In 1872, the U.S. Government established Yellowstone National Park, the first of what would become a vast system of forests, monuments, sea shores and other national treasures known as the National Park System. Encompassing more than 2.2 million square miles in three states, Yellowstone contains more geysers and hot springs than anywhere else in the world; its picturesque waterfalls, rivers and wildlife have made it one of our nation’s most popular destinations.
As our first national park, it’s fitting that Yellowstone has become part of another important first. Thanks to some innovative chemistry and design, the 43 million tons of plastic trash collected annually in the park are now being transformed into one of the materials used to manufacture a new line of high-performance carpets by Signature Crypton Carpet, appropriately named the Yellowstone Collection.
The story behind the collection began when Jim Evanoff, the park’s senior environmental officer, discovered that while Yellowstone’s plastics were being diverted from landfills, they were ultimately being shipped overseas for manufacturing use—hardly an eco-friendly solution. In searching for a more sustainable use, Evanoff spoke with Karen Edwards, a consultant with the United States Soybean Board. Edwards, who had worked with Evanoff and others at Yellowstone on several bio-based projects, connected with John McIntosh, vice president of sales and marketing for Signature; from there, the seeds of innovation began to take root quickly.
“American-grown soybeans are used in the BioCel™ carpet backing system used to manufacture our carpets, which is why Karen Edwards contacted us,” says McIntosh. “We were asked if there was a way that we could use the reclaimed plastics in manufacturing our products. After talking with our vendors, it became clear that we could use the plastic bottles and other plastics more efficiently than sending them overseas.”
Those plastics are now used in the BioCel carpet backing, which is produced by United Textile Technologies. With BioCel, 14 percent of the petrochemicals used in the polyurethane backing have been replaced with polyols, which are extracted from soybeans. The backing also contains Celceram, a waste by-product of the coal combustion-to-energy process, and 7 percent post-consumer PET. BioCel is 71 percent green by weight.
“Jim Evanoff’s mantra is that nature has the perfect waste system,” McIntosh says. “Waste from one source is used by another source in some way. We obviously can’t be as green as nature, but our team’s goal was to be as environmentally responsible as possible.”
Plastics collected in the park are gathered and hauled away, where they are sorted, cleaned and ground into fine particles. The particles then go through a process that binds them together in order to create the rolls that are used for the backing system.
However, the backing system is not the only green feature found in the Yellowstone Collection. Aquafil USA provides premium carpet fibers for the collection, made from 100 percent recycled solution-dyed nylon. When the yarn is combined with the backing system it makes the line 80 percent green by weight.
The designs in the collection were developed by Sharon Roels, Signature’s senior designer, who spent an extensive amount of time in the park, developing designs that would properly convey Yellowstone’s splendor. The five resulting patterns in the collection include Artist Point, Caldera, Grant Village, Old Faithful and Paint Pots, each of which is available in seven distinct colors. Old Faithful features a subtle linear design like a spray of water bursting forth from the ground; Grant Village creates a gentle pattern of leaves and other natural elements. Each of the patterns are beautifully detailed and appropriate for use in any setting, including corporate, hospitality, education and healthcare.
Crypton, Inc. brings its expertise to the process in the form of the carpet’s soil, stain and odor resistance. “We have been working with Signature for three years,” says Randy Rubin, Crypton’s co-owner. “The process that we have developed for treating carpet is very environmentally friendly, which adheres to the mission for the Yellowstone Collection. Our process also means that the carpet in the collection will wear better, and that it will maintain its appearance and last longer.”
The collaboration between all of these companies means more than just new carpeting—it’s also helping to ensure Yellowstone’s future. For every yard of carpet purchased, the companies are donating 50 cents to the Yellowstone Park Foundation as part of the P2 program, which stands for “protect and preserve.” The money will be used to fund enhancements and preservation projects throughout the park.
And in terms of collecting plastics for use in the collection, Yellowstone Park is apparently only the beginning. Discussions are underway to collect plastic bottles and containers in Grand Teton National Park, which will eventually equate to another 60 to 70 tons of plastics diverted from landfills on an annual basis. Reclaiming plastics from other parts of the country will also be considered.
In the end, the story of the Yellowstone Collection from Signature Crypton Carpets is another example of the innovative work being done by leaders in the design community who are continually looking for ways to be more sustainable.
While it is true that we cannot be as green as nature, in ways small and large, we can contribute to preserving the environment we have been given, for this generation and the next.
Learn more about the Yellowstone Collection at www.signaturecryptoncarpet.com.
Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, Tenn. She was formerly a marketing manager for HNTB and now works with industry clients to address their marketing and public relations needs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.