The Quest for Handprints Over Footprints
by George Bandy, VP Sustainability
At one time, the world was focused on leaving a smaller footprint on our planet; we were encouraged to change our lifestyles to take less from Mother Earth. Today companies such as Mohawk, dedicated to making business decisions rooted in corporate social responsibility, talk not just in terms of footprints but in terms of handprints — of giving back more than we take.
Recently at the NeoCon design trade show in Chicago, Mohawk Group, the commercial division of Mohawk Industries, launched five carbon-neutral products for contract interiors. Each product has been designed to achieve the stringent requirements for Living Product Challenge Petal Certification. The Living Product Challenge requires that these products have a net-positive impact on resources — that is, Living Products must give back more than they take.
This is our quest — a quest that has prompted us to take a hard look at the materials that go into our products and how our manufacturing processes and facilities use water and energy. One important part of our handprinting strategies is to establish partnerships with social and environmental entities. In these relationships we look for ways to save energy and water that will offset the resources used in the manufacturing of our Living Products.
For example, to create a positive impact, Mohawk is partnering with Groundswell to install 10 smartflower solar technology energy systems to produce clean, renewable energy in schools with STEM programs and low-income communities. The first smartflower was unveiled last week in Chicago at The Renaissance Collaborative at a historic Chicago YMCA. Three other installations are scheduled for 2018 for Eden, N.C.; New York City; and Washington, D.C. The smartflower initiative will produce and share more energy than is used to create our new Living Products while offering substantial energy savings to the families in these lower-income areas.
One way we are offsetting the amount of water used in the manufacturing of our Living Products is by working together with colleges. By retrofitting the showers in the freshman dormitories at Morehouse College in Atlanta with low-flow showerheads, we are saving more water than is used to create our Lichen Collection, which became the first Living Product produced in the flooring industry. A similar plan to retrofit select dormitories at Hampton University in Virginia with low-flow water fixtures will create another environmental handprint in the case of our new Living Products, Nutopia and Nutopia Matrix.
The pioneer for these net-positive products is our award-winning and successful Lichen Collection. Just as lichens play a regenerative role in their natural ecosystem, the Lichen Collection gives more resources back to the environment than it uses during its entire life cycle. It merges leading concepts in biophilic design and sustainability in ways that never have been done before in flooring.
New Mohawk products introduced at NeoCon and on track to be Living Product Challenge Petal certified include:
- Nutopia: This modular carpet plank system is inspired by the idea of "urban fabric." It embraces the poetry of city life in patterns of balance, acceptance and integration. At the intersection of distinct sustainability and design innovations, Nutopia invites and inspires designers and end users to help create healthier contract interiors that are unique to their own culture and identity.
- Nutopia Matrix: Nutopia Matrix includes two lower-profile, urban fabric-inspired styles that feature Mohawk Group’s newest generation of Red List-free backing, EcoFlex Matrix. The sustainable carpet tile backing is dematerialized to use less raw materials and energy to minimize the product’s footprint. It contains no harmful chemicals and is comprised of a minimum of 40 percent recycled content.
- Sunweave Broadloom: This woven broadloom carpet collection offers two biophilic styles inspired by female weavers of indigenous cultures around the world. Sunweave captures the vitality and endurance of humankind through natural patterns found in textiles. Like Nutopia, Sunweave features Mohawk’s new innovative Heathered Hues yarn system, which is dematerialized and manufactured in a waterless production process for low environmental impact.
- Sunweave Area Rugs: Like the broadloom carpet in this collection, these rugs featuredesigns derived from the notion of shadow being nature’s handcraft. Subtle color and value shifts mimic the sun’s daily progression.
- Pivot Point ERT: Red List-free Pivot Point represents a true change in direction for sustainable resilient flooring. It is manufactured using alternative chemistry and is designed to meet the stringent requirements of Living Product Challenge Petal Certification. In this collection, design and color draw inspiration from fresh, natural materials and biophilic influence across wood, textile and stone visuals.
The quest for carbon neutrality is not an easy one, but it is a necessary one. In our Living Product Challenge journey, Mohawk focuses on all seven Petals: Water; Energy; Equity; Health & Happiness; Materials; Place; and Beauty. These strenuous standards have led us down innovative, thoughtful and immensely satisfying paths — from ensuring that all of our Living Products achieve Declared Red List-free status and are made of safe materials to supporting the ecoregions around our facilities through our involvement with organizations such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Trust for Public Lands and the National Wildlife Federation.
So as you can see, creating a truly sustainable Living Product is not just a matter of paperwork. It is a whole different way of thinking and working. It requires a tireless commitment and a willingness to see beyond the factory floor to how we can make not only better products but a better world.
All of these products, from Lichen to our newest introductions, seek to enrich our connection to the natural world, the world we are trying to protect, through beautiful design and a sustainable legacy.
We lead the industry in sustainability because we are constantly seeking new opportunities to make a difference. Our journey to sustainability involves innovations in materials, new solutions in manufacturing and nurturing new social and environmental partnerships. We at Mohawk believe in positive handprints. We have proven that it is possible, and we are committed to it.
Mohawk continues to Believe in Better, and with the launch of our latest suite of carbon-neutral Living Products, we move one step closer in our quest to create a healthier, culturally rich and ecologically restorative future. We invite you to discover our latest Living Product introductions from NeoCon by visiting NeoCon.MohawkGroup.com.
At Mohawk, we hope to achieve through product innovation and social commitment a ripple effect, in which our positive actions spur further positive actions, whether upstream, downstream or tangential to us.
In a sense, as residents of this planet, our quest for sustainability is neverending. And we at Mohawk have accepted the challenge. We hope others will join us.