Green Spot: Setting The Green Bar High

Commercial flooring manufacturer draws on strong commitment to efficiency and closed-loop recycling to go from underfoot to "above and beyond."

Lee Schilling, senior vice president and chief green booster at commercial flooring company Tandus Inc., has a leadership position in a company that's staked out a leading position in the idea of the "product lifecycle". With a total-closed-loop, "no excuses" sustainability warranty program that encourages customers to recycle their product (and even including competitors' products) he and Tandus have set the bar high for the floorcovering industry to follow.

IW: How are you addressing energy efficiency?

Schilling: Tandus has reduced greenhouse gas emissions and its impact on global warming in the following ways:

  • Increasing machine efficiency
  • Increasing production rates
  • Purchasing new equipment with energy saving features amongst other energy conservation measures
  • Significant improvements in all environmental metrics while also increasing production output by more than 100%

Currently, 11% of the company's energy requirements are derived from renewable energy sources, primarily biodiesel, wind and hydro sources. Tandus is also the first carpet manufacturer to use 100% biodiesel, a renewable energy source, to replace diesel fuel in its commercial boilers. Biodiesel is non-toxic, biodegradable, safe to handle and reduces air toxins 60-90%, particulates by 48% and CO2 by 78%.

IW: How are you addressing facilities and equipment management?

Schilling: For more than 35 years, C&A has been proud of its leadership in innovative technologies that provide functional performance and measurable environmental benefits.

C&A is the first carpet manufacturer to:

  • Obtain third-party certification for the recycling of its own products;
  • Claim EPP certification for all of its products since the ER3 and ER3 Cushion backings and ethos Cushion 100 for roll goods are available across the entire C&A line. This is a unique advantage to C&A and the design community since other manufactures have limited product offerings or disclaimers regarding availability;
  • Publicly embrace and conform to the FTC Guides, national guidelines issued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with the cooperation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure companies' green claims comply with established standards regarding recyclability, recycled content, biodegradable, etc.;
  • Proactively provide the industry's only "No Excuses" warranty that guarantees that the products it supplies to its customers will meet the recycled content percentage certified by SCS every single time;
  • Proactively provide a guarantee in writing that all vinyl-backed carpet reclaimed for recycling will be recycled into new floorcoverings. No landfills, no incinerators;
  • Certify its product attributes (such as recycled content and VOCs) that can contribute toward earning credits in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system;
  • Establish a formal program to reclaim vinyl-backed carpet after its useful life, regardless of manufacturer, and pay the customer for it. The Infinity Initiative, our patented process recycles any post-consumer vinyl-backed carpet, into 100% recycled content backing for new ER3 floorcoverings. C&A's ER3 backing system contains a guaranteed minimum of 25% post consumer carpet;

C&A's floorcoverings can help specifiers achieve LEED credits in the following areas:

  • Materials Credit 2: Construction Waste Management
  • Materials Credit 4: Recycled Content
  • Materials Credit 5: Local Regional Materials
  • IEQ Credit 4: Low Emitting Materials
  • IEQ Credit 5: Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Control
  • LEED Innovation Credits

IW: How are you addressing waste reduction?

Schilling: A couple key programs are:

The Infinity Initiative -- The industry's first closed-loop recycling program. Unlike other recycling programs, which divert old carpet into secondary products, C&A's Infinity Initiative converts old carpet into new carpet, meeting all the criteria of a true closed-loop recycling system. Closed-loop refers to the process of recycling a product back into itself, a key element in natural resource preservation and sustainability. C&A is the only manufacturer in the industry to issue a Sustainable Warranty, a guarantee that states that 100% of reclaimed materials will never be placed in a landfill or incinerator. Since the Infinity Initiative began, Tandus has had zero manufacturing waste.

The C&A Carpet Buy Back Program -- Mining buildings for resources instead of the earth. Tandus will purchase old carpet (even if it's our competitors') and guarantee that 100% of it will be recycled into new floorcovering. No landfill disposal. No incineration. No waste-to-energy incineration. It's our Sustainable Warranty to our customers. Besides the environmental benefits of less waste, reutilizing resources, and reducing dependence on non-renewable resources, Tandus customers benefit from the FLOORE Carpet Buy Back Program by turning disposal or landfill fees into revenue from old carpets.

In 2004, C&A introduced ethos, an evolutionary carpet backing. Ethos is a nonchlorinated, high-performance backing for commercial carpet that provides all of the durability attributes of PVC. Moreover, ethos is made from an abundant waste source -- the polyvinyl butyral (PVB) film that is recovered when automotive windshields are recycled. Until now, there has been no commercial use for this material that accounts for millions of pounds of landfill waste.

Retrieve Program -- Recovers physical product samples and sample folders from the marketplace. Developed in collaboration with the Carolinas Chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), Retrieve guarantees specifiers that 100% of the samples and folders they return will be recycled or reused.

IW: Out of all these, which is your company's priority?

Schilling: For more than 40 years, Tandus has been examining all the ways to be a better corporate citizen and environmental steward -- and then taking actions that lead to demonstrable,
meaningful, quantifiable results. At Tandus, all of our environmental initiatives are priorities -- it's about creating accountability in our industry by encouraging and supporting relevant regulation and certification.

IW: How about the environment itself -- is climate change being factored into risk models?

Schilling: Global Warming is a huge topic in the environmental arena these days. We have recently developed a global warming survey, which can be accessed on our Web site at www.tandus.com, that invites our customers to share their input on the environmental issues that matter the most to them. While we are making great strides to reduce our environmental footprint, we know there is more we should be doing every day, and we are asking those around us for their input.

IW: What are you the most proud of that you've accomplished so far, and why?

Schilling: We know that we have made a positive and lasting difference in the world. However, we fully understand that sustainability is a long, perhaps never-ending, journey. We realize there is much more to do and are committed to following and finding new roads to sustainability. Long-term, our goal is to "leave no trace" and become givers to, rather than takers from, the earth.

IW: What's the best piece of advice you can give to companies considering "getting with the program"?

Schilling: Sustainability is journey, not a destination. Working to reduce our energy consumption and emissions not only benefits our environment for generations to come, but it makes good business sense.


For more features like this, see Green Spot: Best Practices in Sustainable Manufacturing. To participate in IW's Green Spot leadership in manufacturing program, email IW Making Green Editor Brad Kenney to start the application process.
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