Going carbon negative, one tile at a time

Proof Positive tile is engineered to absorb carbon dioxide from its surroundings.

Modular tile manufacturer Interface conducted a global survey and found that 47 percent of young leaders and 37 percent of climate experts believe in proving a business case to take back the climate.

But what does it mean to take back the climate?

Among the global outcry against climate change and efforts to reduce global warming, reversing it altogether may seem like a long shot. But Interface is set on an ambitious mission of reversing—a significant leap beyond offsetting—the impact of global warming. This goal is propelled by founder Ray Anderson, to take the climate back from the edge of disaster before it’s too late.

There is less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than if Proof Positive tile had not been manufactured in the first place.

The first step in reversing the damage is to repair the harm caused thus far. The manufacturer’s Impact Zero program aims to eradicate any negative effect the company has made on the environment by the year 2020. And its successor Climate Take Back program enters the picture to set the trajectory beyond curbing harmful emissions. For the next two decades, the trademark initiative aims to “build a map toward creating a climate fit for life.” And it targets a sector of high-impact: business. By implementing new business practices, building partnerships, and product innovation, the initiative is revolutionizing the climate change movement.

Carbon negative Interface

As part of the mission, Interface has a product take back program called ReEntry in place, where reclaimed fiber is recycled and put into use in the manufacturing of new products. It has diverted “over 350 million pounds of materials from landfills in the U.S. alone,” claims the company website. Talk about keeping the landfills half empty—or half full? Either way, the company provides fibers from postconsumer carpets from all over North America to their fiber suppliers for use in new products.

The captured carbon can be prevented from spreading into the atmosphere for over a generation.

Where most carpet tiles require petrochemicals in manufacturing, Global Change Collection by Interface uses a “solution dyed nylon yarn system” to lower the carbon footprint. But what stands out among the company’s modular carpet range is a recent prototype carpet tile called Proof Positive.

THE CARBON CAPTURING PROCESS

“Every one million square meters of this Proof Positive tile produced would result in the storing of over 2,000 metric tonnes of CO2, which is comparable to 52,000 tree seedlings planted and grown for 10 years.” — Interface.

Interface Global 2016 data

All figures are approximate. Data courtesy of Interface Global.

In simple words, it’s a tile that captures carbon. That’s right. The carbon negative Proof Positive tile is engineered to absorb the carbon dioxide from its surroundings, much like a plant does. While still a prototype, Interface claims that “there is less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than if [Proof Positive tile] had not been manufactured in the first place.” The concept tile stores two kilograms of carbon dioxide per square meter, while Interface’s overall cradle-to-gate carbon emissions plummeted to 15 pounds per square meter in 2016 compared to an average of 44 pounds.

Trees’ ability to breathe carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis plays a pivotal role in regulating carbon levels. But when they decompose, the carbon is released back into the air. “Interface has taken specifically selected plant-derived carbon and converted it into a durable material that stores that carbon for at least a generation. “The carbon is stored in the materials that make up the Proof Positive tile.” In other words, it closes a carbon loop where the same carbon is used and reused over the cycles. The captured carbon can be prevented from spreading into the atmosphere for over a generation, estimates John Bradford, chief science and technology officer at Interface.

What now remains to be seen is how well the market absorbs the concept tile.

All images courtesy of Interface.

By Najook Pandya