“The sugarcane plant has a lot of really great attributes to it,” said Mr. Goldman, “including the fact that it has a much higher yield than corn per acre. For every unit of sugarcane-based material, it makes nine and a half units of renewable energy, as opposed to corn, which results in 1.4 units of energy. In South America, countries like Brazil run on sugarcane.” Unlike many materials made from corn, sugarcane does not require genetic modification. “The other big concern with most plant-based manufacturing products is if it takes away from a food source for people. Growing sugar only takes 1% of arable land in Brazil,” he said. Plenty of room left over for the rainforest.
Showing a pile of white pellets derived from the sugarcane plant, Mr. Goldman noted, “this is what the base material looks like before color is added. We generate electricity from the sugarcane in the production plant, then add color and produce the yarn, which is all powered by biogenic energy.” As before, Xorel is produced in Europe. “Everything happens at exactly the same production facility as before,” said Mr. Goldman, “it is just that the raw material resource is different.” Looking even further ahead to the next plant-based source for Xorel, “it might algae,” added Mr. Goldman. “All of this is less about the raw material than it is about reducing the impact on the environment to create Xorel in the first place. The growth of the sugarcane plant naturally captures carbon dioxide. To produce a ton of sugarcane, you’re actually capturing two and a half tons of carbon dioxide.”
Typically when companies introduce an innovation, sustainable or other-wise, questions about available quantities of the raw material and differences in price soon get asked by designers and resource librarians. “Rest assured, the new bio-based Xorel has the same price and same performance,” said Mr. Goldman. ”We took our three most popular patterns, Strie, Nexus, and Dash, and re-colored them. This was only because they were due for re-coloring anyway,” he said. “Now, we are producing them only as biobased product.” Three new patterns, embroideries Abacus and Topiary, and an embossed design called Veneer, are also part of the bio-based Xorel launch.
Going from a measurable negative environmental impact to a positive one is not just the cost of doing business these days; priorities such as this speak to the ethical imperatives of a company. Carnegie has titled the launch of the bio-based Xorel In Our Nature, which refers not only about the core competencies of the company, but it’s inherent DNA. “Our clients usually want to know the why about any company,” said Mr. Goldman. “Why your company does what it does. There are a lot of good products out there. I think it is becoming less and less about what companies make, and more about why. We want to align ourselves with designers who think the way we think and they want to align themselves with companies that think along similar lines. This is very much about a way to run a business and think about the future.”
Carnegie’s culture as a company is focused on continuous improvement. “The nature of our company is not just about having something good and standing still,” said Mr. Goldman. Textile designer Heather Bush, Vice president of Creative at Carnegie, said, “When we look back on everything, where Xorel was and how it was the vision of Cliff’s father; in this case, Cliff had a vision for Xorel, and we pushed it forward. When we got the Cradle to Cradle Silver certification several years ago, that was our roadmap for the next step.