Interface: Stop seeing carbon as an enemy and start seeing it as a resource

Carbon dioxide levels continue to rise each month, contributing to global warming and climate change concerns around the world. In short, there is too much carbon, and it is in the wrong places. As human activity – including the manufacturing of goods – generates more and more carbon dioxide, the natural world struggles to keep pace and a dangerous excess of carbon continues to grow.

At Interface, we’ve learned that carbon doesn’t have to be the enemy – it can be an opportunity. Inspired by nature, we decided to use carbon as a building block to design better products and give back to the planet rather than harming it. This included an innovation that takes our products beyond carbon neutral and to carbon neutral through the use of carbon storage. It also involved improving manufacturing processes and investing in carbon offsets to reduce the carbon footprint of our products at every stage of their life cycle, including after installation.

Changing our relationship to carbon did not happen in isolation or overnight. Here’s a look at how we hit our carbon negative goal and learned to love carbon.

Investing in Carbontech innovation

For nearly 30 years, Interface has focused on reducing the carbon footprint of its products. This is an important milestone as we strive to become a carbon negative company by 2040 and help our customers achieve their own sustainability goals. Our efforts have led us to use more recycled materials and transform our manufacturing processes. Ultimately, we started exploring how to remove carbon from the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming, and create products that store carbon. We continue to actively explore the use of carbon storage materials to manufacture our products.

As part of our Carbon Neutral Floors™ program, the flooring products we sell – including carpet tiles, resilient flooring and nora® rubber – are third-party verified carbon neutral throughout their full life cycle. We recently went beyond carbon neutral and launched the first carbon negative carpet tile for the commercial sector in 2020 and follow-up with the first collection of negative carbon footprint carpets for FLOR® in March 2022.

These products store more carbon than is released during their production – from the extraction of raw materials, through the manufacturing process, until the final product leaves the factory – which the is called “from cradle to door”.

Climate writer and author Jon Gertner visited Interface to learn about our carbontech innovation and see our manufacturing processes first hand. He spoke about his experience in an article published by The New York Times magazinesharing the fact that, according to some estimates, nearly 40% of global CO2 emissions come from buildings and construction – a level that is unsustainable.

In addition to Interface’s own innovation, Gertner also showcased other organizations – such as Carbon 180 and CarbonCure – that view carbon as a resource and invest in technological, ecological and social solutions to reverse global warming.

As more and more companies in the built environment and beyond develop commercially viable carbon storage tools and materials, these solutions will benefit the entire population and likely drive interest in the purchase of these products.

In 2020, Interface launched the first carbon negative carpet tile measured from cradle to door as part of the Embodied Beauty™ collection.

FLOR recently launched carbon negative area rugs.

© Christopher Payne/Esto The New York Times Magazine featured Interface’s carbon negative innovation in June 2021.

Low-carbon supply in commercial and residential spaces

Fortunately, many leaders in the architecture and design community recognize the impact of carbon on our built spaces. the LEED® Green Building Program of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) has become the leading standard on how buildings save money, improve efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and create healthy places for people in good health. Due to the influence of the USGBC, the building industry has made tremendous strides in improving operational emissions (resulting from general building use such as HVAC and electrical systems) and building emissions. embodied carbon (resulting from the complete life cycle of a building’s construction materials).

In recent years, designers have decided to go further to support the future of sustainable buildings. Their efforts focus on sourcing low-carbon products that have the lowest impact on the environment. By choosing environmentally responsible suppliers, companies can make real progress in reducing the emissions associated with their built spaces. In fact, flooring can be one of the biggest contributors to the overall carbon footprint of a building’s interiors. However, by selecting low-carbon products, architects and designers can significantly reduce the environmental impact of their project.

For example, if a designer selects Interface’s carbon negative carpet tiles for a project requiring 135,000 square feet of carpet, that’s 74,500 pounds of CO2 stored in the carpet and removed from the atmosphere. This is equivalent to the emissions created when driving an average passenger vehicle for 84,928 miles. Imagine what can be achieved by applying this theory to an entire building, from its furniture and surfaces to the steel and concrete that make up the structure.

Carbon has always been and will continue to be part of our environment. It is the sixth most common element on Earth. And while reducing carbon emissions plays a vital role in the fight against climate change, it’s time we stop viewing carbon as an enemy to be destroyed and start loving it for what it is. : a building block for a better life.