I want to start off by saying that while my husband is LEED-certified, I am not. As a business, we are not a member of any sustainability organization. This is not because we do not care. It is simply because the programs that exist are geared toward new construction and commercial projects. I have always been a little black and white, and while it can be a fault of mine, I also see it as one of my biggest strengths. You see, I stand up for what I believe in, and while I hear out the circumstances, I stand strong and firm for what I believe in. What does this mean for our clients? It means we are always striving to provide the best possible situation with our firm ethics holding us to refuse to bend when it comes to the quality of your project. This also means that we don’t get some jobs, and while we are bummed that not everyone out there holds as strong convictions when it comes to our health and the health of future generations, we are okay letting those jobs go because we are doing what we believe to be right and good.
By refusing to work with manufacturers who do not meet strong sustainability practices, we are making a statement and a stand for our health, for our children, and for our planet.
In the past month, we have been cutting out one manufacturer after another because they were unable to meet our needs for sustainable practices. We contacted manufacturers directly and were either ignored or given unsatisfactory answers. Today, we want to share a few examples of who we have cut out and why.
After reaching out to a product representative asking about sustainability multiple times with no response, we did some research of our own. With a membership to a sustainability group and a commitment only to sustainable office practices, it just wasn't enough for us. We want the product itself to be sustainable.
This was a hard one to give up. We have a Feizy rug in our office and love it dearly. However, after contacting our rep, the response was disheartening. We asked about their sustainability practices were. In response, they asked what we meant (because sustainability means different things to different people). While we understand that, we asked what their commitment was and to not have an immediate well-thought out response was enough to tell me that it's not a priority.
When we inquired about backing and adhesive, a portion of the response concerned us, "Tufted rugs have a polymer that adheres the frame to the backing which is copyrighted by Feizy. This backing is more hardy than older tufted backings." What is this polymer? It sounds pretty top secret, and I'm not comfortable with that. In addition to them carrying many plastic-based fibers, it just didn't feel like a good fit.
Shaw, Interface, and Mohawk ▼
I am sure that I just heard a collective gasp from designers. I never carried broadloom carpet and prefer to work with carpet tiles (which these manufacturers all have), but due to the lack of transparency in regards to their materials and construction (adhesives? backing? PET textiles and backings?) we just didn't have a strong enough conviction to hold out for them.
I'm sorry, but it will take more than a few Greenguard certified products to sell this designer. See, recycling is great- but what is better is simply not using toxic materials like plastic.
We are still waiting to hear back from several other manufacturers, including Fabricut, Surya, Jaipur, and Loiloi.
We aren’t here to slam other businesses. In fact, it means everything to me to lift up fellow businesses and support those who really work hard to do what is right. So, I also want to talk about the manufacturers we are continuing to work with and how thrilled we are to partner with these companies.
First of all, we work with local shops for cabinets and never use plastic laminate or thermofoil cabinetry. We work with a network of manufacturers in California to custom build every piece of furniture to our specifications (including recycled steel, FSC-certified latex cushions and pillows, FSC-certified lumber, and no VOC, formaldehyde-free adhesives. The fabrics that wrap your pieces will be ethically sourced, sustainably harvested, and with as little processing/dying as possible. We work to continuously educate ourselves about the product to choose finishes that have inherant properties to resist stains, be fade-resistent, and be easy to clean when these characteristics are needed. No chemical stain repellents are added. Plastic products are avoided at all costs, and heavily researched when used. Enough of my babbling, let’s take a look at the manufacturers who are really doing their part for the industry (hint: it’s not the big, key players):
Two Sisters Fabrics ▼
First of all, I have loved these fabrics since day one. They are a Seattle-based company run by two women, one of whom started her journey by trying to find sustainable products for her own personal project. She found the same that we here at Waldron Designs have found- most textiles that claim sustainability are plastic products or wash their product heavily with chemicals. She brought her sister in to start a company that focused on a truly sustainable product.
We highly suggest reading their story here.
We will be adding their sample sets to our library shortly. Notice that the fabrics offered by Two Sisters are limited to solids. The reason for this is that the demand for sustainable fabrics is low. A bold print will suit a limited population, so we need to focus on being creative with sustainable fabrics by using contrast welts, accent pillows, etc. Do not let the solids deter you from saving future generations!!
Carnegie Fabrics ▼
A commercially focused textile manufacturer, Carnegie has created a product Xorel that is a plant-based, 100% PVC free sustainable line with several third-party certifications. While many commercial textile manufacturers take a similar approach, this is the only one I've found that is happy to work with residential designers.
We are so excited to partner with and offer Carnegie textiles in our studio for our custom furnishings.
Tarkett Carpets ▼
We typically avoid broadloom carpeting, and lean to the carpet tiles. While Tarkett carries both, they are also the only company that focuses on a circular life for carpet goods. With clear goals and methods for getting carpets out of landfills, we feel confident standing behind this company.
Woodpecker Flooring ▼
When looking for designer products, we look at quality, sustainability, and customizability. We really hit the jackpot with Woodpecker- a company open to customizing their product to meet any of our project needs. With all their wood products being FSC, we knew we couldn't go wrong here!
Based in Oregon, Terramai specializes in reclaimed wood products. Many of their wood is reclaimed tropical old growth (ie. STRONG and beautiful!) and well worth a look. We love specifying Terramai for our projects and have one project with this wood going in soon! We will be sure to post photos when they are ready. In the meantime, check out their site.
While it is harder to find manufacturers with the same sustainability convictions we hold, there are quite a few fantastic ones out there that we are thrilled to work with. The biggest challenge I have found is with light switches (seriously, they are almost all plastic!!) and textiles. We do need to make some sacrifices (fewer bold printed textiles). I trust that my design talent and creativity can work with what is available to us without causing you to go bankrupt, or creating plain and boring spaces. I just need YOU to trust me as much as I trust me!!
Are you ready?
Please share your sustainable interior design questions or comments below- let’s get this discussion moving!