Product Design

Taking Design Cues from Nature

Mohawk’s Living Product Challenge certification demonstrates how nature inspires and how we can give back to our community.

In nature, lichen is a living thing that exists only through collaboration. Indeed, it is not a single organism but a composite of algae, bacteria and fungi existing in harmony. It contributes to the natural environment by breaking rock down into soil and absorbing pollution in the atmosphere.

Lichen can be found in every color of the rainbow and grows in nearly every ecosystem on earth, thriving on bark, leaves, soil and rock. You might even call it nature’s carpet. That idea inspired Jason McLennan, founder of the Living Product Challenge, who partnered with the Mohawk Group to introduce the Lichen modular plank carpet system.

Driven to create a carpet that mimics lichen’s multi-hued, multi-textured appearance — and its regenerative role — the Lichen Collection is on the path to give more resources back to the environment than it uses during its entire life cycle.

In 2017, the carpet became the first floor covering to achieve Living Product Challenge Petal Certification. This distinctive certification program by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) promotes a philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in product manufacturing today.

The certification is organized into seven performance areas, known as “Petals.” The Lichen Collection satisfies five of the seven Petals.

Water

The Living Product Challenge requires that products go beyond minimizing footprints to creating positive “handprints” on resources. Mohawk sought to create a positive impact by developing a strategy for water savings that would exceed the 1 million gallons per year used for Lichen’s manufacturing. To achieve that goal, we engaged in a three-year conservation strategy with Morehouse College in Atlanta to replace the shower heads in the college’s dormitories. Although the replacement of only 15 showerheads would be sufficient to meet the water-saving needs for Lichen’s handprint, Mohawk retrofitted a total of 140 showerheads at the college with low-flow fixtures as the following video explains.

Health and
Happiness

We conducted an inventory research of all of the raw materials that are in Lichen’s supply chain to verify the absence of any Red-Listed chemicals. At our Glasgow, Virginia, carpet tile facility where Lichen is manufactured, employees have access to environmentally rich surroundings, a Healthy Life Center and health coaches to guide associates toward achieving their fitness goals. We recently conducted an employee survey to determine how to further improve worker health and happiness.

Place

Mohawk is improving the ecoregion surrounding our Glasgow plant by maintaining two National Wildlife Federation Certified Habitats and an apiary, as well as being a founding member of Businesses for the Bay. A portion of Lichen’s profits will be donated to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Conservancy’s mission is to protect and preserve the Appalachian Trail and ensure its natural beauty and cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed for generations to come.

Materials

The Lichen Collection uses innovative tufting technology to make textures and colors more pronounced, much like living lichen on rock. It is part of our extensive Red List–free product portfolio, meaning it does not use materials that pollute the environment or that are harmful to humans. Lichen also carries a Declare label, which provides total ingredient transparency and ensures specifiers are selecting healthy and safe products for their commercial spaces. The product is stored in packaging approved by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, an independent nonprofit that encourages and promotes responsible forestry management.

Beauty

The Lichen Collection was designed to enrich our connection to the natural world by using biophilic design principles. Each color in the collection represents a different species of lichen, with a distinct growth pattern, pile height and ratio of bloom to rock substrate. Lichen also gives us an opportunity to educate the public about Mohawk’s ecological innovations and community partnerships — inspiring us to find new ways to leave a positive handprint as we transform the built environment like never before.