Leadership Letter: Green Goes Mainstream
May 3rd, 2011

Ryan Calkins

In the heady days before the Great Recession, the subject of “going green” was about as popular as an aardvark at an ant convention. It seemed like an unnecessary impediment to sales. Why make the buying process even more complicated for the consumer? And, anyway, the thinking went, give it a couple of years and this fad will go the way of acid-washed jeans.

Fast-forward to 2011. The only construction segment to grow through the recession was green building. At Coverings, every booth focused at least some attention on sustainability and entire seminars were devoted to the subject. So let’s take stock. How does the tile industry stack up on green? There’s good news and there’s bad news.

First the bad news. Competitive goods like carpets and hardwoods got a head start on going green. They were the early target of criticism by green advocates (rightfully) for an utter lack of sustainability, while tile did not receive much criticism. As a result, their industry leaders responded quickly and decisively, rolling out recycling programs, retooling factories, and ramping up major green marketing and PR efforts. Meanwhile only a few tile industry leaders were examining the question of sustainability. This shortsightedness gave our competitors a head start, and, although great strides have been made over the last couple of years, we are still playing catch up.

Now the good news. We may have come late to the green game, but we’re fi elding an all-star team. From production to usage to disposal— throughout the entire product life cycle—tile matches or exceeds the performance of every other fl oor or wallcovering category. Our factory partners have invested in closed loop technologies to reduce waste, energy consumption, and pollution at the point of production. As an example of how effective these closed loop factories are, one of my suppliers reports that the single greatest source of wastewater coming out of its factory (one of the largest in Italy) is the employee restroom.

Even more important than green production methods is tile’s performance when installed. Tile requires no harsh cleansers or periodic refinishes, can last hundreds of years, and contributes to healthy indoor air quality. And when it comes time for disposal, tile is inert, creating no danger of toxins leaching into the local groundwater. In addition, tile can be recycled which keeps it from reaching the landfill in the first place.

The task that remains is to educate the consumer on why tile is the best choice for the green-conscious. Start by educating yourself. Read through the green resources on the CTDA and TCNA websites. Make sure to attend one of Bill Griese’s seminars during the next trade show or management conference. Highlight the green efforts of our factory partners such as participation in Greenguard or other third party certifications. Create a page on your website that outlines what makes tile green. Finally, and most importantly, get your employees on board too—especially the sales staff—so that being green becomes a part of your organizational DNA.

Ryan Calkins
CTDA President

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