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There are many misconceptions when it comes to carbon and our relationship with it, so it can be tricky to know where to start. Luckily, the sustainability team at Interface are here to dispel seven common myths.
According to Architecture 2030, the built environment is responsible for nearly 40% of all global carbon emissions, so there’s no disputing that our industry must become more carbon conscious if we’re to meet the UK’s 2050’s net zero emissions target. Here, Becky Gordon, Regional Sustainability Manager UKIME at Interface busts some common carbon myths.
Carbon offsetting is a way of compensating for carbon dioxide emissions arising from products or services. There has been some criticism of brands who focus solely on using offsets to make carbon neutral claims. And this is understandable.
However, for a manufacturer, following efforts to reduce a product’s carbon footprint, carbon offsets can be a valid and effective way of addressing the remaining emissions that that are most difficult to reduce or remove. To offset responsibly, companies need to have an offset programme that is audited by a third party and select projects verified as gold standard or equivalent, while they consider future solutions to further reduce the carbon footprint.
Working towards a circular economy and rethinking our relationship with carbon are often perceived as two separate ideas, but they should be part of the same conversation. Tackling the climate emergency requires us to assess and reduce our carbon emissions in our workspaces. But it also requires us to be more thoughtful about reducing waste and to be more efficient when it comes to our use of resources. We need to ensure products utilise high levels of recycled and biobased content, and that they are designed for reuse and future recycling.
Measuring carbon is simpler than you might think. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are established in the industry, providing transparency about a product’s carbon footprint across the entire life cycle. More recent innovations have seen the creation of carbon calculators, which enable designers to take measurement even further, and see the total carbon impact of their project. Examples include EC3 and the ICE database.
There are products and materials available to architects and designers that not only reduce carbon emissions, but have a carbon negative footprint – keeping carbon locked in them and out of the atmosphere. For example, Interface’s new Embodied Beauty collection features our first carbon negative carpet tiles.
Of course, making energy efficiencies in the manufacturing process is a brilliant way to reduce a product’s impact on the environment – but it doesn’t stop there. The materials used to create a product can have an even bigger impact. By increasing the amount of biobased or recycled content and working with your supply chain, it’s possible to significantly reduce a product’s carbon footprint. For example, Adidas and Allbirds have collaborated to create a low carbon shoe that includes a variety of recycled and biobased materials. At 2.94kg CO2e per pair, the shoe has the lowest carbon footprint of any performance sneaker ever.
Giving products a second life can have a substantial impact on your carbon footprint. So, when refurbishing spaces, it’s important to think about which items can be reused, such as furniture, IT equipment and flooring. There are plenty of schemes available to extend the life of products. That way, you can keep them out of landfill and, importantly, stop carbon from unnecessarily entering the atmosphere.
Whether it is David Attenborough bringing the issue of carbon into our homes through documentaries, or Greta Thunberg inspiring a generation to campaign for climate action, carbon is increasingly becoming a social issue. Climate change is influencing where people choose to shop, study and work. The young people attending environmental protests today are the employees of tomorrow. Companies will need to push their thinking on carbon, not just for their own environmental targets, but to attract and retain future talent.
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