Three Lenses of Health and Materials: Green Chemistry, Circular Economy, and Embodied Carbon

Interface is committed to running our business in a way that is restorative to the planet and creates a climate fit for life.  As an interior products company, we know that this begins with protecting the health of the people who live and work with our products every day.  

When it comes to product innovation and development, our process strives to continually optimize products, guided by our Three Lenses of Health and Materials:

  • GREEN CHEMISTRY:  Design of products & processes that reduce or eliminate use of hazardous substances
  • CIRCULAR ECONOMY: A model of production and consumption that involves using and reusing existing materials and products as long as possible
  • EMBODIED CARBON: The total global warming impact of making a product

With these in mind, we work to create products that restore the health of the planet and create a climate fit for life. Certification partners can help us measure progress for parts of the Three Lenses, but getting a product certified is never the end of the journey. We measure and manage trade-offs to be strategic in minimizing-and ultimately eliminating–the human and environmental health impacts associated with our products through all three lenses, across the entire product life cycle.   

Innovating with the Three Lenses:

Green Chemistry:                                                                                  

To move toward greener chemistry across the product life cycle, Interface focuses on eliminating ingredients based on virgin petrochemical inputs, not just switching to a new petrochemical that is still allowed by C2C, red list, or another banned chemicals list. This means finding a way to make a product work without using the chemical at all (e.g., our elimination of topically-applied stain resist yarn coatings, including those based on PFAS) or substituting a recycled or bio-based material for the virgin petrochemicals (as in our CQuest™GB backing, made from 97% recycled or bio-based materials). Using 39% recycled content in our LVT and natural rubber in our noraplan® products make our resilient flooring less dependent on virgin inputs as well.

Circular Economy:  

With all the uncertified claims of “recyclable” products, focusing on the total percentage of a product’s inputs that comes from rapidly renewable (bio-based) or recycled inputs is still the most credible measure of circularity. GreenCircle certifies Interface’s US-made carpet tile to be Closed Loop recyclable into new carpet tile, but more importantly, Interface’s entire global carpet tile portfolio is made from an average of 61% recycled or bio-based materials. Our nora® rubber flooring exemplifies another Circular Economy principle; make products that last so their end-of-life occurs only every 25 or 30 years.

Embodied Carbon:  

Interface uses rigorous Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to identify and reduce the emissions “hot spots” in our products’ supply chain. For carpet tile, over half of the embodied carbon emissions from the entire product life cycle come from converting crude oil into commercial carpet nylon. Working closely with our yarn suppliers, Interface now manufactures our carpet tile with standard yarns that are 95% and 75% recycled content, helping to lower the average carbon footprint of Interface carpet tile products by 76% since 1996.  On the resilient side, improving efficiency and switching the nora factory to renewable electricity have already cut the carbon footprint of our rubber flooring products substantially.

Top 3 Questions to Ask Any Manufacturer to Assess Their Commitment to Sustainable Materials

#1 Green Chemistry 

What goals do you have in green chemistry beyond removing toxic chemicals from finished products?

#2 Circular Economy 

 What percentage of raw material inputs for your total product portfolio come from recycled content  or  biobased materials? 

#3 Embodied Carbon

 What is the most important thing you would need to do to cut the carbon footprint of your products by  50% in the next 5-10 years?

For a Three Lenses of Health and Materials CEU accredited by AIA, IDCEC, and GBCI for your office, reach out to sustainability@interface.com.

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