The Fox River Mills factory today, while not the original Fox River Mill, still includes much of the 1971 structure, with several large additions bringing the size of the mill to more than 250,000 square feet — just over five acres — under one roof. The mill today features many state-of-the-art improvements that we’ve made to enhance efficiency and be kinder to the planet. We’ve found ways to re-use air and water within the mill that helps us maintain our low impact on the local environment — saving nearly 27 million gallons of water used over the past four years. And we recycle more than 450 tons of materials including paper products, plastics, and even the excess yarn trimmings from toe seaming. Throughout the years we’ve also done things like installing energy efficient lighting on the factory floors and in offices, which reduces usage and is great for color matching yarns and samples. We use fewer chemicals than many other manufacturers in our softening and pre-shrink processes. In fact, our organic shrink treatment is so safe you could drink it. We do all of this not just because it makes sense from an efficiency standpoint, but also because it’s the right thing to do for our employees and community.
A vacuum system air exchange system helps re-use 55,000 cubic feet of air per minute from the knitting and seaming areas. So, instead of pulling in air from the outside every minute and putting it through an air conditioner, the air is exchanged with other parts of the mill through a series of filters and chillers and then returned to the knit floor. This requires much less energy and along with our water re-use systems, allows us to heat and cool the facility extremely efficiently.
Besides just the air exchangers, the mill also features a water reclamation process that helps us reduce the amount of water we use. We use water heaters and chillers to heat and cool the mill. The heat generated during this process is used to heat the water used during the scouring and dyeing process. Rinse water is reused in the next scouring and dyeing process as well, reducing the amount of excess water.
We’ve been tracking the amount of recycling at Fox River since the 1990s and we’ve made a big improvement in the amount we can recycle today versus what was possible then. Over the past decade, we’ve recycled more than 3.6 million pounds of materials – that’s more than 1,800 tons. We’ve found a way to help recycle all kinds of things from the traditional office paper, newspaper and cardboard to things unique to sock-making like yarn, plastic, cardboard cones that are at the center of a spool and scrap metal from equipment maintenance — even the needles from our knitting machines are recycled into something new.
In 2016, the materials we recycled saved more than 230,000 kW of electricity, more than 840 trees and more than 360,000 gallons of water.