Three Manufacturers that Know How to Practice Sustainability
Environmentally friendly products appear to be the wave of the future. By 2020, the market for green technologies is expected to reach $2.7 billion, according to Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. This is true in many industries such as transportation, energy and food production, but it is also true for textiles. Customers want to use environmentally friendly products to style both themselves and their homes. For this reason, manufacturers are competing to see who can get the customers’ attention first with innovative yet environmentally friendly products. These companies are using innovative new processes to become sustainable, green textile companies with something to say to the world.
Apex Mills has been working to develop sustainable fabrics that also are cost effective.
Carnegie Fabrics produces the world’s first bio-based interior textile.
Ahimsa Silks produces silks without the death of the silk worm.
1. Apex Mills
Apex Mills is an American-based textile manufacturer with a 70-year history that has produced a line of environmentally friendly fabrics.
Apex Mills says its mission is to “establish long-lasting partnerships with companies that will come to rely upon Apex Mills as their primary resource for all their industrial knitted fabric requirements.”
Founded in 1943, the company is headquartered in Inwood, New York. At that time, it was focused on apparel and bridal industries and was a reseller. Today, it manufactures textiles at its 200,000-square-foot Graham, North Carolina facility. The factory employs more than 100 and operates around the clock, five days a week. According to Bloomberg, the owner and CEO is Jonathan Kurz. The company makes $17.5 million annually, according to Zoom Info.
Apex Mills began going green at the request of customers who wanted environmentally friendly textiles for their products. The company has developed post-consumer recycled sustainable yarns, low eco-impact dyes, vegetable dyes, and non-synthetic based yarns as well as producing old fabrics using ecofriendly means. These fabrics are referred to as the EcoRich line. The characteristics of the textiles are not changed when using this method of production.
Globally, the market for dyes and organic pigments is expected to reach $30 billion by 2019, according to Freedonia. This growth is fueled by the textile market, accounting for more than half the industry’s revenue, as customers are increasingly seeking environmentally friendly products.
During 2014, U.S.-based textile-mills market had revenue totaling $80.9 billion, representing a 4.7% compound annual growth rate since 2010, according to MarketLine. The textile market is one of the most important industries in the United States. It employs 232,000, making it 2% of the workforce. The U.S. government is promoting innovation in the field by creating a competition in Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles as part of the Institute for Manufacturing Innovation. The government has invested $75 million in the hopes companies will develop the next generation textiles and fibers. (Source: Select USA)
U.S. textile mills produce $49 billion in revenue annually, according to IBISWorld.
Many U.S.-based companies have moved overseas. Apex Mills feels it can avoid this by “monitoring change, listening to our customers and continually developing our expertise so that we consistently deliver custom textiles that address our customer’s challenges. We take time to understand these challenges so we can provide a textile that really solves them.”
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2. Carnegie Fabrics
Carnegie Fabrics prides itself on the pursuit of six goals: creating artistic designs, being innovative, responsibility to both clients and the environment, collaborating with clients and suppliers, being entrepreneurial, and constantly working to improve itself.
On its Facebook page, the company states its mission is a “commitment to quality and innovation is inseparable from a commitment to sustainability.”
Founded in 1950, Carnegie Fabrics is headquartered in Rockwell Centre, New York.
Carnegie Fabrics produces Xorel, a plant-based textile that is used to replace vinyl wallcoverings. The company also manufactures upholstery and window treatments.
First made in 1981, Xorel is used for furniture, acoustic panels, wallcoverings, and moveable walls and doors. A sustainable version was introduced in 2013 that is made from the sugar cane plant. The innovation has won numerous awards and third-party certifications including a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certificate from the U.S. government. The government only requires a product be 25% plant based to earn certification. Xorel is 60%-85% plant based.
“Carnegie has been committed to raising the bar in creative materials that combine performance, design, and sustainability,” Carnegie President Cliff Goldman told Multi-Housing News. “We’re extremely proud to have developed this product that looks and performs exactly like the original Xorel, proving that enhanced sustainability doesn’t have to trade off beauty and durability.”
Carnegie Fabrics entered the market at a pivotal time. Eco-friendly home textiles is the segment witnessing the most growth in the textile market with growth in double digits annually. The future of the market will be determined by the development of sustainable fibers and dyes. Plant-based textiles must be produced from plants that were not exposed to fertilizers or pesticides to be considered green products. (Source: Textile Furnishings Marketplace)
The company’s manufacturing facility also has been certified PVC free, and it will recycle any old Xorel products that are returned to the company as part of its Responsible Return Program.
Carnegie Fabrics’ customers include property management companies, Maxwell Street Upholstery, Aves Drapery, and interior design companies.
Price may be a challenge in the future as most of the company’s fabrics cost more than $60 a square foot.
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3. Ahimsa Silks
Ahimsa Silks is an Indian-based textile manufacturer that uses a method of silk production that avoids the death of the silk worm.
Headquartered in Panchavathi Township, India, the company was founded in 2001 by Kusuma Rajaiah. It does not employ child labor or discriminate against women.
The Hindu word “ahimsa” means nonviolence.
The company says on its website, “People are becoming more environmentally aware and compassionate to animals. Though ahimsa silk may not replace regular silk, we are confident it will be adopted by those who are concerned about animals.”
In 1991, Rajaiah began experimenting with a means of deriving silk from cocoons without killing the silk worm. Traditional means of silk production involve boiling the cocoons and retrieving the silk fibers. His discovery became marketable in 2001.
The Ahimsa method involves harvesting the silk fibers from cocoons after the worm has completed metamorphosis and flown away.
It takes approximately three months to manufacture a textile: two months for spinning and one month for weaving. The company can produce 2,000 meters of silk monthly.
Globally, silk accounts for less than .02% of the textile market. However, in some markets, such as India, demand exceeds supply. For this reason, India has become the second largest producer of silk after China and the largest importer of the textile. (Source: International Trade Form Magazine)
India is posed for growth this decade. In 2011, the market saw a 20% increase in production from the previous year to 26,000 tons. The Central Silk Board of India has been encouraging innovation in the market to boost sales. Source: Business Standard
Ahimsa Silks is the supplier of Ethical Silk Co.
Price keeps Ahimsa Silks’ textiles a niche product. It is also less luxurious than silks produced through the traditional method.
The company also faces critics, such as those on Worm Spit, who believe the company’s practices are not as sustainable as it has led others to believe, and that many silk worm embryos are destroyed.
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