While many companies are just now bringing “green” and sustainable products to market (as discussed in an earlier post), Interface Carpet based out of LaGrange, Georgia has been a leader in the field, producing carpet in a sustainable fashion since 1994.
Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface Inc., recalls the days when he and his company did not know what sustainability was or how it could impact his company. In the documentary The Corporation, Anderson stands out as a visionary in sustainability among CEOs. His goal is to eliminate all environmental damage from his company by 2020. Combining a businessman’s understanding of the bottom line and a visionary’s ability to plan long term, Anderson realized early on that efficient consumption of materials played a significant role in Interface’s future. By referring to a basic principle of physics – the law of conservation of matter – he understood that there is “no such thing as waste.” Everything in nature is recycled or reused, broken down to be used in another cycle. The process of looking to nature for design answers, referred to as biomimicry, receives a thorough treatment on Interface’s website. Interface does not send a majority of their “waste” to a landfill. Instead the waste serves as the base for future products. Anderson is quoted on their website as saying “In nature there is no waste, so we set out on a quest, literally QUEST — Quality Using Employee Suggestions and Teamwork — to eliminate waste.”
Anderson has been featured in numerous documentaries. In addition to “The Corporation,” he was seen on The Weather Channel’s Forecast Earth. His interview can be seen on two YouTube clips (Part 1 and Part 2). In the interview Anderson points to Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce (reviewed here) as the impetus for change. Anderson drew upon Hawken’s key concept of zero waste and making the company restorative (what 2nd Green Revolution refers to as the regenerative economy). Even though non-renewable petroleum based products serve as the cornerstone of the carpet industry, sustainability measures at a company like Interface will help them remain viable over the long term. Five years ago “Interface introduced commercial modular carpet products using PLA fibers. . . . PLA fibers are derived from #2 corn and other starch containing agricultural plant materials and waste products.” These plant based products bypass the petroleum issue entirely.
The company depends on a few sources of alternative energy to power their manufacturing. They have installed both photovoltaic and methane from waste systems to generate electricity on site. Interface also maintains a section of their website dedicated to sustainability measures. Included in this is a link to their rendering of the triple bottom line.
Below is a clip from an interview with Anderson:
Interface has developed several sustainable programs to help them achieve their environmental goals. We’ll delve into more of Interface’s contribution to sustainability, (including InterfaceRAISE) in subsequent posts.
[image source: Interface]