Sustainability Practices—Our commitment to the environment
Fox River’s knitting mill is an international model for “green” companies, and
is part of a state-of-the-art environmental initiative in our hometown of
Osage, Iowa. As part of the Osage Municipal Utilities (OMU) Demand-side
Management Program, Fox River has reduced energy costs more than 30%. The OMU
program begun by conservationist and now retired OMU General Manager Wes
Birdsall in 1974 has become world-renowned. In fact, Osage has been dubbed “the
energy conservation capital of America.”
Fox River recycles nearly 450,000 pounds of materials each year.
Fox River promotes recycling in all areas. Packaging, boxes, magazines, plastic
film, and yarn cones are recycled and yarn scraps are ground up for carpet
backing, dog beds and car seat stuffing. We also recycle all machine oils,
batteries, fluorescent tubes, old iron and steel machinery, and electronic
parts. Our warehousing facility utilizes a “Big Pack” system, which allows us
to reuse corrugated storage cartons for as many as three years running instead
of simply disposing of them after each use. All mill and office papers are
recycled. Even our inkjet printer cartridges are put to good use: they are
collected and given to local elementary schools for recycling, as part of their
fund raising events. Fox River’s forward-thinking waste reduction program has
reduced annual waste volume by more than 50%.
Energy efficient air exchange systems keep our mill climate controlled.
The vacuum system at Fox River removes 50,000 to 60,000 cubic feet of air per
minute from the knit/seam floors. Instead of completely replacing the air, the
system pulls the vacuumed air through filters and chillers and it is then
returned to the mill. This requires much less energy than bringing the outside
air back in and conditioning it from the first stages. These exchange systems,
along with the water systems, allow us to cool and heat the Fox River facility
Water is critical to the sock manufacturing process.
Fox River is constantly working to improve the way we use water in and outside
of the mill. Water-reclamation and heat recovery systems warm the mill during
winter by recirculating excess heat. In the summer, two wells on site pump
water to chillers on the knitting floor to air condition the mill. We use the
hot air that is generated from the reclamation process to heat the water used
in our scouring and dyeing processes. Fox River holds water used after each
rinse cycle for use in the next scour/dye process to minimize water waste.
Discharged water is tested weekly and Fox River aggressively maintains
emissions levels significantly under Department of Natural Resources’
established standards. Fox River has also decreased the use of softeners by
decreasing acidity and reducing water temperature in the softening process—all
of this reduces waste while still retaining the soft feel of our socks.
Proprietary Organic Shrink Treatment—so safe you could drink it!
Fox River is implementing a revolutionary organic shrink treat/wet finish
process that will allow the company to perform all shrink treating in-house.
Currently, Fox River is using this process on all its organic sock styles, and
by 2007, it will be used on all styles that are treated in-house. Fox River is
leading the industry in its use and development of this organic shrink
treatment process. Organic shrink treating DOES NOT USE petrochemicals,
ozone-depleting compounds, global warming compounds, hazardous air pollutants
or wastewater treatable components of any kind. The ingredients used are
naturally derived and are 100% biodegradable. They are user and
environmentally-friendly. In fact, the protein enzymes used are so safe you
could drink them.
Socks that keep our environment in mind.
Fox River is constantly looking for ways to incorporate
environmentally-friendly technology into its socks, including all-natural
silver fibers for foot odor control instead of chemically applied
antimicrobials, all-natural bug repellents, organic merino wool, and corn-based
Looking toward the future.
Fox River is currently in its initial phases of creating even more efficient
use of energy and water within our mill. Instead of just reusing the dye side’s
water, the wet finish wash water will soon be reused as well. This is a more
difficult and complicated process because the mill’s industrial washers have
their spin cycle built in so a discharge system must be created. As they become
available, Fox River will acquire dryers that allow for the absolute minimum
dry time amounts. This, too, will help save energy.
Fox River prides itself on its very proactive stance on energy conservation in
all areas of its sock-making process. As John and Jeff Lessard (the brothers
who own the company) say, “We do it not just because it is the right thing to
do; we do it because it makes sense.”