To slow climate change we not only need to reduce emissions we also need to capture and store CO2. But how? One way is by making products carbon-negative. Most products generate greenhouse gas emissions when raw materials are mined or made with fossil fuels, and during manufacturing and transport. Carbon-negative products - on the other hand - remove and store carbon dioxide.
As more carbon-negative products become available, I wanted to understand how they're made. So I asked James Pope, General Manager at FLOR - Interface’s premium design brand - to explain what carbon-negative products are and how they’re different from carbon-neutral products.
Note: Interface has long been a sustainable product leader. In 1994 Ray Anderson, Interface's founder and former chairman, started working to make Interface a sustainable and restorative company. Today they are the first global flooring manufacturer to sell all products as carbon neutral across their full life cycle. FLOR and nora are Interface brands.
What is the difference between carbon-negative and carbon-neutral products?
James: Carbon neutral products are achieved by reducing the carbon footprint of products and manufacturing processes while also investing in carbon offsets to compensate for the full life cycle of carbon emissions that cannot be eliminated.
Products that are carbon negative when measured from cradle to gate1 use carbon as a resource. This means that after the product is made, there is less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than if the tile had not been manufactured in the first place. This type of carbon-negative innovation finds creative ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming he said.
What is the carbon life cycle of products?
James: All building products and materials, including carpet tile, release greenhouse gases (measured in carbon dioxide equivalents and often referred to as ‘carbon’ for short), or GHGs, in two stages: the operational carbon stage and the embodied carbon stage.
- Operational carbon is defined as the GHGs emitted during the use of a building material, including everything that happens after the product leaves FLOR, including shipment, customer use, and end of life. It tends to be the more commonly referenced part of the carbon life cycle.
- Embodied carbon is the carbon dioxide emitted by making a product. This covers raw material creation, growth and extraction, through manufacture, until a product is ready for sale.
FLOR considers the carbon life cycle of all its rugs. That is why in addition to increasing the use of recycled materials in its products and innovating its backing to lower its carbon footprint, it also offers the Return and Recycle program that allows customers to send back their old tiles to be recycled into new ones.
Carbon-negative products by Interface
FLOR’s CQuest™GB backing is made of a combination of post-consumer carpet tiles, bio-based elements, and pre-consumer recycled materials that are net carbon negative. FLOR includes CQuest™ backings in nearly all of its carpet tile products to continue to lower the carbon footprint of its area rugs.
Interface also sells three carbon-negative carpet styles as part of its Embodied BeautyTM collection. Products within the Embodied Beauty collection are carbon negative when measured cradle-to-date: Shishu Stitch™, Tokyo Texture™, and Zen Stitch™.