Mike and Jody Hughes of Kelly’s Carpet Omaha (center, holding plaque) are flanked by (from left) Mohawk’s Brian Carson, Jenny Cross and David Duncan

During an intimate ceremony in Atlanta recently to honor the top dealers in Mohawk GreenWorks program, Bob Leahy, president of hard surfaces for the company, reminded those gathered that the real winners may not even be born yet. The environmental issues driving the company’s ambitious program, he remarked, “are very important for the next generation.”

The occasion was the first-ever Mohawk GreenWorks Dealer of the Year Award. From a pool of 24 North American dealers who met the company’s criteria for environmentally responsible business practices, a panel of expert judges selected a GreenWorks Dealer of the Year and two finalists. The top award was presented to Mike Hughes, owner of Kelly’s Carpet Omaha based in Omaha, Neb. His company also received a $5,000 prize. Additionally, awards were given to the two Michigan-based finalists: Michigan Tile and Carpet of Battle Creek (Hans Stark, owner), and Carpet Bonanza Flooring Center based in Zeeland (Dave Machiela, owner). Both companies received a $1,000 prize.

The recognition is aimed at encouraging retailers to embrace the GreenWorks concept adopted by Mohawk three years ago to identify the company’s longstanding environmental commitment. Company officials used the occasion to stress the important role retailers play in the GreenWorks mission. “All three finalists are taking a leadership role and setting the standard to achieve the three key events of sustainability: business and financial success, community orientation, and taking care of Mother Earth,” said Leahy.

Jenny Cross, Mohawk’s sr. sustainability manager, stressed that the program is not just about image building. “Mohawk knows that sustainability is not only the right thing to do for the planet but also for the business,” she said. “Green claims are everywhere nowadays. Anything that is part of the GreenWorks program is completely supportable with data and evidence. So the benefit to the retailer is really confidence more than anything else.”

Judges selected Kelly’s Carpet based on an exemplary record that includes diverting 84 percent of its waste from landfills. The retailer also donates products to local charities and has named a full-time environmental educator who works with schools and social organizations. To further lessen its carbon footprint, Kelly’s has winterized its buildings, updated its lighting and moved to hybrid vehicles equipped with GPS.

Hughes, who opened Kelly’s Carpet in 1986 and added a second store four years later, said he was delighted by the recognition. “This is absolutely phenomenal,” he noted, adding, “This program highlights the right things to do, which are a big plus for our business, our customers, and our community.”

Under the guidelines for the newly created award, the $5,000 prize will be used for a “Green” project of the retailer’s choosing. Hughes said he plans on donating to a local educational program called the Green Omaha Coalition. He will also continue to make his facility more energy efficient  and plans to use the remainder of the prize money to research ways to process flooring materials in-house before sending it else where.

Co-finalist Stark of Michigan Tile and Carpet noted his efforts to cut waste began with a simple plan. “Every time we throw something in the dumpster, I notice and try to eliminate that.” From that idea, his company has been able to cut refuse pickup in half. Stark is now looking for ways to recycle the cardboard tubes used in carpet rolls. “We are working to retool a limb shredder to break these into a form where they can be converted into pellets or logs for heating.”

For his part, co-finalist Machiela said his 35 year-old Carpet Bonanza has a long commitment to environment responsibility. “Recycling has always resonated with me. We began recycling cushions 15 years ago, and it’s grown from there.” He plans to use the award to help a local recycling program that employees Goodwill workers to sort items like plastics, electronics and wood products, netting a 95 percent recycle rate.

–Wayne South Smith