Thursday, April 30, 2009

CARE: Carpet America Recovery Effort

The annual Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) conference is being held as we speak in Lansdowne, Virginia, just outside our nation’s capital and, for the first time since its inception, I’m not in attendance. Which given my history of travel "horror" stories, would seem like a good thing.

However, I have to admit: the CARE conference is not only one of my favorite events of the year, but it is without a doubt the most productive conference I attend and I’m a little sad to not be partaking in it. The good news is that Bethany has a front row seat and will likely share with us her first CARE experience sometime next week.

CARE is the organization charged with making sure all this wonderful carpet our industry produces doesn’t wind up burdening our landfills and it has done a spectacular job since its inception back in 2002. The organization was born from a memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the carpet industry, state, federal and local governments and several non-governmental organizations.

The plan was to devise a strategy that would result in diverting 40 percent of the nearly 5 billion pounds of carpet that wind up in landfills annually by the year 2012. What it has done, is create an entire new industry.

Starting basically from scratch, CARE has helped orchestrate an infrastructure to collect discarded carpet and at the same time worked diligently with many others to create markets for products made from recycled carpet. And brother, this was the ultimate which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg scenario.

Basically this was the dealt hand: Why collect all this carpet if there were no outlets for it and how do you create outlets for it when there was no way to collect it in the first place?

CARE acts in the role as facilitator, advisor, information provider and a forum for a myriad of stakeholders trying to accomplish the monumental goal of 40 percent diversion. All of those folks are gathered this week to review progress from last year to this year, look at the hurdles currently in the way, and devise the path forward. And it’s really a wonderful process to behold. The question and answer section near the end of the conference is one of the most productive work sessions available and some of the ideas that come out of the brainstorming session are keys to taking the next step forward.

Over the years Dr. Bob Peoples has orchestrated the CARE organization with some pretty impressive help from a Board of Directors that includes Frank Hurd as the chair. Dr. Peoples has turned the mantle over and just recently the board hired Georgina Sikorski as executive director and plenty of people are really excited about getting behind her and continuing to move this industry forward.

As with all industries, including fledgling ones like this, CARE has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Between the housing market (key collection resource) and the automobile market (key outlet market for parts made from recycled carpet), it’s been a double-whammy, but I hear the diversion numbers are surprisingly better than originally thought.

During the first six years of measurement, CARE reported an accumulative diversion of over one billion pounds of carpet and has had a double-digit increase in each succeeding year. The last three years have seen over 225 million pounds of diversion annually and I would suspect they’ll surpass the 200 million mark this time despite the economic woes. [See CARE annual reports.]

In 2002 there were five recycling outlets for discarded carpet and today there are 59 with over half the states having one. In the beginning there was no such thing as a machine to recycle carpet and today there are companies making equipment designed to do just that. Technology has evolved that will instantly identify carpet types and the fibers used to make them. There are products and product lines being made specifically with post-consumer recycled carpet.

Times are certainly tough on all these wonderful people trying to make it in this business, but I hope folks will also realize they are doing much more than making products and a living: they are also making a difference.

~ James

NOTE: CRI is a member of CARE.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

CRI Survey of Asthma & Allergy Doctors

One of the biggest reasons for this blog is to provide you with up-to-date information and data as we gather it. Today I share information gleaned from a recent survey of asthma and allergy [A&A] doctors conducted by the Carpet and Rug Institute [CRI].

As some of you are well aware, carpet continues to come under attack in regards to some health issues, notably those that surround asthma and allergies. We wanted to find out exactly what was being said in doctor’s offices when patients present with these type medical concerns and, although not all of it was flattering with regards to carpet, there were a few pleasant surprises.

Our survey included over 300 asthma and allergy specialists as well as general practitioners who treat patients who present with such symptoms. Originally, we had planned to limit it to the specialists but at a recent Asthma & Allergy Foundation show we learned that more and more people are having their general practitioners treat them because insurance carriers foot more of the bill and in today’s economy it is more practical to go that route.

In 2003, CRI did a major campaign directed at asthma and allergy doctors. Prior to starting that campaign, we did a benchmark survey and found that almost 60 percent of doctors recommended that patients remove their carpet as part of A&A treatment. We then took all the relative information and data we had collected (much of it done by third parties that we had no affiliation with whatsoever) packaged it and sent it out. We followed up our benchmark survey with another one and found out that we were convincing enough with our message that the needle had been lowered to 42 percent of doctors prescribing carpet removal.

Obviously, such a campaign was expensive and with our budgetary constraints as a non-profit organization it was a one-time effort. Over the last several years we, along with our member mills, have been hearing more and more chatter about doctors recommending carpet removal and this has especially affected the educational facilities with fewer schools putting down carpet, and when they do, it's minimal.

The good news with our most recent survey is that the percentage of doctors telling patients to remove carpet as a treatment is about the same at 43 percent and that number is our new benchmark, or rather our new target to take aim.

One of the interesting things we have learned is that doctors base this recommendation on something that has been described to us as coming from the “manual or playbook” in treating patients. Most of them haven’t seen a lot of hardcore information to back it up, but nonetheless, it is a widely-held belief. The other interesting thing is that most doctors realize that the two recommendations they often give (get rid of pets and the carpet) are two of the recommendations least likely to followed.

One thing you have to realize about doctors is that they are clinicians rather than scientists. At CRI, we round up a great deal of scientific data and have a lot in regards to the asthma subject. As we surveyed the doctors, though, and presented them with messages and asked which were the most credible, our scientific messages scored really low on the believability scale. This is the mountain that lies before us.

The good news is twofold: One, there is a clinical study currently being conducted on behalf of the Center for Disease Control and American Lung Association by Emery University that deals with asthma and allergy symptoms and flooring, and will be the first of its kind. That study should be complete and published sometime in 2010 after four years of work and could prove to be the foundation we have waited on to dispel this urban myth.

Secondly, the doctors surveyed really buy into the fact that maintaining and cleaning carpet is the best solution to combating asthma triggers, notably dust mites. Back in 2003 when we did the campaign, we didn’t have our Seal of Approval program which tests for cleaning products that are superior to those that don’t work.

So until we have our “magic bullet” to shoot down this tale that carpet has any negative effect on asthma patients, we’ll work hard to get the cleaning message out and use these doctors to better explain it to their patients. Our hope is that one day, we’ll be able to not only have zero doctors recommending carpet removal, but we’ll have them advocating the proper cleaning message for health purposes. Not only will the carpets continue to work on their behalf in the fight against A&A, but by cleaning them properly they will last longer and consumers will enjoy their beauty and benefits for years to come.

Let me know if you have questions.

~ James

Also see Get the Facts on Carpet and Asthma and Allergies and download The Facts about Carpet and Asthma and Allergy.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

NFT: Scientific Facts Dispel Carpet & Asthma Myths

Have you seen the April 2009 issue of National Floor Trends Magazine? It features an article from Carpet And Rug Institute president Werner Braun entitled, Scientific Facts Dispel Carpet and Asthma Myths. The article looks at what Mr. Braun calls the “urban myths” of carpet – that it causes, or at least worsens, allergy and asthma symptoms, and contributes to unhealthy indoor environments.

“I can’t imagine a world without carpet,” the article begins, and frankly, neither can I. There was always carpet in many areas of my house growing up, and it was the same at my friends’ houses. “So, what’s not to like about carpet?” the article asks, and I have to agree – it’s beautiful, comfortable, safe and healthy – yes, I said healthy.

But carpet is also losing market share, and aside from the predictable ebb and flow of changing home fashion trends, carpet is plagued by a persistent myth that it contributes to unhealthy indoor air quality and can act as a trigger for asthma and allergies.

Mr. Braun’s article refers repeatedly to a study compiled for CRI by Mitch Sauerhoff, a respected toxicologist who surveyed professional literature and more than 23 scientific studies for his report, “Carpet, Asthma and Allergies - Myth or Reality.”

In it, Dr. Sauerhoff concludes that the negative perceptions and persistent, long-held beliefs on carpet’s alleged negative characteristics are not consistent with current research. He states that:

Based on the available science, carpet does not cause asthma or allergies and does not increase the incidence or severity of asthma or allergies symptoms. In fact …multiple studies have reported fewer allergy and asthma symptoms associated with carpet.”

In the final paragraph of the NFT article, Mr. Braun points out that, “For more than 50 years, millions of consumers have enjoyed the benefits of carpet. Billions of square yards of carpet have been installed in the vast majority of United States’ homes and office buildings, with very few health-related complaints.”

He’s right, of course, but it’s hard to dispel an urban myth once it gets entrenched in the collected zeitgeist of popular culture, junk science, and the media.

Almost as hard as pulling an alligator out of a toilet, and you know how hard that can be. Still, you have to try, and at CRI, we’ve got our sleeves rolled up, and we’re pulling as hard as we can.

Thanks to National Floor Trends, and to all our friends in the media who help us in the struggle.


You can also download a pdf version of the article, "Scientific Facts Dispel Carpet and Asthma Myths."

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Matisse Rug Donated To Carpet And Rug Institute

Recently, the Carpet And Rug Institute received a donation of a beautiful piece of textile history. A rug, designed by the great Fauvist artist Henri Matisse, was donated to CRI by the family of Robert Saunders, a carpet-industry veteran, who, according to his children, displayed the rug over his desk for more than 50 years [see the March 6, 2009 Newsline in Historic Rug Donated to CRI].

The rug is titled “Mimosa,” and it is one of a limited edition of 500 commissioned in 1951 and manufactured by the Alexander Smith & Sons Carpet Company.

The rug is very beautiful. It’s a machine-woven wool rug, in pristine condition. One art review I found said, “The piece is a textile art work in which the resources of modern industry enhance the visual statement of an exceptional artist.” A wonderful little booklet came with the rug. It was written by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., who in 1951 was a renowned art historian associated with the Museum of Modern Art in New York. One sentence in it reads: “At the time of its creation, Matisse said of the rug, 'I want to recapture the freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth; when all the world is new.'”

As I thought about writing this blog post, I kept asking myself, Why did Henri Matisse, the celebrated master of modern art, approach an American rug company in the last years of his life and offer to design a rug for them?

I haven’t been able to find anything definitive, but I do know this: Matisse was descended from a long line of fabric weavers, going back several generations. I also found that, throughout his career, Matisse turned his attention to producing objects of beauty for use and appreciation outside the confines of the fine art world. He designed book illustrations, architectural decorations, and tapestries, so why not rugs?

I also found that, from 1944 to the end of his life, Matisse produced “decoupes” – collage-type works made of shapes cut from colored paper and pasted onto fields of color or white. Looking at them, you can see that these large-scale, vibrant, decoupage cut-outs inspired Matisse’s Mimosa rug. Many consider them to be his best work, including Matisse himself.

I hope you will enjoy this article about the rug that ran in the Dalton, GA paper on March 28, 2009 titled Famous French artist’s work now hangs at Dalton’s CRI. And, I really hope you will take a minute to read Mr. Robert Saunders' obituary. I have had several conversations with one of Mr. Saunders daughters, and the story of his life and career is as interesting as the story behind the rug. He sounds like someone who lived his life with a “freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth; when all the world is new.”

So, sometimes Life imitates Art, and often, Art imitates Life right back. In a way, CRI got two valuable gifts: a fine rug, and a lovely story about a nice man who appreciated beauty, worked hard, and whose family loved and miss him.

~ Bethany

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

What Is The Carpet And Rug Institute?

So, what exactly is The Carpet And Rug Institute?

The Carpet and Rug Institute [also known as CRI] is the carpet industry's not-for-profit national trade association. It represents carpet manufacturers and those who provide goods and services and raw materials for the industry. The CRI membership manufactures close to 98 percent of all the carpet made domestically.

One of CRI’s primary functions is to coordinate with other segments of the industry, such as distributors, retailers, installers and cleaning/maintenance providers. The goal is to demonstrate to consumers in particular how carpet improves the living environment and help increase consumer satisfaction with carpet.

CRI is headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, better known as “the Carpet capital of the World.” Rightly so: nearly 80 percent of all the carpet manufactured in the United States is done so within a 65-mile radius of Dalton. Nestled among the foothills of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, Dalton is located 30 minutes southeast of Chattanooga, TN off Interstate-75.

Three distinct departments make up the CRI: a Government issues, a Technical issues and Marketing issues department. Our government folks see to it that legislation that could be detrimental to the sale of carpet never finds its way into the light of day at any level. Our technical people are the masterminds behind test protocols that serve as a way to assure that our product is the very best and safest product that it can be. The marketing department takes all this wonderful information and data and delivers it to the people who want to make the most informed decision possible when it comes to purchasing flooring. [That's where Bethany and I get involved.]

Policy is determined by a board of directors composed of chief executive officers from member companies and is implemented by a full-time professional staff. Additional member company personnel provide time and expertise to more than 40 committees and subcommittees. The wide range of assembled information provides a focal point for issue discussion and a voice for the industry. The overall fields of interest are technical services, member services, governmental and consumer affairs, and public relations. CRI membership and staff are intensely involved in facilitating cooperative solutions to all industry challenges.

CRI is also a source of extensive carpet information for consumers, writers, interior designers, specifiers, facility managers, architects, builders, building owners and managers, installation contractors and retailers. You see, there's a great deal of inaccurate information about carpet available. Our job is making sure you have the right information. That's why CRI continually conducts primary research and gathers data from other sources so you can make the right decisions based on relevant facts.

As we describe on the CRI website About Us section, we offer materials, many of them free of charge and some for a small charge, on all of the following topics:

• Aesthetic, functional and financial benefits of carpet
• The carpet or rug selection process
• Installation guidelines
• Characteristics of fibers
• Carpet construction
• Carpet’s role in indoor air quality and the environment
• Daily maintenance and long-term care
• In-depth technical guidance

CRI also has a long list of continuing education units (CEUs), which have been certified by the Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC). These one-hour courses were developed by CRI members and are taught by member companies.

CRI is a consensus builder. We work to strengthen the role of carpet in our lives by building consensus among diverse parties in our industry. We aim for an open dialogue with educational, health, and environmental stakeholders and community decision makers about qualities of the industry and the product category itself.

On the sustainability side, we work to advance innovations and solutions that are consistent with long-term social, environmental and economic responsibilities. We do this for our industry, and consider ourselves a model for many industries. Whether or not you support the Kyoto Protocol, the carpet industry may be the only one which can say it meets the stringent protocol, having the same amount of CO2 emissions today as it did in 1990, yet producing over 42 percent more product. All of this and much more information can be found in the carpet industry sustainability report. Many individual companies produce such sustainability reports, but again, the carpet industry stands out in the fact it does one for the industry as a whole, measuring our collective footprint and working together to reduce it.

CRI is the source for science-based information and insight into how carpets and rugs can create a better environment – for living, working, learning and healing. Ultimately, we are an advocate for the consumer. We are committed to addressing the needs of the customers of CRI members to help create that better environment for living, working, learning and healing. For you, our customers. As you are served well, so is the industry.

That's what we'll discuss here in this blog.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

~ James

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Meet Bethany Richmond, Communications Manager

I'm Bethany Richmond and I am communications manager for the Carpet and Rug Institute.

I began working as communications manager for the Carpet and Rug Institute in September, 2008. Before the CRI, I was a copywriter and media buyer for an advertising agency that specialized in floor covering clients. I’ve gone from writing about carpet as an element of interior fashion to writing about the technical attributes of carpet – how to keep it clean, its benefits to indoor air quality, etc.

Transitioning from ad copy and sales materials to white papers and journal articles has been challenging, but I like to think I’m holding my own. Ask me about carpet and asthma and allergy studies, or what makes a good vacuum cleaner, and I’ll fill you in.

I grew up in Richmond Virginia and graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Drama. Two months before I graduated, my dad called to tell me that if I didn’t plan on getting married right after college, (and I didn’t even have a boyfriend – at least, not one I would admit to), then I had better have myself a job, because, Dad said, his beneficence ended the moment I tossed my mortarboard.

All I knew I could do well was walk and talk at the same time, so I went to the local NBC affiliate and fast-talked my way into a job as night reporter. Soon after, I started producing and hosting a half-hour live weekday news/interview show and turning in daily stories for the six and eleven o’clock newscasts.

From there I went on to produce for two public TV stations, and produce and write video scripts as a freelancer while my sons were in school. I’ve performed as on-air talent for a bunch of industrial videos (one was for Oak Ridge Laboratory on how to protect yourself from radiation exposure) and voiced dozens of radio commercials in the Chattanooga market. I’ve written for floor covering trade publications, and for a carpet manufacturer’s employee newspaper. In between, I read a lot of bedtime stories and packed a lot of lunchboxes.

My two sons, aged 19 and 23, are still in college. I love it when they come home for a visit, and I’m thankful for the quiet again when they leave. I finally have a steady boyfriend I will admit to. Life is good.

I love cooking for my friends and family and watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network. For life in the fast lane, I have been known to attempt (and occasionally complete) the New York Times Sunday crossword.

I volunteer occasionally with Dalton Little Theatre as a performer and director. Introducing people to the fun and frustrations of live theatre is satisfying, and I am delighted when people show up at auditions to try out for their first play. I especially love to see newcomers surprise themselves by discovering talents they didn’t know they had. I am hoping for a similar experience as I try my hand at blogging for the first time.

I am proud to represent the carpet industry. I like to think of myself as contributing to the best economic stimulus there is – helping support the jobs of the many people who depend on carpet for their livelihoods. And beyond those directly involved, carpet manufacturing is extremely valuable to the economy in Georgia and elsewhere.

I am proud to be a carpet person. My job gives me the opportunity to interact with committed professionals from all parts of the carpet industry, from corporate CEOs to designers, marketers, R&D specialists, environmental engineers, carpet cleaning contractors, government lobbyists, and installers, to name a few. I admire their commitment, and I respect the role each person plays in making carpet the best product – the best floor covering – it can be.

I am proud of carpet – it’s beautiful and functional, and serves people well in their homes, schools, and office buildings. I like it in my house, and I enjoy helping people understand and take advantage of the comfort and value carpet offers.

I look forward to sharing all of that in this blog and also having the opportunity to state the truth about carpet, and correct misperceptions and inaccuracies -- encouraged by members of the press -- to portray carpet as not beneficial to humans.

Let's talk! You can reach me at brichmond [at] carpet-rug [dot] org.


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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Welcome to The Carpet And Rug Institute's Blog!

Welcome to The Carpet and Rug Institute Blog, a place to discuss all things soft floor covering as well as a place to find the pulse of this great industry of ours. At CRI, we love to tell you about the things that are happening within our walls and within the boundaries of our industry and strive to be as transparent as possible.

Obviously we love carpet. But even more important to us assuring that you - our consumers - are happy with the products you have purchased whether that be from a style and fashion perspective, or a functionality perspective.

We know people get information in a variety of ways and we also know that sometimes people don’t always get all the right information. When a question arises about any aspect or issue concerning carpet, we want you to feel like there is a place to find that answer, and that is the primary purpose of this blog.

We want to discuss issues such as indoor air quality and heath. We’ll be talking about installation and cleaning and maintenance. We’ll be sharing real life stories with you and interesting tips. And also our personal opinions. Mostly, though, we’ll be providing science-based data and insight culled either through research we’ve conducted or collected from other sources.
We want you to view the Carpet and Rug Institute Blog as a search engine for all things carpet; an encyclopedia complete with references; a warm and inviting place to come to much like a room full of comfy carpet.

Whether you are a homeowner, parent, or individual looking for carpet, a retailer trying to sell it, or a specifier in search of the product to install in your office building, we want to talk carpet with you.

Our policy on comments for this blog is pretty simple: if they are relevant to carpet we want to hear them. All we ask is that the comments are respectful. We will moderate comments, and reserve the right to exclude any offensive or irrelevant posts. In all honesty, though, we want to hear what you are thinking because it helps us just as we hope to help you.

Our promise is to be respectful of you and get back to you as soon as humanly possible with an answer. One thing we do want you to know is that CRI does not and will not participate in any endorsing of someone’s product be it carpet, padding, adhesives, cleaners, etc. We certainly have programs in place that identify categories of products that we recommend. If your question is about a particular carpet mill or a warranty issue, we’ll be happy to try to point you in the right direction, but those issues are usually out of our domain.

We also remind you to be mindful of posting personal information. The Carpet and Rug Institute Blog is a public forum, so if anything you put out there whether it be an address or a phone number, be mindful that any and all can see it.

We will not share any subscription information with outside parties. We may try to email you, though, for additional follow up. And, we may refer to your comments in subsequent blog posts.
Thank you for reading. We're excited about the opportunity to share with you a plethora of ideas, links, references, suggestions and opinions relating to carpet and rugs and how they can create a better environment for living, learning, working, and healing.

~ James, Bethany and The Carpet and Rug Institute

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