Emeco_illustration black_white_carbon footprint

A guide to Carbon Footprint

As a manufacturer, we have a responsibility for the products we put out in the market. 'Carbon neutral' and 'carbon negative' sounds great, but the truth is that we all have an impact on the planet. Measuring our carbon footprint is the first step towards reducing it. But what do the numbers actually mean? To make informed choices and reduce our impact - as individuals, households and businesses - we all need to understand more about carbon footprints. We're still learning, but here’s some of what we’ve picked up along the way.

What is a carbon footprint and why does it matter?

A carbon footprint is a way to express the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by a given activity or event. People, products and companies all have a carbon footprint. When we do the laundry, watch TV or travel to work, it all adds to our personal carbon footprint. To halt climate change, we need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

What does CO2e stand for?

Carbon footprint is expressed as CO2e. CO2 stands for carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by activities and events on earth. But there are others too, such as methane and nitrous oxide. In a carbon footprint calculation, those gases are converted in carbon dioxide equivalents, hence the 'e' in CO2e. In other words, the CO2e number takes into account carbon dioxide as well as other greenhouse gases.

How do you calculate a carbon footprint?

There are different ways to calculate carbon footprint, like 'cradle-to-gate' and 'cradle-to-grave'. We measure the footprint of our products 'cradle-to-gate', meaning from the creation of the product to the moment it leaves our factory. This calculation includes Material, Transportation, Energy & Packaging.

We’ve opted for this model because of the challenges linked to providing accurate data for the myriad end-uses that occur after the products leave our factory, like where the product is shipped, how it's shipped, how it'll be used, and how it's disposed of at the end of life. Measuring 'cradle-to-gate' provides an accurate apples-to-apples comparison for all the data within our control.

What's a good number?

Obviously, the lower the number the better. But the data doesn’t tell you everything. For example, it doesn’t take into account that many of our products come with a lifetime warranty. To us, longevity - of design and manufacture - is one of the most important aspects of owning our impact. A timeless product that’s built to be handed down for generations - that’s the standard we measure ourselves against. A product with a small carbon footprint that breaks, or is unwanted, after a couple of years is effectively moot.

How can you be 'carbon neutral'?

The simple answer is, you can't. All our activities and events generate a carbon footprint. But, you can invest in carbon offset credits to compensate carbon emissions, through planting of trees or land restoration.

To truly own your impact, we believe it's best to reduce it it as far as possible to begin with. Then, investing in carbon credits could be a good complement. But it can't compensate for not trying to minimize a large footprint.

Putting it into context.

Just like we decipher nutrient labels on food, we need to familiarize ourselves with carbon footprints. It might be helpful to learn that 2 cups of coffee / day for a year has a carbon footprint of 15.33kg CO2e.

But who wants to live without coffee? Not our craftsman Joaquin. Still, knowing the number can help you make informed choices to balance your overall 'carbon budget', whether that's in your personal life or at work.

Compare and contrast.

To us, the easiest way to get a sense of carbon footprint numbers has been to compare the footprints of our products with everyday items. Here are a few comparisons, hopefully you'll find them useful too.

We calculate the carbon footprint of our products using the 2030 Calculator. Our choice stems from our belief in accessible environmentalism - the idea that anyone should be able to measure and understand carbon footprints, with accurate data depictions and quality results.  So, even as a small company, we can measure our entire collection and are not prohibited by cost.

Broom chair by Philippe Starck has a verified carbon footprint of 16.29kg CO2e, less than two cups of coffee per day for a year.