For all its perks, like adding color and cozy softness to a home, carpeting is not typically an eco-friendly product. Often made from petroleum-based materials and containing toxic chemicals and other harmful substances, carpeting can be an unhealthy addition to interior spaces and to the Earth.
Luckily, some carpet manufacturers are turning the industry upside down with recycled, non-toxic materials and sustainable business practices that cut back on waste and pollution. In regards to carpet company Beaulieu and the environment, such changes have cut energy and water usage, removed byproducts like scrap carpeting from the waste stream and provided customers with a range of attractive, eco-friendly choices.
“Our philosophy of sustainability focuses on the development of culture, systems and best practices that continuously reduce our impacts on th environment and seek to conserve raw materials, resources and energy in ways that will allow future generations to enjoy the same, or a better, standard of living than we enjoy today," Beaulieu Vice President of Sustainability Steve Bradfield told Floor Covering News.
Environmental goals and progress in carpeting
Beaulieu set out to green its operations with three main strategies: conservation, efficiency and innovation. The company decreased its energy usage by 26 percent in 12 months through a variety of efficiency measures like streamlining the manufacturing process so that it uses less electricity. Beaulieu also invested in 100 percent green renewable energy credits for its production process.
In addition, Beaulieu reduced its water usage at its Chatsworth, Ga. facility by 40 percent by reclaiming and reusing waste water from the manufacturing process. Its sister facility releases 100 percent of its waste water back to the city where it is treated for public use. Water usage reductions have been made at additional facilities through technological innovations including flow restrictors and solenoids. Some waste water is held in backup tanks for fire fighting.
Recycling is another major goal at Beaulieu. The carpet manufacturer works with an affiliate that takes in 120 million pounds of plastic bottles annually to recycle into Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) carpet fiber. Beaulieu also down-cycles 8.5 million pounds of carpet edge trimmings into padding or filler, for use in building materials and lawn furniture. Other materials like scrap nylon and even lint are turned into filler for other industries.
Green carpeting options
Beaulieu's Nexterra carpet tiles are made with 53 percent post-consumer waste, including those PET bottles collected and processed by its sister company. Nexterra is completely PVC-free, and does not contain any other toxic chemicals or compounds. It's 40 percent lighter than conventional carpeting, so it requires less fuel in shipping. Another green option is Avalar SDX nylon carpet, which is made with 25 percent recycled content. Beaulieu also offers a product called GreenSmart BCF polyester carpeting, made with 50 percent recycled content, and a nontoxic carpet treatment called Magic Fresh.
A recent development, www.idesignarpet.com, is an online tool that allows interior designers to view accurate digital samples which they can re-color, view in room scenes and print in real time. This tool eliminates the need for physical samples, which are a major source of carpeting waste.