large pile of colorful Turkish rugs

The Sustainability of Turkish Rugs

Amazon Influencers Are Taking Over

In a world full of Amazon influencers, TikTok Shop and fast-fashion/home-goods, we’re increasingly pulled to dive into the world of slow-fashion and the newly dubbed ‘slow fashion movement’. Social media plays a big role in sharing and determining what is considered “trendy”, oftentimes intensifying mass consumerism in ways that would not happen without social media exposure. 

However, we’ve seen a rise in communities who care about thrifting, shopping sustainably, and purchasing up-cycled + handmade goods. As these communities grow, they’re sharing their passion, values, and the lasting impact on local, small-business and the environment. Hopefully, it’s here to stay.  

This goes for home decor as well. We are guilty of being part of the immediate gratification, convenient, more affordable, dupe world. But since starting High Pile Designs, thinking about the waste that goes into home decor pieces has challenged us to think and spend differently. And we have a different, personal interest in changing our habits to better reflect the business we’ve created, while also doing our part for the environment and other small business owners.

Our hope is that we can share what we’ve learned so you can take this information and challenge yourself to think about how you’re bringing pieces into your home.

What is Fast Home-wear?

You’ve heard about fast-fashion (if you haven’t…where the hell have you’ve been, Loca?), but what is fast home-wear?

It’s the same idea - the idea that as a society, we’ve moved to habits of buying based on temporary trends, buying impulsively vs. long-lasting and buying out of convenience without thinking of the repercussions. This results in companies quickly churning out high volumes of product to capitalize on trends and sales, only for the next “fast” trend to come days or weeks later, overproducing even more goods. 

In 2022, Refinery29 wrote an amazing article detailing the rise of fast homewear and its hold on us. Favorite retail brands like Zara and H&M have extended their product lines to include Home-wear brands (Zara Home, H&M Home) that are deepening their hold on consumers.

No surprise, but social media is a big culprit here. We’re all more inclined to make our home life more appealing, put together, and then share that with the world. During COVID, this only increased. As we were all forced to be inside, the need to create a space for ourselves that felt comfortable, creative and fun was exacerbated. And post-COVID, we’re in a new normal. 

We change our minds monthly, maybe even weekly about what we want in our homes, just like on our bodies. Daily content of something new to buy is shoved in our faces as people film and share unboxing and shopping haul videos (oftentimes, it’s also product they were sent for free).

Most of the time, it’s not people we know or follow. We just fell into the algorithm and are now being convinced to buy something from a stranger because they’re telling us “we need this”. And we start to feel like we need it too! 

Then days or weeks later, when the newest style or trend goes viral, we buy even more. Last month’s purchases are either forgotten about or even worse, thrown away. And what we throw away more often than not ends up in a landfill in another part of the world. Out of sight, out of mind. 

Machine-made Rug Materials

Let's relate this back to the rise of machine-made rugs. 

Many retailers and influencers are pushing the purchase of trendy items, and that includes machine-made rugs. A focus on sustainability and quality pieces just isn’t the norm - convenience and trends are. Now, even influencers are partnering with big brands, like Ruggable, for collaborations based on TV shows and Disney brands.

When you dive deeper, machine-made rugs are actually pretty dangerous for the environment. Most are made from plastics that take years to break down (and mostly they don’t at all). And unfortunately, that machine-made rug you bought off Amazon, Target or even TJ Maxx at a discount, has plastics or chemicals from inorganic color sources. 

Currently in the US, the biggest ‘trend’ for rugs is a neutral, faded look. And more often than not, this means the wool has been stripped from its natural dye and coloring using bleach. Not only does this take the natural color from the wool, but it breaks down the fibers and makes the rug less durable.  

IF these fibers break down, they release methane into the environment - one of the most powerful greenhouse gasses. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there - chemicals from these rugs also spill over into the surrounding environment, especially when they end up in landfills.

The BBC recently posted that the ‘Amount of plastic on Earth outweighs all land and sea creatures currently alive’. Plastic has been found in the stomach’s of sea creatures and even in human placentas (a learning that has been hard to swallow, no pun intended). 

It’s bigger than us - it’s about the planet. If each of us can change our habits slightly, the little changes add up to bigger changes.

SO, our hope is that you think about this the next time you’re shopping. 

Why are Turkish Rugs Sustainable?

Turkish rugs are sustainable not just because each made is one-of-a-kind, but because of the materials used within the rugs. Wool, cotton and silk make up the three most common materials used in Turkish rugs and all of these materials are both renewable and biodegradable, making them sustainable. 

You could literally throw your rug outside and leave it there and eventually it would decompose. Obviously we don’t recommend doing that, but how insane is that?

Let’s compare this to a rug from Target or Amazon. Machine-made rugs have an average lifespan of ~3-5 years (sometimes longer) depending on where they live in your house. When you’re looking to get rid of said rug, it goes in the garbage because the materials used to construct this rug are not biodegradable or renewable. 

My favorite reason Turkish rugs are sustainable? They are built to last for generations. By now you’ve heard us talk about this quite a few times, but our oldest rug is 90 years old. NINETY! Older than our grandmother! 

If you take good care of Turkish rugs, they become family heirlooms you can pass down to your children and their children. Not to mention, it’s unique to you and your home. Maybe it’s just us, but we value having and owning pieces that have their own story - not something that could be found in dozens of homes in your neighborhood. 

And not only do Turkish rugs last, but they are turned into beautiful pillows, cushions, coasters (stay tuned), and MORE when no longer usable for their original purpose.

What’s in for 2024? Originality and pieces unique to you that will LAST. 

Supporting Sustainability 

By supporting local artisans and small-scale producers, we can help sustain traditional crafts and promote fair labor practices - which is much different than you’ll find in large-scale factories pumping out machine-made rugs. 

Many weaving communities rely on these rugs as a source of income, and by investing in their products, you can empower these communities to thrive economically while also preserving their culture and history.

Due to the rise of technology, rug weaving is becoming obsolete, with only 5-10% of original weavers left, specifically in Turkey. So when you purchase a rug from High Pile Designs, you’re helping to employ continued generations of families. 

It’s also more than that. It’s living a life rooted in quality over quantity and tradition over trend. Instead of disposing of pieces quickly when you get tired of them, think about having a piece that no matter what can be useful and beautiful. 

The next time you’re thinking about decorating or adding pieces to your home, think about adding something that is up-cycled, homemade, or supports local artisans and small-scale producers.

Whether this is a Turkish rug or pillow or something entirely different, you’ll be contributing to a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Love & Rugs 💕

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