Image credit: Organic Weave
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Whether you’re looking to do a full revamp of your home or just want something to freshen up the vibe of a room, the right rug can really pull together a whole room. It can create coziness, make a statement, and anchor your furniture in your space.
Generally, rugs require a huge investment and need to withstand heavy foot traffic. Be sure to choose a floor covering that’s not only functional for your space, but also beautifully and ethically made using sustainable materials.
What to look for in ethical and sustainable rugs:
Natural, deadstock, or recycled fabrics. Always go for natural or certified organic fibers when you can. Most store rugs are made from synthetic fibers like Olefin (aka polypropylene) and nylon, which are derived from petrochemicals and may emit toxic VOCs in your apartment. Choose rugs that are made from natural fibers like jute, cotton, hemp, bamboo silk, wool, or palm fibers. GOTS is a good certification to look out for when it comes to wool, especially. Recycled or deadstock materials are also great at supporting the circular economy and reducing waste.
Non-toxic dyes and finishes. Many brands use synthetic dyes and finishes since they tend to be cheaper and easier to use, but as with most things synthetic, they can be toxic for the environment, the people making them, and you. Look for brands that say they use natural and/or non-toxic dyes. If it’s not clear if a rug is made from natural or certified organic materials and dyes, look out for labels like Oeko-Tex, which certify that a product is free of toxins that are harmful to both people and the environment.
Many rugs also contain other harmful toxins from glues and chemical coatings, including flame retardants and stain-resistant finishes. And if you see promises of stain resistance, look further into how that is achieved. That is often achieved using toxic PFAS.
Fair labor. As always, make sure you make sure the brand is following fair labor practices. Go for small artisan brands that provide information about their workers, or look out for labels like Fair Trade, GoodWeave or Care & Fair Certification. Rugs are an especially great item to get from an artisan brand, as they have a rich tradition in almost every society around the world.
Transparency. Choose brands that prioritize transparency in their supply chains. Do they tell you where and how your rug was made? Detailed sustainability reports are a big plus, as is naming all the stages of manufacturing — cut-and-sew, textile dyeing and finishing, fabric spinning… all the way back to the farm. For more information on how to tell if a brand is sustainable and ethical, check out our guide here.
Durability and timelessness. With all the foot traffic rugs see, durability is a must. Not to mention pets, kids, and spilled food. Choose a rug made with good quality materials that will last you a while. And of course, choose one that you will genuinely love for a long time!
B Corp certified. A B Corp Certification is a certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance, from supply chain and input materials to employee benefit and more. Look out for brands that are B Corp Certified.
The best brands for ethical and sustainable rugs:
Organic Weave’s handwoven rugs are made from GOTS-certified, 100% organic cotton and wool. They’re dyed using all-natural dyes, and are free of several toxic chemicals that are harmful to both human and environmental health — all the way from the farm to your home. These include synthetic pesticides and fungicides while growing the cotton, cleaning agents like bleach and formaldehyde, synthetic dyes, and chemical treatments to reduce stains and flame retardants. Every Organic Weave rug is certified free of illegal child labor by GoodWeave.
MINNA is a certified B Corp, queer-led business based in Hudson, NY that stocks ethically made home goods. It collaborates with artisans across Central and South America, ensuring craft preservation and job creation in these regions. Its rug collection includes rugs made from wool and cotton, which are naturally dyed using vegetables, plants, and nuts. Designs are inspired by Feminist art, the Bauhaus, traditional craft, and vintage textiles, and you can find rugs in flatweave and shaggy styles in neutrals with bold, abstract patterns. Each rug comes with a description of the maker, and you can read more about the artisans they partner with on their website.
The Citizenry collaborates with workshops and artisans around the world, blending contemporary designs with traditional techniques. By partnering with craftspeople, they achieve premium quality and support fair trade standards. All its products are made with a fair trade process audited and guaranteed by the World Fair Trade Organization. The Citizenry team personally travels to each country, and by doing so they create strong relationships with their collaborators and are able to audit the locally sourced materials.
CICIL uses minimally processed wool for its rugs, which is sourced from family farms in New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania. It doesn’t use any synthetic dyes and instead sticks to the natural hues of the fiber, resulting in a collection of lovely neutral rugs. Wool naturally has antimicrobial and stain-resisting properties, so the rugs aren’t treated with toxic chemicals and finishes. It is also a renewable, eco-friendly resource. Shearing is necessary to lighten the load of the sheep before the summer, and it yields a renewable fiber called “greasy wool”, which is a raw fiber that’s ready to be cleaned, washed, and (minimally) processed. You can read more about its supply chain and process on its website. CICIL only makes rugs to order to avoid stocking excess inventory which results in waste.
Obakki’s beautiful collection of rugs is handwoven by artisans from Mexico to South Africa. One of the materials used in the rugs is 100% mohair fiber, which comes from the fleece of an Angora goat and is soft, durable, naturally stain resistant, and non-flammable. The rugs are either undyed, retaining the lovely natural color hues of the wool, or dyed using natural, non-toxic pigments.
Definitely one of the more contemporary options in this list, Cold Picnic’s rugs will make your home look like a modern art museum. The rugs are handmade by skilled artisans in India in a production unit that is 100% powered by solar energy. The factories are Goodweave- and C&F-certified, which requires complete supply chain transparency, commitment to children’s and workers’ rights (which means no child or forced labor), and strengthened worker communities. The rugs are made from bamboo silk yarn or natural hemp, dyed with eco-friendly dyes, and are not treated with any chemical coatings. Cold Picnic also has a Deadstock rug collection, which is made from leftover yarn. Some of the pieces in this collection are literally one of a kind, since they are made with whatever leftover fabric is available.