Recycled carpet plays large role in Penn State’s commitment to sustainability

Matthew J. Long
February 11, 2020

This past December, Penn State finalized its five-year carpet tile purchasing contracts with manufacturers that utilize sustainable business practices. The contracts were written so that any carpeting material purchased by Penn State comes from manufacturers with a proven track record of sustainability and who incorporate practices like recycling programs, monitoring emissions and providing ethical working conditions into their business strategies.

Water usage was one important aspect of environmental sustainability that was evaluated by the Penn State team charged with establishing the contracts. Yarn Dyeing is a process that is used in the production of most oil-based carpets and requires millions of gallons of water. Under these contracts, Penn State purchases carpet produced without water, relying instead on companies that generate large amounts of recycled carpet with reduced amounts of oil.

Richard Fitzgerald and Becky Fike, senior purchasing agents with Penn State’s Purchasing Department, were tasked with creating the new contracts following the previous five-year contracts’ expiration. Foundational documents used by the Penn State team during their evaluation of carpet manufacturers proposals were: the 2015 National Science Foundation’s/American National Standard (NSF/ANSI 140) Sustainability Assessment for Carpet standards for manufacturing and performance, The Carpet and Rug Institute Guidelines, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. According to Fitzgerald, the contracts will apply to the entire university, from University Park to the commonwealth campuses.

“This will affect the entire campus system,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s going to be from residence halls to classrooms to corridors in buildings to research labs.”

Fitzgerald was also involved in the creation of the previous five-year carpet contracts. Fitzgerald remarked that the current contracts are significantly enhanced due to the contracts being awarded based on the sustainability practices being employed by the manufacturer, both with its carpet and the entire company. Fitzgerald said, “I’ve negotiated numerous contracts over the years, but never has sustainability of a company been such a driving force as to who we wish to establish contracts with.”

Assisting Purchasing throughout the Request for Proposal (RFP) process were faculty members from the Sustainability Institute (SI), Office of the Physical Plant (OPP), Housing and Food Services (HFS), graduate student Haley Stauffer from the Smeal College of Business, Lion Surplus and representatives from The Centre Region Council of Government. These individuals worked collaboratively on the contracts in order to determine which companies met the University’s requirements.

Meghan Hoskins, director of operations and partnerships at SI, was one of the faculty members who was involved in this process. Hoskins and her colleagues at SI looked at the sustainability reports offered by each of the companies and judged their sustainability efforts on certain criteria: whether or not companies’ carpet material was produced sustainably, if companies recycled carpet or not, how their laborers had safe work environments, whether or not companies tracked their emissions, etc.

Hoskins said, “It was a pleasure to work with the RFP team to identify carpet tile providers who offer quality, durable carpet tile as well as share our concern for the environment and society.”

The organizations and departments involved in the creation of these contracts are part of a program called the Smarter Carpet Initiative. Created in 2010, the goal of the Smarter Carpet initiative is to develop new standards for purchasing, installing and removing carpet so that 100% of the carpet used in Penn State facilities never enters a landfill.

Last Updated February 17, 2020