When people think of carpet they always think of the stuff that is on their floor at home. Rarely does anyone picture the carpet at their favorite restaurant, bar or theater when they imagine carpet. Commercial carpet is very different than what we have at home since when it is being selected issues of return on investment, carpet repair and carpet cleaning are rarely part of the decision making process. Most importantly, commercial carpets go into commercial spaces like food service areas, schools, hospitals and offices and they take far more abuse than in our homes. They actually take more abuse than anything in the commercial space. Carpet is walked on by everyone, spilled upon constantly, and most always under maintained. For these reasons and many others, commercial carpet is completely different than normal home flooring products and should be considered unique and one of the most important interior selection, particularly since old carpet is a huge contributor to landfill dumping. Unfortunately, all too often the thing designers consider first when making green carpet choices are LEED points and recycled content and this is a big mistake.
Choosing a green product is much more than just thinking about recycled content, carbon footprint and LEED points. The top 5 ways to choose a green product should always include the following:
First, how long will the product last. Green or sustainable products must be measured by the longevity of their productive and performing life first. A commercial carpet made of corn or PLA that lasts 3 years before it falls apart or uglies out is worthless and not green at all. A product should perform for the minimum of 10 years and be easily cleanable but preferably perform for 15 to 20 years. The most sustainable soft surfaces last for over 30 years or more. The decision to replace carpet should be the owners by choice and not because the carpet is falling apart.
Second, is the product fully recyclable, cradle-to-cradle by the manufacturer. Companies such as Tandus have systems and processes in place that can recycle their own materials as well as materials manufactured by the rest of the industry offering a solution for their own materials as well as old materials from their competition. This is a much more sustainable solution. Companies such as these should be rewarded for their innovation and open architecture of being able to take care of materials that are currently on the floor getting ready to go to the landfill from any manufacturer as well as their own old materials.
Third, does the product offer recycled content in their own product. This would include both pre-consumer and post consumer materials. This means that the product is helping the manufacturing world as well as using materials that have already been in use in the commercial environment.
Green carpet and specifically green commercial carpets are an important aspect of limiting materials going to landfills as well as reducing carbon footprint. While planting forests and trees are important, the most important thing a carpet company can do is be able to have a cradle-to-cradle system for their material. Green bonus points are given to those companies that can also take care of the rest of the commercial markets carpet. That is the greenest of green carpet in the commercial environment.