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Slowly Going Green

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, May 21, 2007

It is clear that a growing number of companies in the world of home textiles and decorative fabrics are exploring the opportunities in eco-friendly products.

But there is apparently an even larger number looking at the practical side of business — how to be more eco-friendly in day-to-day activities, from manufacturing technologies to simplifying procedures and basics like waste reduction.

The critical issue is how long and how deep will the commitment be?

This is not the first time there has been a major surge of interest in "saving the Earth." The last time, it went on for several years, until the only ones still talking about the concept were deemed to be hippies with solar panels on their roofs.

But it was encouraging to see the breadth of the efforts in eco-friendly products and marketing put forth by the students in FIT's Home Products Development Department last month.

To date, there hasn't been a groundswell of retail demand for products that are "Earth friendly." But as several suppliers have noted, there are indeed a few retail voices being raised on the eco-front — even with the knowledge that they are looking at prices for these goods anywhere from 10% to 20% higher than the same products conventionally produced.

And in today's retail environment, there is little likelihood that mainstream retailers will jump on board for a major price hike for identifiable products like sheets and towels.

Where this revolution might take hold first and with a major impact is in the way home textiles are packaged — and how packaging is recovered and recycled. It's beginning to happen in supermarkets across the country. Consumers are being urged to bring their own bags, some markets are selling eco-friendly bags, and still others are giving a couple of cents off if paper or plastic are not consumed.

Even in some rural areas, this appeal is gaining strength — albeit more successfully in the higher end supermarkets. But it's a beginning.

Walk through any home textiles department in a retail store and there are unlimited candidates for a new look at packaging. Perhaps the Home Fashion Products Association could sponsor a packaging design contest for individual categories that would focus on eco-friendly criteria. One thing leads to another.

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