets the NSF 140 standards. NFS 140 is the first multi-attribute American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for environmentally preferable building materials in the construction industry. The industry group developed this standard to Increase the economic value of sustainable carpet throughout the supply chain as well as provide information to help specifiers sort out information on sustainable attributes of LEED carpet.
While the commercial carpet industry has lead the way for eco friendly manufacturing and LEED carpet specifications there is still a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done in terms of marketing. One way to level the playing field would be for all manufacturers to adhere to the Federal Trade Commissions marketing guidelines that require a clear set of rules for the marketing of environmental claims. This would stop some of the worst greenwashing that currently permeates the industry when it comes to LEED carpets and eco friendly manufacturing claims. It would also even things up if all manufacturers used the same third party certification company and stays far away from using a certification company or methodology that has high profile consultants who are on or who have ever been on the payroll as this certainly could be seen as a conflict of interest.
Speaking of eco friendly manufacturing it should be noted that eco friendly manufacturing exists using all kinds of materials to include PVC and non PVC substances as well as processes that include a host of other compounds. Manufacturers that are ISO 14001 certified also should be given a special consideration due to the diligence and scrutiny that these manufacturers undergo throughout the process of validation.
One other note of clarification regarding LEED carpet is the term cradle to cradle. Cradle to cradle is really a term that means a manufacturer is responsible for the products they make from creation to the end of their useful life and that they have the facilities and ability to recycle the product back into itself again infinitely. This term is not owned by any one manufacturer but by those that can deliver on this promise and prove it through third party certification by a truly independent company when meeting FTC guidelines. Hopefully this helps when looking at LEED carpets and trying to better understand eco friendly manufacturing.
It is a very good thing that everyone is talking about green carpet and green carpet tiles these days. All the discussion hopefully means that end users, architects, and designers are more interested about what types of materials are going into commercial spaces and reviewing products to see if they are generally sustainable. This is a positive trend that has developed over the last decade and it means that eco flooring is becoming more important to everyone.
There are many types of quality products on the market today that would qualify for green carpets each having various attributes of environmentally friendly material. Many of these meet the CRI Green Label Plus program and have low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), some qualify for the California Platinum status or help with LEED points and others break ground for their material composition as well as their longevity and performance in the field.
Recently I have heard a few architects say that green carpet tiles are the most sustainable flooring materials available and that statement warrants a closer look at these perceptions. Carpet tiles have been used for years in commercial areas instead of broadloom carpets because individual tiles can be replaced in worn or damaged areas which seems to be a more sustainable approach. Additionally, some of the better carpet tile manufacturers are offering 100% recycled content backing materials as well as post and pre-consumer recycled face fibers which are very positive developments.
Additionally, some of these products are made by manufacturers who use bio based fuels and renewable energy sources to power parts of their operations, they operate under ISO 14001 guidelines and adhere to NSF-140 product standards and third party certification. Add to this the fact that a couple companies can recycle these products back into new green carpet tiles indefinitely and it makes for a very sound argument that green carpet tile is the most sustainable soft surface flooring material available.
Now consider the other side of the proverbial green carpet coin. Carpet tiles usually require significantly more raw material than broadloom or woven carpets. It is usually well over 30%+ by weight more which means it takes much more materials to make carpet tile. While a couple manufacturers in the commercial market today have open architecture environmental recycling facilities with the ability to recycle their own tiles and other manufacturers products, the fact remains that the large majority of used tiles are either incinerated or dumped into landfills.
In Europe alone over seventy million kilos of tiles are disposed of each year, and while American stats are not available, it is estimated that it is even more so we are talking significant volume. It seems ironic that when people replace carpet tiles they usually throw them away so their designed functionality actually promotes more material being sent into the landfill. What this means the vast majority of these heavier weight products that require more materials to make are going into landfills and that is something to consider when looking for a green carpet.
Recently a building owner asked me if it was more sustainable to buy a carpet tile with all the green attributes the manufacturer had represented or a hybrid resilient cushion flooring material that did not have as much recycled content material but that has been shown to last for over 35 years in the market and can be fully recycled at the end of its useful life. That is a great question by an informed owner and is the cause of this article.
While green carpet tile can offer users and architects perhaps the best specification on paper for environmentally friendly materials it is the real world where sustainability must also be evaluated. To ignore a proven product that lasts for over 35 years under the most extreme conditions because it does not have recycled content fiber seems short sited and worth another look when considering the true meaning of green carpet.