Climate change is real: oceans are warming, sea levels are rising, ice sheets and snow cover are declining, and global temperatures are rising. These are the facts, whether or not everyone is ready to face them. And we know that climate change is a manifestation of too much carbon dioxide, or CO2, in our atmosphere.
Ingredients for Global Climate Change
Buildings alone account for nearly 40 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States annually, more than industry and transport sectors. Much of these emissions come from the operations of the buildings themselves. Consider, however, the embodied energy and materials used to create these buildings.
When you factor in the ingredients extraction, manufacture, and transport of raw materials to create building products, the scope of climate change contributions becomes obvious. Producers of building materials and those who design and construct these buildings can have a lasting impact on our environment and health.
The effects of climate change have been on full display in recent years and the world has taken notice. Climate change-related effects are felt not just on a personal level; businesses across the globe have seen how these issues affect operations, as well as potential profits.
For example, surging temperatures can cause a loss of productivity or shutdown of operations. Erratic weather has far-reaching effects in terms of creating extreme volatility in the availability of materials to make products and in the shipping of those products to customers.
Corporations for Change
The company I work for, Tarkett, makes commercial and residential flooring. To do this, we collect ingredients and combine them to make new products.
Historically, manufacturing of all types was by its nature an act of destruction. However, creating products does not have to be an act of environmental elimination. In fact, it’s imperative to all of us that it’s not.
We don’t want to be a destructive company. We recognize it’s essential that we’re part of the solution, both for our indoor environments and the earth. This is why as a global manufacturer we’ve taken steps to ensure we’re not part of the problem. Just prior to the Paris Climate Accord of 2015, we called on the world’s governments for action on climate change.
Along with nearly 80 other CEOs from global companies, we signed a letter of intent to take voluntary action to reduce our environmental and carbon footprints. In addition, we agreed to a long-term commitment to actively manage climate risks and incorporate them into our decision-making.
The commitment we’ve made also aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. The SDGs work to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.” Each SDG contains targets to be reached within the next 15 years. Tarkett has adopted five of these goals—including those related to climate action as well as responsible use and consumption—which we are using to guide our company in a sustainable way.
Renewable & Recycled Products
We continue to accomplish these goals by developing our flooring products using abundant, rapidly renewable, recycled, and recyclable materials. We create each product with the intent of bringing it back for use as an ingredient for tomorrow’s flooring and accessories rather than product going to landfills, which is so common in the building industry.
By creating our own product feedstock, we are reducing our reliance on raw materials. This circular model heavily dictates our design and innovation of products so that today’s offerings are ingredients for goods of tomorrow.
This design, use, and reuse cycle aligns with standards established by Cradle-to-Cradle principles. By following Cradle-to-Cradle methodology in the design and creation of every product we manufacture, we’re guided by principles that include closed-loop design, green chemistry as a basis for ingredients, and recyclability and/or biodegradability. Each of our products is assessed with this method to assure they pose no risk to human health or the environment. Green chemistry is essential to the health of indoor environments, where we spend 90 percent of our time.
These high standards allow for innovation that leads to improved products and leaving the planet better than we found it.
A Better Planet
Tarkett doesn’t end its journey of a better planet for all with a circular economy. We assess the raw materials in our products on the basis of where they come from and how they are used. The World Natural Capital Forum describes natural capital as “the world’s stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water, and all living things.”
Natural capital includes, among other things, land, habitat, water, oxygen, fossil fuels, and minerals. Our industry cannot continue to draw stock from the natural resources of the earth and not pay it back.
As an industry, we must understand the impact on the environment and human communities. By quantifying our natural capital, we are able to understand the long-term economic and environmental impacts of everything we use. We can make educated decisions, reducing our costs and risks by using abundant and responsibly stewarded/recycled ingredients.
This deep dive into how and from where our products are derived allows us to ensure we are not contributing to degradation of ecosystems, causing resource scarcity, or exacerbating other effects of climate change. Tarkett implemented this deep dive into fully examining every aspect of our production to ensure we are doing good for the planet.
Taking Responsibility for the Future
For a long time, the flooring industry has been introspective about the way we create what we sell and often has led the way toward taking responsibility for our products. At Tarkett, we have also undertaken the task of understanding our place in reversing climate change and protecting our environment.
We have seen long-term successes in our carbon management strategies via our offering of products paired with CarbonFund’s carbon emissions offset programs and reforestation initiatives, as well as our partnership with Project Tambopata, which helps to protect biodiversity, prevent deforestation, and protect farmers’ livelihoods in Peru. Both are examples of creating a positive and larger impact through collaboration versus alone. Last year, we moved all of our Ohio office and manufacturing sites toward renewable energy credits that provide for 100 percent of our electricity needs. At Tarkett, we strive to create a positive and meaningful impact while innovating for beautiful and sustainable flooring products that contribute to a healthy planet, as well as healthy spaces and buildings.
It’s that collaboration that we ask for today. Tarkett’s mission of “Doing Good—Together” offers the confidence of using building and finishing materials that don’t harm our environment. Specify building and finishing materials that cause no inherent destruction in their creation. Take steps today to do good.
||Valerie Molinski, LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP ID+C, GGP, is Tarkett North America’s Environmental Stewardship manager. With a degree in architecture, she found a calling to sustainable architecture and design. Molinski has focused on LEED administration and sustainable design to create healthy environments and high-performance buildings.
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