Committee on the Environment

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The Committee on the Environment (COTE®) is an AIA Knowledge Community working for architects, allied professionals, and the public to achieve climate action and climate justice through design. We believe that design excellence is the foundation of a healthy, sustainable, and equitable future. Our work promotes design strategies that empower all AIA members to realize the best social and environmental outcomes with the clients and the communities they serve.

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To learn about the Framework for Design Excellence (formerly the COTE Top Ten Measures), click here.

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Starting a local COTE or sustainability group and need some guidance? Check out the AIA COTE Network Resources here.

A big thank you to our 2024 sponsors: 
Founding sponsors: Building Green
Premier sponsors: Sherwin-Williams, Stantec
Sustaining sponsors: GAF Roofing, Milliken, Andersen Windows,
BlueScope Buildings
Green sponsors: EPIC Metals
Allied sponsors: TLC Engineering, Sierra Pacific Windows

Milliken on Tackling Material Health and Embodied Carbon By Sarah Robinson Enaharo

By Eana Bacchiocchi posted 02-16-2022 09:57 AM


Milliken & Company has been a steward of the environment and for more than 100 years.  The company was founded in 1865, and its first recycling policy was documented in 1900.  It was this year that we began reusing packaging and textile materials in our operations. Soon after, in 1912, we began utilizing hydroelectric energy to power the textile plant. We installed a wastewater treatment system in 1962, prior to the establishment of the EPA and were the first carpet manufacturer to use landfill methane gas as an energy source. Our US flooring manufacturing facilities have sent zero waste to landfills since 1992. Milliken & Company is a founding member of the WELL Living Lab and the U.S. Green Building Council. We are a signatory to the UN Global Compact and our strategy aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 


With all these environmental achievements, one interesting thing about Milliken is that 50 times a day you are likely to come into contact with a Milliken product. For example, our chemical division produces materials that make duct tape strong and tear able, as well as detergents, sponges, and bowling balls colorful. Children’s paints and markers to make them washable. School sports gear, shoes, and uniforms to reduce odor and improve comfort, the list goes on.  


With four divisions, Chemicals, Textiles, Healthcare, and Floor Covering, sustainability is a core value that is embedded across the organization because we know that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity, and we feel the urgency to take action. Today our carpet, LVT, and entryway tiles are carbon neutral everywhere in the world through purchasing offsets. (We offset the raw materials and manufacturing carbon footprint by using third party Verified Carbon Standard Credits,)   

As we have in the past, we will continue to invest in new technology and create flooring products that use less raw materials while enhancing wellbeing. We’ve offered PVC free carpet since 1986. Our modular carpet in the Americas are C2C Silver, and Certified Declare® Red List Free by a third party. All our flooring products have 100% transparency in materials to 100ppm. We prioritize sourcing materials locally and we manufacture our products regionally to decrease shipping distances.  


Combining both a focus on material health and embodied carbon, we offer a holistic approach to a flooring solution. Our D/LUX Series Collection uses innovative yarn and tufting technology to deliver comfort, high design and style with less raw material, reducing the embodied carbon. It is luxury dematerialized.  


So, what is next for us? We recently achieved a B score by CDP and have set 2025 goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and solid waste by 25%. As well as increase our renewable energy use by 10 times. I’m excited to share that a solar system was recently installed on our Northmead manufacturing plant in Sydney, Australia. 


We are engaging our suppliers to ensure accurate data is in our LCAs and as suppliers advance their environmental goals, it will be reflected in our EPDs. The biggest contributor to embodied carbon in our products is yarn. We continue to explore yarn options with higher recycled content and lower embodied carbon that can be offered globally. Lastly, we will continue to explore renewable energy options as well as new technologies and equipment to improve processes that are energy intensive.  


As a new supporter of AIA’s Committee of the Environment, we are excited to partner with architects, designers, and students to further all our commitments to the built environment. Future generations are counting on us.  


Sarah Robinson Enaharo, LEED AP, MSc, is a Sustainability Director at Milliken with ten years’ shaping strategies, activating change to embed sustainability into operations across industrial, manufacturing, NGO, and government sectors. Sarah serves in leadership roles on the USGBC LEED Steering Committee, IWBI Health Equity Advisory Board and a Board Member of the National Center of Healthy Housing. She has spoken at over 15+ roundtables and industry events on circular economy, material health, and indoor air quality including Greenbiz, FUSE, USGBC Greenbuild and Refocus. She has been recognized as Greenbiz 30 under 30. Sarah earned a Master of Science in Engineering & Technology Management from the George Washington University in Washington, DC and a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Syracuse University.