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Environment, safety at head of domestic production

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Matthew Spieler

Flooring manufacturers such as HomerWood have been honored for their environmental activities.

Few countries, if any, have as many laws as the U.S. regarding the protection of the health and safety of its people and the environment, from the federal level to local municipalities. In addition, green building rating systems have put a greater emphasis on how far a product travels, rationalizing the closer it is to the jobsite, the less energy required to get it there.

While some may complain about the abundance of regulations, the flooring industry, in many ways, has deemed these rules advantageous to producing products in the U.S.

Randy Merritt, president of Shaw Industries, said the company’s commitment to safety, health and the environment spans past compliance. “Our sustainability practices go beyond basic federal or state requirements. We aim to be an innovation leader, producing products that minimize waste, utilize renewable energy in production when possible and safeguard our natural resources. Shaw has recycled more than 600 million pounds of post-consumer carpet from 2006 through 2011, a major milestone for the growth of carpet reclamation.”

George Kelley, president and CEO of Kronotex, said the company strives to ensure its products have no environmental impact in the home, and its efforts with commercial grades contribute positively to LEED points.

Jody Smith, the company’s quality manager, added the mill has a recycling program “that will have a significant impact on reducing landfill waste.”

HomerWood’s sales and marketing manager, Wendy Wescoat, explained the mill belongs to the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, Inc. (AMHI), as it gets much of its raw materials from this region. “After 75 years of forest management, the Appalachian Hardwood Forest is more than sustainable.” In fact, AMHI reports the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Inventory and Analysis research has found trees are growing at a rate of 2.45 for every one being removed, with the net annual growth increasing for more than 50 years.

Regarding the wood industry, Paul Stringer, vice president of sales and marketing for Somerset, believes “the U.S. manufacturing environment is at a different place than in most facilities [outside the country]. The manufacturing of wood flooring in the U.S. is more mature and, therefore, more consistent. The reliability of the U.S. wood flooring industry is a longstanding, proud and ethical group that has continued to get better over time. You don’t replace that overnight with companies sprouting up overseas.”

Domestic products “have a sustainable story in terms of transportation, fuel costs and better monitoring of manufacturing efficiencies,” noted Lori Kirk-Rolley, Dal-Tile’s senior marketing director.

Al Collison, founder and president of MP Global, said the underlayment maker’s philosophy has “always centered on kindness to the environment. We divert over 9,000 tons of post-industrial/pre-consumer textile fibers from landfill every year. [And] some of our underlayments have earned the Indoor Advantage Gold seals from Scientific Certification Systems, which is the country’s most stringent environmental quality certification.”

Harry Bogner, senior vice president of hardwood for Mohawk’s Unilin division, said all Mohawk, Columbia, and Century hardwood products are Lacey Act compliant. “Because the integrity of the manufacturer is more important than ever, Lacey requirements have worked in favor of products made in the USA and responsible domestic brands. [As such] we offer distributors and retailers a virtually hassle-free inventory choice.”

Numerous companies have been honored for their environmental efforts over the years as flooring has been one of the more progressive industries.

Dave Kitts, Mannington’s vice president, environment, noted in 2010 the company was recognized by the Department of Energy as one of 50 original industrial energy leaders in the U.S., “not only for having the largest solar array in the flooring industry but also because of our goal to improve energy efficiency by 25% over 10 years.”

He noted this wouldn’t be possible without operations in the U.S. “Domestic manufacturing allows us to set such ambitious goals and keep our promises. Last year, we were honored by the Water Resources Association of the Delaware River Basin for progressive ecological stewardship of regional water quality and was awarded New Jersey’s Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for our environmental practices.”