Ray Anderson, America's greenest businessman, died on August 8th, aged 77.
WHEN Ray Anderson first encountered the concept at an international conference, it took his breath away. It was so smart, so right. It was flexible, practical, beautiful, and made perfect sense. He knew right then that modular soft-surfaced floor coverings (carpet tiles, in other words), could change the world.
Others thought he was round the bend. When he decided to give up his job at Milliken Carpet in LaGrange, Georgia to set up a 15-person carpet company, and was clearing out his desk that February of 1973, two colleagues looked in. “We don't think you can do this,” they told him. He replied, in his languid, ever-courteous southern lilt, “The hell you say.” Fifteen years later his company, renamed Interface, was the biggest carpet-tile maker on the planet.
This also made Mr Anderson a considerable plunderer of the earth. He never thought about that at first. To his mind he was no more a thief of Nature than when, a country boy during the Depression, he had hooked 20-pound channel catfish, now long gone, out of the Chattahoochee River. His business complied with government regulations. His product, too, was much less wasteful than broadloom carpet, since you could easily cut the tiles to run cables underneath, and replace them one by one as they wore out. They were, it was true, almost entirely made of petroleum in some form or another. Some pretty bad stuff was used in the dye and the glue. More than 200 smokestacks blackened the sky to produce them. But boardrooms laid with Interface carpet tiles looked and felt a million dollars.
这也使得安德森先生成为了一位重要的地球资源劫掠者。开始的时候，他从来没有考虑过这点。在他看来，他已不再是一个自然界的小偷了。而当大萧条期间，当时还是乡村男孩的他还从从查特胡奇河（或意译为多彩的岩石河）（Chattahoochee River）钓上了现在早已没有了的20磅重的水渠鲶鱼。他的生意遵循着政府的规章制度，公司的产品也远不及阔幅地毯浪费那么多，因为人们很容易割断这些小方地毯而在下面铺上电缆，而且，当它们用坏了时，人们可以逐一替换它们。事实上，这些小方地毯几乎完全以石油的这种或那种形式制造而成。一些非常有害的东西可用于染料和胶水。公司的200多个大烟囱冒着浓浓的黑烟在生产这些小地毯。但是，铺上了界面股份有限公司（Interface Inc.）小方地毯董事会的会议室看上去让人认为相当豪华。
The turning point, his “mid-course correction”, came in 1994. He was 60, but not yet ready to retire to the mountains or chase a little white ball. Under pressure from customers to produce some sort of environmental strategy for his company, he got a small task-force together. Someone gave him a book, Paul Hawken's “The Ecology of Commerce” to help him prepare his first speech on the subject. Thumbing vaguely through it, he chanced on a chapter called “The Death of Birth”, about the extinction of species. Reading on, he came to a passage about reindeer being wiped out on St Matthew Island in the Bering Sea. Suddenly, the tears were running down his face. A spear-point had jammed into his heart. It was the very same feeling, he said later, as when he had first seen carpet tiles, but orders of magnitude larger. He was to blame for making the world worse. Now he had to make it better.
Interface, he decided, would leave no print on the green-and-blue carpet of the world. By 2020 it would take nothing from the earth that could not be rapidly replenished. It would produce no greenhouse-gas emissions and no waste. That meant using renewables rather than fossil fuel; endeavouring to make carpet tiles out of carbohydrate polymers rather than petroleum; and recycling old-carpet sludge into pellets that could be used as backing.
Some of the technologies Mr Anderson hoped for (and half-envisaged, as a graduate in systems engineering from his much-loved Georgia Tech) had not been invented when he started. Several colleagues thought he had gone round the bend again. He had to bring them along slowly, in his quiet way, until they “got it” by themselves. But by 2007 the company was, he reckoned, about halfway up “Mount Sustainability”. Greenhouse-gas emissions by absolute tonnage were down 92% since 1995, water usage down 75%, and 74,000 tonnes of used carpet had been recovered from landfills. The $400m he was saving each year by making no scrap and no off-quality tiles more than paid for the R&D and the process changes. As much as 25% of the company's new material came from “post-consumer recycling”. And he was loaded with honours and awards as the greenest businessman in America.
Most satisfying of all, sales had increased by two-thirds since his conversion, and profits had doubled. For Mr Anderson always kept his eye on the bottom line. He could be sentimental, ending his many public speeches with an apologetic poem to “Tomorrow's Child” written by an employee after one of his pep talks, but he was only half a dreamer. His company was his child, too. Profits mattered. This made some greens snipe at him, but it also made Walmart send two of its senior people round to his factory in LaGrange to see what he was doing right. As a success, he could powerfully influence others.
The forest floor
He never dreamed of giving up carpet tiles. Their beauty and variety delighted him, just as Nature's did. In his office in LaGrange they were laid out like abstract art on tables, while hanks of yarn hung on the walls. His company introduced Cool Carpet?, which had made no contribution to global warming all along the supply chain, and multicoloured FLOR for the home, “practical and pretty, too”. He was proudest, though, of Entropy?, a carpet-tile design inspired directly by the forest floor. No two tiles were alike: no two sticks, no two leaves. They could be laid and replaced quite randomly, even used in bits, eliminating waste. And when you lay down on them you might almost be in Mr Anderson's 86-acre piece of forest near Atlanta, listening to the sparrows in the long-leaf pines, rejoicing in being a non-harming part of the web of life, like him.
他从来没有想到要放弃小方地毯。它们的美丽和多样性一如自然界的美丽和多样性，都能让他开心不已。在他拉格兰奇的办公室里，这些小方地毯就像抽象艺术一样摊开在桌子上，而多绞纱线则挂在墙上。他的公司推出了注册酷地毯（Cool Carpet?）为商标的地毯和为家庭推出了“实用而且漂亮”的多色彩的弗洛尔（FLOR）地毯。生产这种酷地毯（Cool Carpet?）的一系列的供应链上对全球气候变暖都不会起作用。但是，他最值得骄傲的是注册了熵（Entropy）为商标的小方地毯。这种小方地毯的设计直接受到森林地面的启发。没有两片小方地毯是相似的，因为没有两根枯枝或两片叶子是相似的。这些小方地毯可以相当随机地铺设和替换，即使用的很少，也杜绝浪费。当你躺在这些小方地毯上时，你或许就像在亚特兰大附近安德森先生的86-英亩森林的一部分，就像他一样倾听着长叶松上的麻雀叽叽喳喳，为成为生物织物的无害部分而尽情高兴。