HomeSustainabilityCreating spaces with the climate in mind

Creating spaces with the climate in mind

Helping customers create spaces that actively support the environment is an important part of encouraging a cleaner, healthier planet, says Becky Gordon.

The past year has been like no other as we’ve adjusted to a new way of living and working. But while the pandemic continues to dominate the news, it’s clear the climate crisis must become a priority and our recovery needs to be a green one.

With the upcoming COP26 climate talks in November, it has never been more relevant to look at sustainability and, in particular, the effect that carbon has on our planet. Which is why at Interface we’re very proud to be launching our first ever carbon negative carpet tile.

Why carbon
Too much carbon in the atmosphere is causing our planet to warm. Reducing this is the only way we can slow, or even reverse, global warming. There are two ways we can tackle this. Firstly, we can reduce our emissions to zero by being much more efficient and moving to renewable energy. But we can also find creative ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The built environment has a very important role to play in addressing this issue. It alone is responsible for around 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions. As companies across the world continue to make net zero carbon pledges, there’s an increasing demand, and urgency, to create sustainable spaces and build more responsibly. This means contractors have an important role to play when it comes to choosing materials that actively support the fight against climate change.

At Interface, we want to work with our customers to minimise the carbon footprint of commercial spaces, this starts by rethinking our relationship with carbon. Rather than carbon being the enemy, could it be a resource? By learning to work with carbon, we can use it as a building block to engineer better products.

Carbon neutral
We have been working on reducing our carbon footprint for many years. Since 1996 Interface has reduced factory Greenhouse Gas emissions by 96% and reduced the carbon footprint of our carpet tile by 74%. Our EMEA carpet manufacturing uses 100% renewable energy, and we use 100% renewable electricity in our nora rubber flooring production.

This incredible progress led to the introduction of our third-party verified Carbon Neutral Floors programme across our entire flooring portfolio in 2018. The programme means that our customers can specify or install flooring that is carbon neutral through the product’s whole lifecycle at no extra cost or added complication to the installation process.

This was an important step on our work with carbon, ensuring our customers floor is carbon neutral, no matter which of our products they choose.

Carbon negative materials
For the world to progress on tackling climate change, companies need to look beyond doing no harm, to actually doing good. For Interface this means not stopping at carbon neutral products. Taking a cue from nature, we are learning to work with carbon by using it as a building block to engineer better products.

We achieved a huge step on this journey in 2020 with the introduction of CQuestBio. The innovative backing uses carbon negative materials to reduce the overall footprint of the product. On average CQuestBio reduces the carbon footprint by a third and allows us to achieve incredibly high recycled and biobased content levels – which is over 90% in some of our collections.

This thinking has led us to our latest innovation – our first ever carbon negative carpet tile which is part of our new collection, Embodied Beauty. The collection offers a variety of carpet tile designs inspired by and manufactured to respect nature.

All seven styles of Embodied Beauty are carbon neutral across their full product lifecycle but, crucially, this is the first Interface carpet tile collection to feature our new cradle-to-gate carbon negative carpet tiles. Alongside Embodied Beauty, we’ve also launched Flash Line, our first carbon negative micro-tuft product. These carbon negative products are on our new CQuest BioX backing, which stores more carbon than ever before.

By storing carbon, these innovative styles keep it from entering the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming, and help our customers lower the carbon footprints of the spaces they create.

What happens to flooring at the end of its life?
It’s all well and good creating and installing products that actively support the environment, but what happens to the flooring when it’s no longer needed? As well as the raw materials and production process, end-of-life decisions have an impact on carbon footprint.

With our ReEntry scheme, we retrieve carpet tile and LVT products from customers and reuse or recycle the materials with our partners across the UK, to keep them away from landfill. Between 2016 and 2020 alone, we have recovered 22,000 tonnes of post-consumer carpet, with around 60% of this being reused, often within housing associations and charities.

Inspiring change
Our aim is to become a carbon negative enterprise by 2040. We want to run our business in a way that actively helps reverse the impact of global warming, while also inspiring other organisations to do the same.

Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Interface, but this hasn’t always been the case. Back in 1994, our founder, Ray Anderson, realised that the flooring industry, including his own business, was having a negative impact on the environment.

Ray wanted to prove you can be a successful business while manufacturing and selling more sustainable products. This started with the launch of Mission Zero, a bold ambition for Interface to have no negative impact on the environment by 2020.

Interface is proof that an organisation can change direction and move to a more sustainable way of operating. To reach where we are today, we’ve spent the past 27 years learning and innovating to dramatically reduce the negative impact of our factories and operations, and transform our handling of raw materials and products, while influencing others to adopt their own transformational goals.

To have a real impact on the world, we also need to encourage others to take a stance.
At Interface, we want to create the stepping stones to help other businesses lower their own carbon footprints and, ultimately, help us collectively reverse climate change.

An important part of this is helping our customers create spaces that actively support the environment. And the next few years – and decades – will see us continue to work to reduce the carbon footprints of our carpet tile, LVT and rubber products through additional recycled content and other product innovations to support businesses’ sustainable operations and help us create a cleaner, healthier planet.

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