What is an Eco-Friendly area rug?
Area rugs are made from a variety of fibers that are considered to be naturally eco-friendly, which is short for "ecologically friendly." There are three primary criteria to consider when evaluating how environmentally neutral a textile product is:
- First and most important is the renewability of the product. A renewable resource can be replenished in a relatively short period of time as opposed to centuries or millennia, such as oil or natural gas.
- Second is the overall ecological footprint of the resource. It's important to consider the amount of land and water necessary to develop the renewable resource - most likely a plant or animal - to full growth.
- Third is the amount of chemicals or other potentially damaging products necessary to grow or process the material in making it ready for sale.
Another important consideration in determining the extent to which an area rug is eco-friendly is how easy it is to recycle the discarded product and whether or not its fiber content is biodegradable.
Wool is not only one of the best materials from which to make beautiful, durable area rugs but it is one of the most eco-friendly fabrics on the planet. Sheep grow wool continuously. It's important to shear them at least once a year; sometimes twice. Not doing so results in the sheep being extremely uncomfortable during the summer months. When done properly, it causes no pain to the sheep and within six weeks enough new coat has grown in to provide the animal with protection from the elements. Most of the less eco-friendly processes for bleaching and dyeing wool are rapidly being replaced with ones that cause no adverse or long-term effects to the environment.
Bamboo is another excellent source of fibers for eco-friendly area rugs. It is a rapidly-growing, highly renewable grass that has natural antibacterial properties. Bamboo has an incredibly small ecological footprint and its fibers are completely biodegradable.
Other plant-based fabrics from which area rugs are made include jute, sisal, seagrass, coir, cotton and mountain grass. They require very little in the way of pesticides or fertilizers to achieve full, healthy growth. In addition, these plant resources can be replenished quickly and are almost completely biodegradeable.
Two major manufacturers of carpet and area rugs have introduced initiatives aimed at turning a variety of products not normally thought of as "green" into eco-friendly choices for customers. Shaw has launched their Green Edge program that focuses on recycling nylon. The Evergreen Nylon Recycling plant in Augusta, Georgia employs patented technology that takes post-consumer rugs and carpet and breaks them down to their original material – the actual building block for nylon 6. Shaw can then use this “new” material to make carpet and fibers – again and again without any performance degradation or color limitations.
Another area-rug manufacturer, Mowawk, has taken a slightly different approach in creating eco-friendly products. Through their Greenworks program, Mohawk operates the world’s largest integrated plastic bottle recycling facility located in Summerville, Georgia. The U.S. recycles 30 percent of its plastic bottles, and Mohawk purchases 25 percent of these, totaling 215 million pounds each year. And just what do they do with all these plastic bottles?
Mohawk recycles them to make polyethylene terephthalate (PET) carpet and rug fiber. A state-of-the-art process sorts the plastic bottles, chops up the plastic into little chips, vigorously cleans the chips and then melts them into polyester resin. The fiber is cut and shipped to Mohawk manufacturing facilities to make products consisting of 100 percent post-consumer content. But it doesn’t end there. Each part of the plastic bottle is reused. The caps and labels are transformed into other useful products such as plastic carpet cores.