Cast-off Carpeting on the Curb–Is Spring in the Air?

As I drove to my yoga class on an unusually balmy February evening last week,  I  could see that spring was already on people’s minds. Rolls of carpeting were unceremoniously cast off onto the curb in front of their former abodes… An eyesore for the neighborhood no doubt until these mildew-impregnated bundles will be mercifully removed by the local sanitation department.  “Good riddance!”

And then what? Out of sight, out of mind. “I don’t care!” This is the typical response I get when I first bring up the issue with many clients or anyone who will care to listen.  Actually, carpeting waste accounts for five billion tons of waste a year which represents 1% of U.S.  landfills, according to Sustainable Residential Interiors by Kari Foster, Annette Stelmack,  and Debbie Hindman  (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

While carpet recycling programs are beginning to emerge, the journey to progress is a long and expensive one.  If you are “guilty” of having committed the above-described “sin,”  think and plan ahead before jumping into the next carpeting purchase for your bedroom or stairs for instance. You can effectively help save the planet by buying a handmade floor covering that is intrinsically green and recyclable.  We are talking about rugs that are handknotted—such as oriental and contemporary Tibetan rugs;  flatweaves (including kilims, sumaks, needlepoints,  Aubussons, dhurries; and handcrafted all-wool sisals. They are made with all organic materials, such as wool, cotton, silk, and hemp—no synthetics—that are easily cleaned which means they last at least a lifetime and handed down to the next generation.  We are not talking about handtufted rugs, many of which feature the more difficult to recycle latex backing.

“Oh, but  I need my stairs carpeted NOW!” is the instant reaction when you find out that you will have to wait several months for handknotted stair runners  made to your specifications. As states Irish-born Clodagh, the grande dame of sustainable design (see The Decorative Carpet—Fine Handmade Rugs in Contemporary Interiors published by The Monacelli Press/Random House, 2010), it’s a simply a question of good planning. Don’t wait to the last minute to decide—several months is nothing when put into perspective. Rather than blanket the floor with disposable machinemade carpeting, she asks, why not give the floor a good polish and place a beautiful handmade rug or flatweave over it? Just think of all that carpeting rotting in the landfill. Every bit helps. Yes, it does.