April 1, 2020

Sunbrella’s Path to Sustainability

Sliver being spun into yarn at the Sunbrella plant. Photography courtesy of Sunbrella. 

All across the art, design and architecture industry, everyone from product manufacturers to textile designers is making moves to integrate sustainability into their practices. Not only because it’s what clients are asking for, but because it’s essential to maintain a business that relies on natural resources: reduce, reuse, recycle. One company’s journey from fiber to fabric embraces an unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship.

Warp yarns are tied into the loom at Sunbrella’s Anderson, SC plant, which meets international standards for reducing environmental impactPhotography courtesy of Sunbrella.

Sunbrella, a vertically-integrated fabric brand, is moving the industry forward in sustainable manufacturing. From working closely with manufacturers to develop and source the highest quality proprietary raw materials to their engineers that work with fiber suppliers on initial formulations, Sunbrella is able to consistently drive optimal product quality. But to make sure all of that is done sustainably, they have skilled technical experts with an additional team trained in sustainability to ensure sustainable manufacturing processes are used throughout the fabric production cycle. 

Fiber recycled through the Recycle My Sunbrella Program, “Shoddy” (made from recycled fibers), as it is referred to in the processing plant, is fed to carding machines and made into a new yarn. Photography courtesy of Sunbrella.

Making use of the sun, not wasting water, and nixing landfills are a few ways that Sunbrella’s production cycle remains environmentally friendly. Sunbrella’s parent company owns and operates solar arrays in North and South Carolina that collectively generate 1.5 megawatts of energy—capable of producing enough energy to power over 150 homes. Sunbrella fabrics are also solution dyed, which, unlike conventional coloring processes, reduces wastewater, and no Sunbrella manufacturing facility in the world sends waste to a landfill.  In the last year alone, 2.5 million pounds of textile waste were recycled throughout the brand’s facilities in the U.S.

Textile waste is inevitable for manufacturing facilities. That’s why Sunbrella is doing its part to be resourceful and find meaningful ways to turn waste into something unique and beautiful. Photography courtesy of Sunbrella.

Where does the recycled material go? Back into the market. The company transforms discarded fibers into Sunbrella Renaissance yarns to create recycled upholstery fabrics containing up to 93 percent recycled content. The fiber blend helps ensure that the product meets stringent performance standards. Sacrificing style for sustainability is a thing of the past. 

Columns of oversized spools of yarn lined the Javits Center’s Great Hall during Interior Design’s Hall of Fame gala last year, showcasing the journey from fiber to fabricPhotography courtesy of Sunbrella.

A commitment to a better future requires cooperation and community. Recycle My Sunbrella is a take-back initiative providing an alternative to disposal of fabric waste for customers and consumers. Additionally, Sunbrella has received a multitude of sustainable certifications from independent, third-party organizations such as UL Environment and their GREENGUARD GOLD program—which assures upholstery fabrics are made with low chemical emissions, contributing to healthy indoor air quality—to Hohenstein Technical Textile Institute, independent industry experts, who verify Sunbrella upholstery fabrics contain no harmful substances, according to their STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®.  

A look at the making of Sunbrella performance fabrics, which are manufactured in the U.S., from fiber to fabric. Color is prevalent even in the yarns. Photography courtesy of Sunbrella.

Fabrics that don’t meet high performance standards have predictably shorter life spans.  Sunbrella is dedicated to engineering fabrics that last longer and don’t need to be replaced often, ultimately creating less waste. More so, the company is proud to give clients a guarantee that their products meet rigorous company standards which go above and beyond just meeting regulations.

Sunbrella’s installations at Interior Design’s 2019 Hall of Fame gala created a narrative of the firm’s sustainability story and a lasting memory for guests. Photography courtesy of Sunbrella.

Learn more about Sunbrella’s sustainability programs at https://www.sunbrella.com/sunbrella-sustainability 

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