Everybody is talking about embedding sustainability. But sustainability is not embedded until it is in your product. We measure this using LCA and GaBi Software. Furthermore, LCA allows consistent integration of sustainability standards such that what we tell our customers is in line with what we ask of our suppliers. - Ramon Arratia, Sustainability Director EMEAI / InterfaceFLOR
Interface, worldwide leader in design, has been using GaBi software in-house to track and improve its products’ life cycle performance since 2001. Life cycle assessment (LCA) studies all the impacts throughout the life of a carpet tile from extraction, production and manufacturing, to transport, customer use, maintenance and disposal. It tells the entire story, revealing the environmental impacts at every phase. Applying the results of a LCA clarifies where the biggest improvements can be made in order to increase transparency, innovate, expand product offerings, decrease cost and manage risk.
Commit to Transparency – Create product EPDs
Interface’s recent pioneering pledge is to obtain Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for all its carpet products globally by 2012, demonstrating its commitment to product transparency. As of October 2011, Interface had completed EPDs for 90 % of its products, as measured by production volume. “With the multitude of labels and claims in the marketplace, only EPDs offer full transparency and allow customers to evaluate products based upon verified facts”, said Interface President and CEO, Dan Hendrix.
New Product Creation – Ditch the glue
Conducting an LCA of its modular carpet, Interface realized that the adhesive presented a great opportunity for change because it emitted a large amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In 2006 Interface used this finding to create an entirely new line of flooring adhesive – TacTiles – which eliminate the need for this problematic adhesive. TacTile connectors adhere carpet tiles to one another, not the floor. TacTile connectors meet LEED requirements for Low Emitting Materials. They also increase the ease of removal and recyclability of the carpet tiles. As of the end of 2011, sales of over 83 million TacTiles resulted in the installation of some 21 million square metres of carpet.
Product Innovation – Less is more
Another outcome of LCA has taught Interface that the largest contributor to their environmental footprint comes from the nylon used in the yarn. Microtuft, a new product, has been designed using approximately 50 % less yarn to achieve equivalent performance. Microtuft bridges the gap between a carpet tile and hard floor and is among the highest growth products, already accounting for 13.2 % of Interface’s European sales.
Risk Management – Work with your suppliers
An in-house LCA, which evaluated two types of virgin nylon as well as recycled nylon, demonstrated that recycled nylon had a much smaller environmental footprint in all impact categories. Interface began working with their suppliers to support their ‘off-oil’ efforts by providing recycled nylon whenever possible and encourages them to accept reclaimed fibre and turn it back into yarn, which is both cheaper and less damaging to the environment. Cost savings are passed on to consumers.
Factor 4 by using 100 % recycled nylon and less of it
By using 100 % recycled yarn, Interface tackled the single largest contributor to environmental impact among all the raw materials in a carpet tile. As a result, the Biosfera collection unites 100% recycled yarn with recycled materials in the backing. In addition, by using Microtuft construction which needs an unusually low amount of yarn without compromising performance, Biosfera Micro has achieved a factor 4 carbon footprint reduction when compared with some of Interface’s products from 1996. Interface aims to only use yarn derived from either recycled or renewable sources by 2020.
So let's discuss: What did you learn from this story and how could you apply that to your own organisation? Download a copy of this case study, learn more about life cycle assessment or find out more about the GaBi Software.