The way forward is clear for flooring manufacturer Shaw Industries and the environment, with a multi-tiered sustainability effort that includes innovative new ways to minimize the company's impact on the planet during manufacturing, a massive carpet recycling effort and a range of new eco-friendly Cradle to Cradle-certified flooring products.

With the release of its 2009 Corporate Sustainability Report, Shaw Industries reveals its progress on crucial sustainability goals, which the company outlines on its green-themed website, ShawGreenEdge.com.

Shaw Industries has announced that it will reduce its energy usage by 25 percent by 2017, reduce its landfill waste 90 percent by the end of 2011 and further improve its water consumption by achieving an additional 25 percent reduction by 2010.

“Companies that willingly seek out and adopt new protocols for sustainable business today stand to make a difference now, and for generations to come,” said Shaw CEO Vance Bell in a press release.

“We certainly believe private enterprise will be the driver of change in addressing the environmental and social challenges faced by today’s world, and our 2009 report demonstrates our commitment to making sure our products and practices meet the highest standards for human and environmental health, safety and responsibility.”

Resource Management & Recycling

For Shaw, the first step was to reduce its consumption of resources in its own facilities. It starts with simple but effective initiatives like turning off the lights, allowing more employees to work from home, switching to energy-smart electronics and appliances and planting low-maintenance landscaping.

Three of Shaw's plants are switching from natural gas to 'yellow grease', a vegetable oil-based alternative fuel that is a byproduct of food preparation. Another facility in Dalton, Georgia runs on carpet waste and laminate wood flour that is gasified into steam power in an unusual waste-to-energy scheme.

Shaw also recycles or refurbishes its wood shipping pallets, reuses the plastic wrapping that protects carpet during transport and even recycles the latex-contaminated water used to clean equipment into new latex carpet backing.

But it's through Shaw's carpet reclamation program that the company really makes the most progress on its path to sustainability. Shaw Industries is the world's largest reclaimer of post-consumer carpet and recycles 85% of the carpet it reclaims directly back into new carpets. Since 2006, the company has reclaimed nearly 300 million pounds of post-consumer carpet.

New Eco-Friendly Product Offerings

Shaw's carpet reclamation and recycling program enabled the company to become the world's first flooring manufacturer to create Cradle to Cradle silver-certified carpet, which is essentially waste-free. These rugs and carpeting, made with Anso Type 6 nylon, are repeatedly recycled back into new carpets with the goal of maintaining the highest quality level possible no matter how many times the materials are reused. At the end of a rug's life, customers can send it back to Shaw in a postage-paid envelope at no charge.

In addition to reclaimed carpeting, Shaw has a number of other Cradle to Cradle certified products including carpet tile backing, additional types of nylon fiber, and hardwood flooring.

Progress on Green Goals

Shaw has already made headway on many of its environmental goals. In the 2009 Shaw Industries Sustainability Report, the company details such victories as reducing its toxic waste to 35,300 pounds in 2009 versus nearly 87,000 pounds in 2005.

Just between 2008 and 2009, Shaw Industries won over 20 awards for environmental achievements including the U.S. EPA and CARE (Carpet America Recovery Act) Innovations in Recycling Award for its Evergreen Nylon Recycling Facility.

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See also:

How to recycle carpet

Recycling old carpet: Is it possible?