Sustainability is Good Business at Momentum

If you happen to believe, as I do, that 99% + of climate scientist are on to something when they say human activity is the main driver of the climate change we’re all seeing – trying to figure out what we can do about it can be daunting.

The frame of mind that says, “anything I could do would be inconsequential, so I won’t do anything!” is very seductive. And on top of that we have certain senators saying that, “…manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

Most of us realize how wrong-headed that is and there is actually a lot our industry can do collectively. As architects, interior designers, manufacturers, reps and dealers we influence if not control significant use of resources that are either irreplaceable or that contribute to the emissions of greenhouse gases. Bodies such as USGBC and The Living Building Challenge have developed “green” certification programs that can help steer design efforts. And similarly the BIFMA Level certification program can help manufacturers establish programs that lead them to a more sustainable future while providing specifiers with a way to reward companies that are working to become more sustainable. And given the creativity of our community, once we decide to go down that path the opportunities multiply exponentially.

For several years I’ve been aware of the ongoing sustainability programs at Momentum Textiles so when it recently it announced it had achieved a major milestone it seemed an auspicious time to call CEO, Roger Arciniega to discuss Momentum’s sustainability program. In case you missed the announcement, the milestone I’m referring to is that 100% of Momentum Textilesproduct offering is either made from recycled fibers or rapidly renewable natural fibers and no Momentum Textile contains PVC. In addition all of its products are Greenguard certified.

Momentum employees volunteering in a community outreach program.
Momentum employees volunteering in a community outreach program. Photography: Courtesy of Momentum Textiles.

Officeinsight (OI): This is an amazing achievement. How long did it take you to do it?

Roger Arciniega (RA): “Since the very beginning of the company we’ve had as a core value, ‘Bettering the World Around us.’ So we’ve always been concerned about the environment. But about a decade ago we saw the industry starting to get serious about sustainability with BIFMA working on its levelTM program and ACT (Association for Contract Textiles) developing its factsTM program and we felt like the whole industry was definitely headed this way. So we asked ourselves what we could do from our growing position in the industry to nudge this movement along.

The “In Motion Collection and Crypton Green, the first product line to achieve 50% polyester and 50% post industrial polyester construction.
The “In Motion Collection and Crypton Green, the first product line to achieve 50% polyester and 50% post industrial polyester construction.

As we got going with projects the way we got a lot of encouraging signs from the market that working toward greater sustainability, in addition to bettering the world around us, would be a good thing in terms of its commercial impact on our company. At one point Interior Design published a study indicating that two of the most important things designers viewed as positive characteristics of textiles were sustainability and performance. And in last year’s report on the top 100 specifying firms we saw that in 87% of their projects sustainability was a key driver.”

OI: How about feedback from your own actual customers?

RA: “Oh that has been extremely positive. Companies like Google, Apple, Ford, Nike and Herman Miller have all responded very positively. And on the healthcare side, Kaiser is a sustainability powerhouse. They are going completely PVC free, not just in their furnishings but IV bags and everything – they’re going PVC free, which is no easy feat.”

OI: So tell us how you got there…what was the process?

Black + White, the first textile made from 100% post consumer recycled polyester.
Black + White, the first textile made from 100% post consumer recycled polyester.

RA: “First I have to say that we couldn’t have done it without our partnership with Unifi, the largest yarn manufacturer and our primary yarn supplier. They have taken a very progressive stance on sustainability and they’ve partnered with us in the creation of our substrate yarns. We wouldn’t have been able to get 100% of our product line either recycled or of natural fibers without them.

And then there are our weavers. They’ve worked with us on coming up with whole new constructions, on replacing some of the warp yarns, and so on. So this has been a long steady climb and a big team effort to get to this point and we are extremely proud to be able to say that we got here first. We hope everybody will get here too, but for now we are proud to be here as the first company that can make the statement that our product line is 100% recycled or from natural fibers and PVC Free.”

Indeed, it seems to me that the Momentum Group can serve as an excellent example of how the famous “triple bottom line” (social, environmental and financial) can work. As Mr. Arciniega said, it isn’t a short-term, quick-in and quick-out deal. So here is a sort of timeline of activities and achievements to show how success can build upon success, leading to an enviable record of positive environmental achievement.

2016.0418.MomTex5.Hue-First Air Jet Textrd Rec Poly
Hue, first air jet textured, recycled polyester.

1991: A Community Involvement Action Team is established to coordinate volunteer efforts, as employees are encouraged to “give back” to their communities through volunteerism.

2003: The introduction of “Hue,” the industry’s first air jet textured, recycled polyester.

2005: Momentum commits to developing a product line with “reduced environmental impact.”

2006: Crypton Green introduced consisting of 50% polyester and 50% post industrial recycled polyester.

2008: Black & White introduced consisting of 100% post consumer recycled polyester.

Silica, the breakthrough 100% silicone PVC replacement.
Silica, the breakthrough 100% silicone PVC replacement.

2008: Momentum’s first polyurethane fabric, Foray, is introduced.

2008: Tube Take Back Program began to re-use the tubes used to ship cut yardage to customers. From a small start this program has grown to provide 100% of the tubes used by Momentum.

2009: Perennial and Betula privacy curtains are introduced – the industry’s first from recycled polyester

2010: Solar panels installed on the corporate headquarters. The installation was cash flow positive in the first month of operation and is a net energy producer.

2010: PVC free vinyl performance alternative, Silica is introduced, wins Best of NeoCon Gold and becomes the company’s best selling product.

2016.0418.MomTex9.Net Energy Producer
Solar panels making the corporate headquarters a net energy producer.

2011: Momentum partners with the Conservation Fund to begin planting trees to offset carbon footprint.

2012: Naked Nylon, a solution dyed 100% recycled nylon is introduced. It contains no chemical finish and is bleach cleanable and can be recycled through Unifi’s Take Back program.

2012: Momentum it’s 2 Clicks sample recycling program proving that the cost of taking samples back is less than the cost of continuously making new ones.

Tubes returned from customers, ready to be used again
Tubes returned from customers, ready to be used again

2014: The company announces that all cars driven by Momentum sales reps will be fuel efficient, getting at least 36 MPG.

2016: Silica Prints provide designers with more PVC free aesthetic options and represents another milestone in the development of the silicone coated fabric’s development.

This stream of accomplishments is a great example of how the more we buy into the belief that our actions can contribute, the more we actually do contribute to building a future we can not only be proud of, but actually survive! It is inspiring.