Why we don't call ourselves
a "green" company

Despite the fact that two-thirds of our textiles are made up of mohair, silk, linen, cotton and wool - arguably natural or "green" materials - we feel it would be disingenuous to label ourselves as "green." Even if 100% of our textiles were natural, we could not claim to be "green." That's because we play a part in a larger process, a process we can't control at every step along the way. Do the cotton farmers who supply us practice sustainable agricultural techniques? Do the ranchers shear their sheep in the most humane way? We can't be certain. Likewise, we can't eliminate the carbon footprint left by shipping. While 99 percent of our beautiful mohair yarns are made out of natural, compostable fibers, transporting this product from Holland burns fuel, no matter how we do it. The truth is that "green" is a relative term. Consider bamboo, for example. It's often treated with so many chemicals during the manufacturing process that by the time the finished product gets into your home or office, it's likely to be laden with chemicals - including formaldehyde. Should that bamboo product be called "green"? Leather is another case in point. It may be natural, but the large expanses of land needed to raise cattle accelerate the deforestation of the planet. Moreover, cattle herds emit massive amounts of methane gas, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. That said, many of us reading this are wearing leather shoes — a personal choice.

Natural fibers and responsible textile manufacturing

Wool, cotton, silk, mohair and linen - mainstays of the Joseph Noble textile collection - are naturally renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. Bury any of them in loose moist soil, and they will return to the earth within five years. The lion's share of our textiles is not only made from these natural fibers but also manufactured under ecologically responsible circumstances. For example, our Pure Wool is produced in an environmentally friendly Scottish mill, using only natural gas with a low flame emission during its processing. The mill's Ciba dyes are free of heavy metals, the chemicals used are non-hazardous and waste materials are separated for recycling. The effluent from the finisher is so nontoxic that it is safely discharged into the river Tweed, one of Scotland's finest salmon-fishing rivers. Our Pure Silk is loom state, with no banned chemicals or dye stuffs used in any of the processing. Both the warp and weft are 100 percent natural silk. After degumming with Marseille soap, the silk is colored with Azofree dyes, using eco-sensitive production procedures. Many of our mills make large energy- and water-conservation investments. For example, our mills in Switzerland are equipped with heat-recycling systems that continually reduce CO2 output to comply with Kyoto Protocol standards. All chemicals used fall below existing risk-value norms. Additional safeguards will be considered for adoption as they become available.

PVC vs. polyurethane vs. leather

Our Technology Leathers™ are made from a variety of materials, including PVC and polyurethane. We use them because they provide durability, easy maintenance and the aesthetic qualities sought by many of our customers. PVC is the subject of considerable debate, because when burned, it releases dioxin, an environmentally hazardous gas. Despite the controversy, PVC pipe is widely used in construction. In fact, toys are often made with PVC. We acknowledge the validity of concerns about PVC. On the other hand, we recognize that when it's used wisely and responsibly, PVC can outlast and outperform other products in the marketplace. (Picture a restaurant banquette with red wine spills, a toddler's damp diapers on a chair, a wet dog on a sofa.) Since PVC outsurvives most alternatives(especially leather) and needs replacing far less often, a case could be made for calling it responsible or sustainable. It's a complicated issue, one we invite you to learn more about on the Environmental Protection Agency Web site at www.epa.gov. Polyurethane is often seen as a more environmentally friendly alternative to PVC, and we use it extensively for many of our products. Unfortunately, it can't be considered as a universal substitute, because polyurethane is five times more expensive than PVC, making it too costly for many uses. We continue to actively work with each of our suppliers to improve the environmental impact of our PVC and polyurethane products.

The "greening" of Joseph Noble,
a continuing process

Recent research has shown that most Americans think of themselves as custodians of the land and have a strong desire to manage natural resources to improve the soil, water and native vegetation. We share that viewpoint and in the sense of obligation that goes with it. We also recognize, and we hope our customers do too, that solving our environmental challenges is an evolutionary process. We are "greener" today than we were five years ago, and we will be "greener" tomorrow than we are right now. Each year, we promise to learn more and do more. We also promise to be as honest about our limitations as we are about our accomplishments. Lastly, we promise to practice, not to preach. Our job is not to prescribe behavior for others but to be responsible for our own. Stay tuned.