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May 3 2023

The hype on CO2 reduction and how to interpret it

CO2 emissions, carbon reduction, and carbon neutrality – you’ve probably heard these terms before, but what do they mean? The topic of sustainability can be incredibly complex and overwhelming, but we’re committed to making it more accessible and understandable. We believe that sustainability is a journey, and we’re here to help guide you along the way.

What’s all the hype about CO2 reduction in the textile industry?

As you probably know, CO2 is a greenhouse gas that plays a significant role in contributing to climate change. That’s why reducing CO2 emissions is crucial if we want to mitigate the effects of global warming. However, when it comes to sustainability, it’s important to recognize that CO2 emissions are just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

While reducing carbon emissions is important, it’s not the only factor to consider when it comes to environmental impact. For example, land use, water use, and toxicity of materials all have significant effects on biodiversity and the overall health of our planet. That’s why looking at the big picture is crucial.

CARBON OFFSETTING AND THE FAMOUS “CARBON NEUTRALITY.”

Carbon offsetting could be translated as carbon compensation. It is the process of investing in projects that reduce CO2 emissions (e.g. build a wind park to replace coal for electricity production) or capture it naturally (e.g. plant a tree/a forest) to compensate for the emissions produced by a company. This can be done with direct investments in projects or also indirectly through the purchase of carbon credits, for example from carbon capture companies.

But what actually happens with that CO2?

This is when carbon utilization and storage comes into play, also called CCUS (Carbon Capture Utilization Storage), in other words, what to do with the CO2 that is captured from the atmosphere or from industrial production sites. This is behind what we know as “carbon neutral” for companies that can’t really get rid of their emissions by other means.

The current most common uses of captured CO2 are:

  1. Enhanced oil recovery, (CCS & CCU): in very simple terms, this means injecting the CO2 into the ground to get more oil from it.
  2. Mineralization (CCS): storing the CO2 in concrete or in the ground so it’s not in the air anymore.

There is tons of research being done on these topics. Even if creating real value that can be scaled for huge volumes is not here yet, for sure is coming.

Source, source, source.

WHAT DOES “CO2 EQ.” MEAN? 

“CO2 Eq.” stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. It is a unit of measurement that is used to compare the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of different greenhouse gases based on their ability to trap heat in the atmosphere over a given period of time (usually 100 years). CO2 is used as the reference gas, with a global warming potential of 1. Other greenhouse gases, such as methane, have higher GWP when converted to the equivalent amount of CO2 (28-36 times more GWP than CO2 over the same period of time, 100 years)

PFCs are also considered potent greenhouse gases with high GWP values, with estimates ranging from several thousand to tens of thousands of times that of carbon dioxide. 
Source, Source

IS CO2 ALL THAT MATTERS?

When we talk about the environmental impact everyone talks about CO2, but we also need to take into account the toxicity of the materials used. A good example is “durability”. Yes, it is good to use our clothes as long as possible because a garment might reduce its carbon footprint if it’s been used for more than 10 years. But how was this durability achieved? What kind of chemicals were used? What toxic materials are then being spread out during washing or its use over the course of 10 years?

We can’t ignore the toxicity of the materials used. Even if tackling toxicity levels is difficult and complex. 

More comprehensive LCAs need greater financial resources but it’s still crucial to have the whole picture. 

WHAT IS AN LCA?

It stands for Life Cycle Assessment and it is a method used to evaluate the environmental impact of a product over its entire life cycle: from the extraction of raw materials to the product manufacturing (cradle-to-gate) and use phase or to the final disposal (cradle-to-grave) or recycling (cradle-to-cradle). LCAs are used to identify areas where improvements can be made to reduce the environmental impact of a product or a service.

What are we doing at dimpora to assess our impact?

Since we are a membrane producer, the scope of our LCA takes into account the manufacturing processes of our membrane materials (e.g., polymer production), dimpora’s membrane production processes, and transportation between the facilities. The next objective for our LCA is to assess the full textile laminate: involving the fabric, dyes, glue, and DWR (durable water repellent) used.

Afterward, outdoor brands will take this information and bring it down to the final garment and all the way to the product end of life (EOL). Running our own LCAs will eventually help brands to calculate their own environmental impact.


Now, what can you do with all this information?

If you are a brand starting a sustainability journey:

Start designing to facilitate recycling in post-industrial waste and/or post-consumer waste. It starts with the choice of materials and thinking about disassembly and accessories.

If you want to do something about it as an individual here are a few ideas: even if it looks too big of an issue to make an individual impact, it is possible.

  • Look for a maximum of two mixes of materials, ideally 100% of one material. This will facilitate recycling afterward.
  • Ideally, avoid colors (dark colors in particular) – undyed garments had less impact during their production. We know it’s easy to say, everyone loves colors (even us).
  • Look for recycled materials on your garment – be aware that 100% seems to be too good to be true with the current set-up of recyclability in the world.
  • Look for the label recyclable – then check what you should do when you don’t want your garment anymore.
  • Read about the sustainability actions of your favourite brands. Sometimes actions backstage regarding packaging, transport, and energy in production are more valuable than a nice hang tag.
  • Read the little text on hang tags: typically you might clearly see “PFCs-free”, but when you pay attention to the little text you see “except…” “PFCs-free DWR only”, “PFCec”. From the membrane to the DWR should be “PFCs-free”.