Interface’s Climate Take Back Initiative Aims to Reverse Global Warming, One Tile at a Time

Sponsored: Interface’s Climate Take Back Initiative Aims to Reverse Global Warming, One Tile at a Time

 

Fall 2018 | Written by Kiley Jacques


Interface, maker of recyclable modular flooring, has been a leader in corporate sustainability for more than 20 years. The notion, “design with climate in mind,” informs every process, every product. Recently, the company has made its Climate Take Back™ mission a major priority. It is the successor to the Mission Zero® initiative, established in 1997 and intended to demonstrate how businesses can push sustainability on all fronts by 2020—from people to process to product, place, and profit. At the core of the new mission is the climate crisis. The plan is to go beyond carbon neutrality to reach a point where the company is actually helping to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, thereby reversing global warming.

Interface, modular flooring manufacturer, is headquartered in Atlanta, GA

“For 24 years, our mindset was on lowering carbon emissions in the business,” says vice president and chief sustainability officer Erin Meezan. “But our mindset has really changed over the last two decades—from sustainability being about reducing harm to thinking that an innovative sustainable business is one that goes beyond just not harming people to one that actively pursues positives.”

To call Climate Take Back ambitious is an understatement, particularly given the company employs just 4,000 people. Yet already they are making strides toward reducing—not just stabilizing—atmospheric gases. Innovations like CircuitBac Green™, a carpet backing made of a mix of bioplastics and recycled limestone filler, prove the feasibility of their goal. The product, currently on the market in Europe, absorbs more carbon than it emits during its production, which means there is less carbon in the atmosphere due to the making of it. “People are chomping at the bit for it to be available here,” says Lisa Conway, vice president of sustainability, Americas. “It is our mission, Climate Take Back, manifested in a product. They love the fact that it is carbon-storing which is wildly innovative and also meets a lot of other check boxes around green chemistry.”

CircuitBac Green™ tile backing innovation

CircuitBac Green™ backing innovation on a carpet tile.

The development of CircuitBac Green marks an exciting advance for a small but growing movement interested in using carbon as a commercial building block—one that locks the gas in place and prohibits its release into the atmosphere. It is evidence that buildings can be part of the solution to the problem of global warming. Conway makes the point that for decades, the focus has been on energy used in the operating of buildings and that our attention needs to shift. “If we look at a deadline of 2050, which climate specialists agree is the year that carbon emissions need to peak and start reversing, then we have to concentrate on the fact that 90 percent of carbon emissions in a new building comes from the manufacturing of materials, not from the operation of the building itself.”

Interface also believes that making industry professionals aware of the embodied carbon of products being specified for projects is a vital step toward lowering emissions. “We can create carbon-negative products,” says Meezan. “We can make products that store CO2. And we can run our factories in a way that does that. But then we have to get everyone else in our industry, in our supply chain, and in the built environment on board.” She points to efforts like Project Drawdown as helpful tools but also stresses the importance of helping manufacturers, real estate developers, designers, building owners and operators, and others invested in the built environment to understand their responsibilities when it comes to global warming. While Interface is quickly working toward the commercialization of carbon-negative products, it already offsets the emissions associated with all products sold around the world through its Carbon Neutral Floors™ program.

If saving the planet is not compelling enough, notes Meezan, there is growing evidence of commercial success and financial gain to be had by taking steps to reduce carbon emissions. The University of Michigan’s Global CO2 Initiative demonstrates that new technologies aimed at carbon sequestration represent trillions of dollars of business opportunity. Some companies are already joining the effort. Gensler, an integrated architecture, design, planning, and consulting firm, recognizes its ability to either contribute to or help solve the problem of global warming. Principal Kirsten Ritchie sees it this way: “If we specify materials with reduced carbon footprints, select locally sourced materials that don’t require much energy to transport, use resilient materials with longer lifespans, and consider each material’s life beyond its present use, then we significantly lessen the environmental impact of the places we design before occupancy even begins. . . . This has become a point of emphasis in our portfolio.”

Design with the climate in mind—all Interface flooring products are made from recycled materials, 100% recyclable and carbon neutral.

Interface LVT and carpet tiles work seamlessly together to create floors that are 100% carbon neutral.

Another of Interface’s projects is a partnership known as materialsCAN—Materials Carbon Action Network—whose work centers on a proactive approach to embodied carbon. Interface has partnered with Armstrong, Skanska, USG, CertainTEED, and Gensler to (1) drive embodied carbon awareness via client, industry, and external partnerships, (2) create a methodology for how to prioritize embodied carbon in specifications and how to share them externally, (3) highlight case studies on low-carbon, carbon-neutral, and carbon-sequestering interiors, and (4) increase memberships and partnerships.

Combined, the companies provide Carbon Neutral Floors—which offset greenhouse gas emissions— insulation, ceilings, walls, wood, and design strategies to the worldwide building industry. They want to illustrate the role each component of a building can play in lowering carbon emissions. Outreach efforts include case studies and pilot projects, such as the one happening at Microsoft, the first large corporate user of Skanska’s Embodied Carbon Calculator for Construction (EC3), a new tool used to track carbon emissions from raw building materials. In addition to educating building professionals, their efforts include getting other manufacturers to consider a similar approach to their own products.

Whatever a business’s motivation for helping to reverse global warming, Interface is offering a science-backed roadmap.

Four Steps to Climate Take Back

The four key components of Interface’s new sustainability mission, Climate Take Back.™

Case Study: Improving Performance Through Embodied Carbon Drawdown

Kirsten Ritchie, principal of Gensler, demonstrates how informing industry experts of the carbon footprint of the materials they specify can help to drastically cut embodied energy.

USGBC’s Mahesh Ramanujam: The future of the human race is intertwined with the planetRead more
The Windy City embraces its environmental legacy ahead of Greenbuild 2018Read more
Interface’s Climate Take Back Initiative Aims to Reverse Global Warming, One Tile at a...Read more
EPA grants millions in funding to research green building impacts on health, performance in schoolsRead more
Survey says: Employees are happier, healthier and more productive in LEED buildings Read more
Eternally green: Bala Cynwyd cemetery achieves SITES certification for sustainable landscape design Read more
A look at how McDonald’s, Bank of America, and Colgate-Palmolive are advancing UN SDGs...Read more
New York native Harry Gordon: Architect, advocate and green building legendRead more
New USGBC-commissioned case study examines Boston’s resilience, emergency preparednessRead more
Chicago’s theMART leverages the Arc platform as it eyes a new LEED certificationRead more
Interview with Wight and Company’s chief sustainability officer Lois Vitt SaleRead more
NYC chief sustainability officer talks energy innovation in the Big AppleRead more
Costa Rica’s LEED-certified Olas Verdes surf hotel gives local community an economic boostRead more
As South Africa’s water crisis continues, the nation’s building industry pushes for conservation...Read more
A new wave of activists and businesses is tackling food waste worldwideRead more
The tiny house movement goes mobile in Florida with help from volunteers Read more
NYU Langone Health overhauls its power system, emphasizing resilience using PEERRead more
Intel, Autodesk making inroads in industry, innovation and infrastructure Read more
LEED pilot credit for building materials helps clarify potential health, safety and environmental impacts Read more
Kath Williams: A self-proclaimed 'old-fashioned' Montana girl’s journey into sustainabilityRead more
Go inside the LEED Platinum home of actor and activist Ed Begley Jr.Read more
Interview with Lance Hosey, architect and LEED FellowRead more
Mayor Bowser’s vision for a green D.C.Read more
Industry leaders sound off on the trajectory of the U.S. green building marketRead more
New streamlining for building code makes it easier to achieve green projectsRead more
Designing for human health is the next frontier in sustainable buildingRead more
Educators eye green building strategies to enhance K-12 curriculum, career preparationRead more
Saint Paul is on the cutting edge of decarbonizationRead more
MARS tackles quality of life challenges for farmers in alignment with U.N. Sustainable Development...Read more
For schools, net zero energy design provides more than cost-saving benefitsRead more
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has been in existence for 25 years, and Leadership...Read more
High-performing, energy-efficient homes dominate millennial real estate marketRead more
Interview with Emily Pilloton, Founder and Executive Director, Project H Design/Girls GarageRead more
USGBC’s certification programs encourage innovation in sustainability on a much broader scale than ever...Read more
In coastal Vina del Mar, the fuel and energy company COPEC SA is working with...Read more
Mirabella, a new community in Florida, creates 158 sustainable houses specified to USGBC’s highest standards.Read more
LEED On letter from Rep. Chris LeeRead more
HP creates a breathtaking and sustainable landscape for its Boise campusRead more
Toyota’s new Lone Star State headquarters showcases the company’s singular vision of sustainabilityRead more
Rhode Island takes another huge step toward expanding its green infrastructureRead more
Q & A with Andy To, managing director of GBCI North AsiaRead more