My commitment to the environment begins with designing for sustainable, rapidly renewable materials such as wool, silk, hemp, nettle and now soy silk. I use non-toxic dyes, and my manufacturers have a state-of-the-art recycling system in place for the water used in the dying process. I also have a line of undyed wool rugs and Alto Steps called the Black Sheep Collection, blended from natural sheep tones.
For 2013 we introduce Shimmo, a line of wool and soy silk rugs. Soy Silk is made from leftover bean fiber from the tofu making industry. The raw bean fiber with it’s natural oil is made into a “batter” which can be spun into a silk like yarn used in textiles and rugs. Soy silk is a cellulose fiber that absorbs dyes extremely well, and has excellent colorfast properties- better than cottton or real silk. Soy silk has a high protein content and is full of amino acids which means that skin contact may even be beneficial! The molecules have also shown to have excellent antibacterial properties, making it ideal for clothing. Henry Ford was photographed wearing a soy silk suit he had made in 1940, forseeing a great future for this material.
Our hemp rugs are made from plants grown in the Himalayan mountains. The biodegradable hemp crop is a quickly renewable resource and is naturally resistant to disease and pests. Hemp grows in almost any conditions and flourishes in difficult terrain, producing 10% more fiber than cotton or flax when grown on the same land. Hemp’s long, tough bast fibers—those that grow on the outside of the stalk—are ideal for strong and durable rugs.
Nettle, while known primarily as a medicinal herb in the States, is a Himalayan perrenial similar to hemp in durability and natural pest- and disease-resistance. However, nettle is a softer, lighter weight fiber making it easier on the weaver’s fingers. Its bast fibers are smooth and when woven, nettle takes on a silky luster. Nettle is known locally as “Allo.”
Our hand-knotted rugs are made by Tibetan weavers in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. They hand spin their wool and use traditional vegetable dyes or eco-friendly Swiss ciba colors. The weavers are certified to be child-labor-free through the GoodWeave (formerly Rugmark) program. Workers are given housing and their children are educated through the GoodWeave program, which has several schools in the Katmandu area. GoodWeave certified rugs are made on looms that are independently monitored to ensure that only adult artisans crafted them. Additionally, my manufacturers have a state-of-the-art recycling system in place for the water used in the dying process. In India, where my hand-tufted rugs are made, I have visited the factory and inspected their facilities to make sure they are complying with GoodWeave standards. Visit our production page for more information about how our rugs are made. GoodWeave offers an online tool to track my carbon footprint to check that I’m doing all I can to reduce my impact on the earth.
My rugs are made from Himalyan wool, hemp, and nettle, all rapidly renewable materials. Linden, Nightfall, and Splat designs include renewable Chinese silk. I use non-toxic dyes, and my manufacturers have a state-of-the-art recycling system in place for the water used in the dying process. In 2006 I developed a line of undyed wool rugs and Alto Steps using a range of colors blended from natural sheep tones of black, brown, gray and white. The undyed line includes Riverstones, Winks, Bink, and Barberry. All my rugs are 100% untreated (no finishes or sealants), making them no VOC. They are simply washed and dryed in the sun. The high lanolin content of the Himalayan wool results in a naturally water-repellent rug. The tight weave contributes to the stain-resistant quality of all of my rugs. My Indian hand-tufted rugs include a natural latex layer between cotton canvas backings. Natural latex is a biodegradable, milky substance derived from the rubber tree. My Tibetan hand-knotted rugs have no backing, they are woven on cotton string. The adhesive mesh that comes with all Alto Steps rug orders and prevents slipping is made in the USA with a non-toxic, water-based adhesive. My rugs are compostable at the end of life.
The Indian hand tufted rugs are backed with cotton canvas and natural latex. The Tibetan hand knotted rugs have no backing, they are woven on cotton string.
Finally, my own in-office environmental efforts include using all blank sides of scrap paper for notes, orders, and phone messages before recycling them. I make every effort to buy recycled paper products. My business (and household) recycles all qualifying plastic (numbers 1 through 7) and styrofoam packaging at my local transfer station. We also recylcle all glass, metal, and cardboard that comes into our office. When sending out rug orders, I reuse plastic bubble wrap and air pillows. I compost burlap packing materials received in shipments from Nepal. I also heat my office with a woodstove, rather than the oil furnace, whenever possible.
In my effort to reduce fuel miles and produce locally, I am actively researching American hand-tufting. I am also in the process of investigating a line of rugs made from reclaimed plastic materials.