Sustainability from the ground up

Catherine Helliker of Danfloor UK calls on product manufacturers to ensure they understand how they are impacting the environment, and increase their sense of social responsibility to their surroundings

Product manufacturers’ philosophy should be to provide a sustainable business for future generations. This is why we should all be closely monitoring our environmental impact, and working towards producing high quality, sustainable flooring – i.e. created with minimal environmental impact.

There are many elements and processes a manufacturer can look at to achieve this, including the use of renewable energy and carbon management. Below are just five ways they can develop products and processes that help work towards a more sustainable future.

ISO 14001
This certification is based around the principles of prevention of pollution, the awareness of and compliance with all environmental legislation, and improving an organisation’s environmental performance.

In order to achieve ISO accreditation a company has to implement an Environmental Management System that monitors processes, and ensures an organisation:

  • minimises use of energy, water and natural resources
  • minimises waste through prevention, re-use and recycling where possible
  • disposes of waste safely and legally
  • avoids the use of hazardous materials, where practical
  • works with environmentally responsible suppliers
  • prevents environmental damage and minimise nuisance factors such as noise and air pollution.

Sustainable materials
Implementing sustainable material into products is another way of demonstrating a commitment to a more sustainable future. Sourcing the most sustainable and forward-thinking suppliers is key to achieving this.

For example, Econyl is a nylon fibre used for many textile products including carpets. The ‘regenerated’ nylon yarn produced by Aquafil performs exactly the same as ‘virgin’ nylon but has a very different story behind it. It’s made by recovering nylon waste such as fishing nets from the oceans, and turning it into high quality nylon.

Regenerated nylon gives endless possibilities and can be recycled infinitely. It is claimed to reduce the global impact of nylon by up to 80% compared with material produced from oil.

Carpets which incorporate wool are not only strong, static resistant, naturally fire retardant and pleasing to touch, but the wool fibres are also 100% natural, fully sustainable and biodegradable. Making wool another sustainable option for carpet manufacturers.

Product accreditation
Independent product accreditation is the key to provide specifiers and customers with the confidence that the products and services you supply not only perform as expected but that meet – and continue to meet – appropriate standards.

Many construction projects undergo BREEAM accreditation – the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings. Products that have received BREEAM certification represent best practice in sustainable design, and the method has become the de facto measure used to describe a building’s environmental performance.

Products that have also received Eurofins Gold Indoor air quality certification demonstrate a commitment to improving the internal environment.

As we spend the majority of our time indoors, products must strive to achieve such accreditation.

Energy efficiency
On an energy-saving front, it’s important to remember that carpet is an exceptionally good insulating material.

Carpet fibres are natural insulators with low heat conduction values. In addition, the surface pile of carpet with its millions of tiny fibres traps air and further increases its thermal insulation and improves energy consumption.

Heating accounts for a large proportion of the average household utility bill and some studies suggest that a home can lose 10-20% of its heat through uninsulated flooring. As a result, it’s estimated that energy savings of between 8-13% can be achieved with the installation of a carpet, with consequential reductions in energy costs.

Continuous review
Having these processes and procedures in place is fantastic but in order to stay up to date with current requirements and technological advances, product manufacturers must review what they are doing and how effective their processes actually are.

Through a combination of regular company audits and a schedule of ongoing tests, a company should constantly review and analyse what they do to ensure their products continue to meet high standards. This will help ensure they can deliver sustainable flooring that performs across the board.

Catherine Helliker is marketing manager at Danfloor UK