Evaluate, Reduce & Offset - Going Carbon Neutral - Part 2
In our previous post (Innovation Thursdays - 06.27.19 - The Carbon Cycle and Greenhouse Gases), we discussed how Greenhouse Gases are generated and accumulate due to an imbalance of the carbon cycle.
We’ve determined, that of the various environmental challenges - climate change will have the largest impact in the shortest timeline, and so we’re prioritizing it as our primary initiative.
Today we’ll be discussing the specific actions we’re taking as company already to minimize our impact, and compensate for what is left.
Our plan is to become carbon neutral in Q4 this year, marked by the launch of our next-generation shirt - Aero Zero.
1. EVALUATE FOOTPRINT
Our first step is to understand our existing emissions footprint, looking at 32 different points along the entire lifecycle of the garment from yarn extrusion all the way to user wash & dry cycles.
Understand the Supply Chain We used data from several source to understand the CO2-equivalent (some processes emit methane or other Greenhouse Gases - but we convert this based on their effect to equivalent amounts of CO2 for ease of comparison) of each of these stages.
Evaluate High-Impact areas: Knowing the impact of different processes, we looked at 5 major areas, raw fiber creation, fabric milling, garment production, transportation, distribution and consumer use.
2. REDUCE EMISSIONS
We believe that while in the short-term, offsets are often the cheapest means of compensating for our footprint, that reduction is fundamentally important as it changes the underlying production process and incentivizes investment in new technologies for lower-emissions materials and production techniques. The growth of hybrids, electric vehicles and the solar industry can be attributed to this.
From our evaluation we can prioritize areas that will have the biggest area on our footprint reduction.
Recycled Polyester: Saves energy usage at the Refining and Polymerization stages, so that heat is only needed for yarn Extrusion & Spinning - with a 50% reduction in GHG emissions over regular polyester.
Carbon Sequestration: by using materials like bio-based polyester or responsibly-sourced viscose, we can use photosynthesis to convert CO2 into carbohydrates that can be used to create polyester or cellulosic fibers. This actually captures carbon in gaseous form and converts it into materials that can be worn.
Renewable Energy: The milling of our fabric, is power 100% by solar power - this eliminates the need for fossil-fuel based electricity to run the large weaving machines.
Reducing excessive air freight: Air freight has an outsized impact on the footprint of a garment and can be up to 40% of GHG emissions. Air travel uses more energy as fuel is used not just to move forward, but also provide lift to the aircraft.
Simplifying our supply chain: With numerous sub contractors, a garment may be built with fabrics from Europe cut and sewn in Asia and sold in North America. We constantly try to make sure that materials flow linearly - the entire Aero Zero is made within a 100-mile radius.
3. OFFSET WHAT WE CAN’T REDUCE
While many of these changes can lead to a reduction of GHG emissions, we often can’t completely due to the state of technology or simple physics. Carbon offsets are a means of paying for the operation of the project that will displace or capture carbon from the atmosphere.
Not all projects are equal and so we’ve created this approach to selecting partners:
Offset Certification: We’re seeking projects that are certified by Gold Standard and the United Nations Council on Climate Change. This verifies that the project is operated soundly and has the impact claimed.
Country of Origin: We plan to work with projects that offset the impact to the local production community. As much of our high-output production occurs in China, we’re seeking projects there.
Cost of Offsets: As it’s subject to the free-market, it’s priced in terms of dollars-per-ton-CO2 equivalent displaced. CarbonFund.org, CHOOOSE and CO2OL Effect are all marketplaces for offsets that help in selection of certified projects and funding them directly.
This is an overview of our process and approach as we learn more we will update with stronger figures and update with our learnings.