The Greening of Rugs

February 10, 2009
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We are all aware of the trend of companies going “green.” This has extended to the rug manufacturing industry as well. If a fiber is from a natural source, it is now used in rug production.

We are seeing leather, hemp, ramie, jute, banana silk (abaca), coir, sisal, cotton, cactus, aloe, pina (fibers from leaves of the pineapple plant), sea grass, bamboo, soy-based fibers, linen, nettle (or aloo, a cotton-like fiber from nettles), and even paper made into floor coverings.

It seems the green movement may be a bit over the top – the life cycle of paper rugs will not be as long as a good old-fashioned wool rug. However, the trend is here!

The trend is also crossing over into the realm of fashion, with green rugs becoming an established subcategory in the retail trade. You now see brand names like Lifestyles USA, Shaw Living, French Market, Prairie Rugs, and Nourison all with a “green” line of rugs.

So what makes a rug green?

The Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus Program, a voluntary industry testing program for carpet and adhesive products, establishes the highest standard for indoor air quality (IAQ) ever set by the carpet industry. “Using scientifically established standards, the Green Label Plus program symbolizes the carpet industry’s commitment to a better environment for living, working, learning and healing,” according to the CRI.

The CRI certification process started in 2006. Audits of the rug producer’s green carpet programs are done by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute; an American National Standard Institute (ANSI) team; and CRI’s third-party indoor laboratory, Air Quality Science of Atlanta. The CRI is distinguished by being the first and only ANSI-certified green carpet program in the United States. ANSI is the premier source for international standardization and conformity assessment. A company achieving certification is certainly among the top tier of “green” manufacturers.

The owner of a green rug is ideally a consumer who values a lifestyle that will have a reduced impact on the environment. So let’s look at what is green cleaning.

According to Dr. Steven Spivak, “Cleaning green, a preferred term otherwise known as ‘green cleaning,’ comprises environmentally responsible management with care, maintenance, cleaning and renovation procedures. It is achieved by employing products, formulations, equipment, procedures or systems intended to minimize any harmful environmental impact and maximize sustainability of natural and built environments.” That being the case, how can we be good corporate citizens as rug cleaners and do our part to show concern for the environment and proper use of our natural resources?

As Dr. Spivak explains, “green” is not just a product, but a whole approach to operating our rug-cleaning business. Taking a company on the “green road” can lead to cost savings by using more energy-efficient lighting and equipment; converting trucks to bio-diesel; recycling; better training, etc. An additional benefit will be greater loyalty from your customer base as they look for companies that do business in a more environmentally responsible manner.

To begin the “green” transition, look for cleaning products that are environmentally preferable, i.e. products with third-party certification. These products consider human health and safety, ecological toxicity, environmental impact, and resource conservation on a life cycle basis.

One of the organizations active in third-party certification is the United States EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) program. This organization works with manufacturers to screen ingredients that can potentially harm human health and the environment.

Another third-party organization, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, established the BioPreferred program to increase awareness of “biobased” products that rely on plant and/or animal materials. These products are sustainable, renewable resources and generally do not contain toxins, synthetics or environmentally damaging materials and are generally safer for the environment that petroleum-based counterparts.

As our industry becomes more sensitive to environmental concerns, and with the possibility of more government regulations, it is in our best interest to move toward cleaning green methods and business practices.

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