At the New Lab in Brooklyn, N.Y., in October, Humanscale and Mohawk Group partnered up for another evening of discussion for their Sustainability Talk Series: How Transparency is Changing the World. The series, which also took place in Boston and Washington, D.C., shed light on commercial manufacturing transparency, the intersectionality of sustainability and design, and how companies can achieve transparency as well as a positive impact within the natural world and within their communities.
Humanscale and Mohawk Group, both leaders in the sustainability space, each communicated their efforts as evidenced through respective participation in the Living Product Challenge. Jane Abernethy, sustainability officer at Humanscale, told audiences about her company’s efforts as the first manufacturer to take on the Living Product Challenge with its Floating Table, while Mohawk Group, represented by VP Sustainability George Bandy, became the first manufacturer to achieve Living Product Challenge Petal Certification for its Lichen Collection.
The event also featured keynote speaker, Jason F. McLennan, founder of the Living Future Institute and the Living Product Challenge, who recently collaborated with Mohawk Group on their new product, the Lichen Collection. The Lichen Collection is the first floor covering to achieve Living Product Challenge Petal Certification, denoting it as a healthy, inspirational product with a net-positive impact on people and the environment, as well as being socially responsible and free of toxins. The collection also recently won the gold award at NeoCon.
“Both [Humanscale and Mohawk Group] do a lot of work on materials transparency, healthy materials, and sustainable materials,” McLennan told Floor Trends. “We’ve become friends and collaborators...We’re all in this together.”
The series was held not only to show off successful sustainable products, but to connect with the architects, designers and manufacturers in the greater green space.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is talk to the A&D community about the advancements that the industry is making, thinking about things a little more holistically, as they’ve asked us to,” Bandy told Floor Trends. “We’re trying to communicate that through our products, and through sharing this event with Humanscale and bringing Jason out to talk about the bigger opportunity of transparency as well.”
Transparency in the manufacturing space was a key focus of the Sustainability Talk Series. “I think that sometimes we try to put transparency in a small bucket and we need to try to spread it out a little bit more, [to let it] cascade across multiple industries and to share with the design community that it is happening. There are opportunities available, there are organizations that are really pushing forward with it, and here are some of the results of those things—that can also be beautiful at the same time.”
The Lichen Collection is available in three patterns: Groundcover, Micro Bloom and Macro Bloom. Each colorway was inspired by actual lichens in the natural world. By showcasing the award-winning product at the event, Bandy said, “It’s a great way to cross pollinate within the industry be able to share some ideas and thoughts and move to the next level. The product has been well received, but one thing I tell folks is, it doesn’t matter how ‘green’ it is, if it’s not pretty, the designers won’t specify it.”
Another message asserted throughout the evening was that manufacturers need not only be reducing their “footprint,” but aiming to expand their “handprint,” or the positive impact they and their collaborators can have on people and nature.
For Mohawk, this was recently evidenced in a project at the Morehouse College in Atlanta where Mohawk replaced dormitory showerheads that had not been replaced since the 1980s. With the new showerheads in place, Bandy said, 1.2 million gallons of water will be saved annually, saving the school millions of dollars. “The person smiling the most is mother nature,” he said.
Abernethy also expressed Humanscale’s intent to connect with the A&D community. “I think a big part of it is getting the message out there. We’re excited to be doing this, but also see it to be a little bit of a lighthouse to inspire other people to take on more as well. The level of influence in the A&D community makes them a good community to inspire.”