Mind & Matter


Anderson’s Green Legacy

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Ray Anderson, founder of Interface. Photo by Corbis.


I’ve been ruminating over the sad departure of Ray Anderson, founder of carpet tile company Interface and designated “America’s greenest businessman” by the Economist. After his epiphany to make his company more environmentally responsible in 1994, Anderson made significant and admirable changes in the way Interface manages material and energy resources. In less than 20 years, the company dropped its carbon emissions by 92 percent, lowered its water consumption by 75 percent, and resurrected 74,000 tons of carpet from landfills.

In today’s stagnating economy, it is easy for businesses to gloss over Anderson’s accomplishments as boom-time luxuries, based on the idea that investments in environmentally responsible practices burden the bottom line. However, an astonishing fact of Anderson’s legacy is that Interface profited handsomely from its transformation, with sales increases of 66 percent and double the profits since its adoption of green strategies. Imagine what the U.S. economy might be like if 10 percent of companies adopted the “Anderson effect,” or even 50 percent. It could be a green material revolution accompanied by unprecedented economic benefit—a much needed boost to the U.S. economy and a fitting testament to the vision of America’s greenest businessman.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.