Business Ethics and Rug Pad Sales – When “Green” becomes “Gray”

How far are we willing to go, to call a product "GREEN"?

A Gray Area in Marketing and Advertising

    We live in a society where almost everything we touch has been altered, transformed, malformed or mutated. How long will we continue to accept a manufacturers claim that their product is environmentally safe, simply because they are willing to twist the truth? Most products that are being marketed as "Green", are still synthetic (man-made). For quite a long time, we have accepted the fact that man-made products are often cheaper than natural products. It is a fact that all-leather shoes will cost you more than those made from man-made materials. We also know which one is the better product, but our cash only goes so far, so we settle for synthetics. No big problem, just an effect of economics. The recent problem we are having is that claims are being made about synthetic products that surpass the true meaning of Green, Organic, or Eco-Friendly. Marketers are going out of the bounds of ethics and human reason, to make their product stand out as; "The best Green product that you simply must buy, if you care about our planet". The following paragraphs explain my objections to this recent trend and why I consider it unethical.

    I was browsing online the other day, looking at various rug pads to see what is available. Most rug pads on the market are made from synthetic materials and the synthetic variety has caused problems for many people. I was searching to make certain that all-felt rug pads were still available as these are the safest type to use on top of most flooring. Synthetic rug pads will usually damage flooring such as vinyl, hard-wood, non-glazed ceramic tile and even laminate, if left in one place for too long. In an effort to make rug pads non-slip many rug pads are made from synthetic materials such as polyurethane, which is the same material used to finish hard-wood floors. This often would result in the rug pad making a molecular bond to the hard-wood surface, which meant scraping and re-finishing the floor. Now we see synthetic cushions that are just as bad. Rug pads of other synthetic materials will cause yellowing or sub-surface moisture problems. Usually poly-blends with a scrim (thin coating) on one side that is supposed to provide protection for the rug or the floor. But if the scrim is also synthetic what have we gained? I have always suggested an all-felt pad to my clients, as this is the type that will do the least damage (if any). Now those are becoming a rare item to find. Many of the felt pads available today are a blend of synthetics. If you must use a rug pad, use one that the ability to "breathe" (allow moisture and gases to pass through them).

    I said all that to get to this. As I browsed the rug cushions that were available, I came across some that were being touted as "organic", or as having a "low carbon footprint". The reason for their claim that it is an organic product is that the scrim (thin protective coating) is made from a vegetable oil base. The rest of the cushion is made from the same materials as before (a synthetic, poly-blend), only the thin scrim coating is advertised as organic. While this is definitely a tiny step in the right direction, it is still a man-made, synthetic product. Just because a product is made from vegetable oils bases, and not petroleum bases, does not negate the fact that it is still synthetic. As far as the carbon footprint is concerned, well, most all things earthly (especially living things) are carbon based, how can you lower that footprint. Here is the dictionary definition of Organic:

or•gan•ic \or-"ga-nik\ adj 1 : of, relating to, or arising in a bodily organ 2 : of, relating to, or derived from living things 3 : of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds 4 : of or relating to a branch of chemistry dealing with carbon compounds 5 : involving, producing, or dealing in foods produced without the use of laboratory-made fertilizers, growth substances, antibiotics, or pesticides
(c)2000 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.  All rights reserved

The only way I can see to get away with calling it Organic is related to the second part of the definition. That a portion of the product is derived from living things. If that is the basis for the claim, then we could argue that even crude oil is Organic, since it was derived from once living things.

    The Flooring industry, and many other industries are taking advantage of a public perception of "Green" (eco-friendly, environmentally- friendly, etc…).  In my opinion, for something to be entirely Green, it must still exist in it’s natural state, not having been chemically altered. Perhaps I am too literal with my perception, but I would never be able to sleep at night if I took advantage of people’s perception in this manner. In reference to the rug pad, and how it is being marketed… In my mind, it would be a similar circumstance to take a toy soldier made of lead, glue a leaf to it and give it to one of my grand-children to play with saying that it has been rendered safe now; because "I made it become Organic by covering it with a leaf".

    I am really trying not to be hard-headed about this, but I think that the terminology of marketing and advertising something as "Green" has really taken a turn for the worse. If it is not illegal, then it must simply be unethical. Yet we hold the responsibility when we allow ourselves to be deluded by such false pretenses. As consumers, we must demand to be treated intelligently and morally. Ecology is becoming an increasingly "gray" area. Our buying power will determine what will be acceptable when referring to "Green".

    If you are concerned about the future of our planet, and you want an area rug that reflects your concern for the environment, May I suggest Wool Fiber Rugs. Hand-made Flat-weave rugs are the closest to Organic that you will find. Even machine-made wool rugs have an absolute minimum of synthetics in them (usually just the backing that they are woven into is synthetic, and causes no damage or harm to you or your floors). If you want the best "Green" for your green (wool rugs such as those on our web site, do not cost much more than inferior synthetics), Wool Area Rugs are the more logical and responsible choice.

Charles Beason,


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About Charles Beason

Flooring Consultant/ Estimator, Bi-vocational Pastor of Oasis Missionary Baptist Church, Internet Business Owner, Webmaster.

Posted on June 25, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

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