extile production has been at the center of the evolution of manufacturing from very
early times. Textiles touch so many aspects of people’s lives, and the ways of making and enhancing
them have advanced over millennia. Textile technology developments were prominent in the escalation
of manufacturing activity that defined the Industrial Revolution; and the conversion of basically
manual processes to power-driven, resource-consuming technologies, as well as the increasing use of
toxic process chemicals whose residues were released into the environment, contributed
significantly to the acceleration of environmental degradation that became a hallmark of industrial
In support of efforts in recent years to reverse the impacts of this degradation on quality
of life and the balance within Earth’s ecosystem, the textile industry once again has a significant
role to play. Enlightened manufacturers are redesigning processes and products to reduce their
environmental impact. In the process, they are reducing energy usage and replacing fossil fuels
with renewable and alternative energy resources when possible or practicable. They are reducing
water usage as well as waste and emissions volumes, and reclaiming and recycling materials that
would otherwise be disposed of and giving them renewed purpose. They are choosing earth- and
people-friendly process chemicals to replace more toxic ones. And these enlightened measures not
only restore the ecological balance and safeguard human health, but also often benefit a company’s
In a series of occasional articles,
will examine how some textile manufacturers are transitioning operations to increasingly
sustainable models. This first article focuses primarily on renewable and alternative energy and
improved efficiencies, taking into account other aspects of sustainability if they apply here.
Later articles will focus on other aspects of sustainable textile manufacturing.
Shaw Industries’ waste-to-energy gasification plant in Dalton, Ga., converts
post-industrial carpet waste and wood flour to steam energy to replace fossil fuel usage at an
adjoining laminate plant.
Atlanta-based modular and broadloom carpet manufacturer Interface Inc. has been measuring
progress in its journey toward becoming a “restorative enterprise” — one that ultimately gives
back to the planet more than it takes — since 1996, two years after company Founder and Chairman
Ray Anderson’s “epiphany” regarding the notion that business and industry must take the lead in
reversing the environmental damage they have wrought. The company’s goal of reducing its
environmental impact to zero by 2020 includes deriving all of its energy from renewable resources.
Its effort to reach that goal also includes revamping manufacturing processes to reduce energy
usage; upgrading heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; installing skylights; and
improving the efficiency of artificial lighting systems. “This is a much bigger part of our
initiative than renewable energy,” said Erin Meezan, the company’s vice president, sustainability.
Since 1996, Interface has reduced total energy use per unit of output at its carpet
manufacturing plants by 44 percent, and non-renewable energy use per unit by 60 percent. Renewable
inputs such as solar, hydroelectric, landfill gas (LFG) and geothermal now provide 28 percent of
its total energy needs. Globally, seven of its manufacturing plants use 100-percent renewable
electricity; and 89 percent of its overall electric power is renewably sourced, including power
received directly from the grid, purchased as renewable energy certificates (RECs) or generated
Interface also has cut net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 71 percent since 1996, with 34
percent coming from reductions and 37 percent from offsets.
A 17-kilowatt-hour photovoltaic array at Interface Inc.’s Kyle Plant in LaGrange supplies a
portion of the plant’s electricity needs.
Milliken & Company
Spartanburg-based textile and chemical manufacturer Milliken & Company has been
measuring its energy consumption since the early 1990s. According to Cassidy Carlile, director of
corporate environmental, the company generally sets energy reduction goals of 5 to 10 percent per
year. Its GHG emissions from operations have been reduced by 28 percent since 2000. When carbon
sequestration in the company’s considerable forest acreage is added in, Milliken is certified to be
a carbon-negative manufacturer — the only textile or carpet manufacturer to achieve that status.
Milliken receives 5 to 10 percent of its total power needs from its hydroelectric plant in
South Carolina, which provides power to a couple of local plants, with the rest sold locally and
into the grid. The company’s LaGrange, Ga., carpet manufacturing plant uses more than 80 percent of
the LFG produced at the LaGrange landfill, which also provides LFG to Interface’s carpet plant in
LaGrange. LFG comprises 20 percent of the boiler fuel consumed at Milliken’s plant. An LFG project
also is underway to provide fuel to its plant in Inman, S.C.
Since the mid-1990s, wastewater biosolids have been used as boiler fuel at Milliken plants
where they are generated. “This has allowed us to take them out of landfills and get energy value
out of them as well,” Carlile said. The company also diverts solid waste to waste-to-energy (WTE)
facilities for use by other entities.
The landfill gas plant at the LaGrange, Ga., landfill harvests methane gas and supplies it
to plants operated by Milliken Carpet and Interface Inc. to provide part of their energy needs.
Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw Industries Inc. — a manufacturer of carpet, hardwood, laminate and
tile flooring products — annually converts some 18,000 tons of post-industrial carpet waste and
wood flour to steam energy at its WTE gasification plant in Dalton, reporting the energy produced
saves more than 2.5 million gallons of fossil fuel at an adjoining laminate plant. Another project
called Re2E (Reclaim-to-Energy) is underway that will convert more than 38,000 tons of
post-industrial and post-consumer carpet to provide more than 90 percent of the steam and half of
the electricity needs at one of its carpet plants in Dalton. The project is expected to cut steam
production costs significantly.
Shaw’s Andalusia, Ala., yarn plant is replacing some of the diesel fuel that backs up the
natural gas used in its operation with biodiesel derived from used cooking oil it collects from
local businesses, employees and the City of Andalusia. Cary Baker, the plant’s director of
operations, said the “Yellow Grease” reduces the plant’s fuel costs as well as suppliers’ disposal
costs. “We’ve probably saved $10,000 to $12,000 year-to-date,” he said, adding that the savings are
transferred to the plant’s freight account to improve competitiveness in that area of the business.
These measures support Shaw’s goal to derive 10 percent of its power from alternative
sources by 2017 as well as reduce waste sent to landfills.
Hydropower is the source of more than 91 percent of the energy used by Canada-based
contract, residential, outdoor and apparel fabric producer Victor Group Inc. at its Canadian
locations. In addition, the company’s manufacturing facility in Fall River, Mass., offsets a
portion of its electricity usage internally with RECs from the Canadian operations, and is
investigating local green energy options for future use if needed, according to Paul Bennotti,
Orwigsburg, Pa.-based knitwear and fabric producer FesslerUSA expects to provide 90 percent
of its electricity needs from a 1-megawatt solar array planned for its Deer Lake manufacturing
plant, making it immune to an expected 40-percent jump in Pennsylvania’s industrial electric rates
after the first of next year. The company also has installed more efficient lighting and variable
speed drives on some motors, and applied reflective paint where it can be effective, said Jenny
Russo, financial analyst.