The green credentials of products are now one of the key attributes people look for when selecting things to put in their homes and workplaces. Granted colour, design, quality and price will always rank high on the list.
Marketers have been quick to recognise this trend, however often they claim sustainability without actually having built anything but a clever marketing campaign. Bottled water is one of the worst products at making claims like “20% less packaging”. 20% less than what?
Recently even wool carpets have been claiming sustainability just because part of the raw material is from a natural source. It’s true that wool is natural; it is essentially made from grass. But when blended with other fibres it loses some of its credibility, and if the wool has not been grown, transported and processed efficiently is the product really green just because is claims to have wool in it? Wool from where?
In the 1950’s polyamide was invented and branded Nylon. This new fibre which was made from oil when added to wool cut pile carpets gave greater strength. This in turn allowed manufacturers to use lesser quality (cheaper) wool and keep their production flowing and their costs down. This was in a time when nylon was cheap and global warming had not been noticed.
However for centuries carpets have been made using only 100% wool and those carpets were built to last. Nylon is not cheap anymore so it no longer has the cost advantage over wool. It does however allow manufacturers to buy cheaper wool types and keep the product quality.
Nylon is shiny and wool is dull, you notice the wear more easily on an 80/20 than on a 100% pure product. The carpets made for concert halls and palaces are still 100% wool as this remains the ultimate in luxury and performance.
Once the product has given you years of enjoyment, as a good quality carpet should. What about the end of the carpet’s life? 100% natural products are biodegradable. Wool contains nitrogen and sulphur, and acts as a soil conditioner, actually improving plant growth.
The picture below shows plants growing in wool and soil as opposed to other fertilisers.
An 80/20 or lower blend cannot be turned into another product as easily, and cannot be 100% biodegradable. Great efforts are being made by organisations like Carpet Recycling UK to find homes for old carpets, and to encourage the end of life consideration as part for the design process.
Carbon foot printing is another trap; recently an article appeared in a UK interiors magazine claiming that British made carpets have a lower carbon footprint than those made elsewhere. This may be the case, but it is not a claim that can be proven without the full life cycle analyses (LCA) of the British made carpet and the LCA of carpets made elsewhere. Don’t be fooled by these claims. Buy British to support the local workforce (if you live in Britain) but don’t assume that you are saving the planet. Of coure Britian’s economy relies heavily on manufacturing exports and as a trading nation must also support the sale of imported product. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
British maufacturing has a vast history of making carpet since the 1700’s. The design and craftsmanship is superb and the quality of service often outstanding. When this excellence in manufcaturing and design is complimented with excellence in raw materials then you are onto something remarkable.
Retailers and Consumers can help by encouraging people to purchase 100% wool carpets. Look for carpets that can prove where the wool comes from. Be wary of logo’s that imply a certain origin but don’t offer any way of backing up those claims.
How do you know a carpet is truly sustainable? You need to read this… WHY ORIGIN MATTERS.