A while back we decided to start offsetting our carbon emissions. Put simply, this means that for all the CO2 released into the atmosphere due to Homethings (eg. when our products are made or when we send them to you) we would support projects working to reduce carbon emissions and offset an equivalent amount to what we released. You can read more about all this in our blog.
But we knew we couldn’t use offsetting as a ‘we’ve done our bit, nothing more to be done here’ mindset. We’re always thinking of ways to reduce our emissions – for example bringing a lot of our supply chain to the UK – but we also thought it would be flipping neat to help you understand the impact of the products you buy. And that’s where carbon labelling comes in.
Taking inspiration from The Carbon Trust, the originals in measuring CO2 emissions, and brands in food and drink (take a look at Oatly and Innocent), we’ve worked to bring carbon labelling to cleaning. Cleaning will have never been this clean.
The aim of carbon labelling is to show the total amount of CO2e (CO2e or carbon dioxide equivalent is used to give a number to different greenhouse gases in a common unit) related to a product. There are a few methodologies about how to do this, and what to measure. You can read about them on The Carbon Trust website. We’ve measured from Cradle to Gate; i.e from the production and distribution of the raw materials gone into the product, all the way to the products getting to our customers. We’ve also included emissions related to the materials once they have been used (for example the emissions related to cardboard being recycled). So we’re pretty much measuring Cradle to Grave but as there are a few unknowns with what retailers will do with the products, we’ll call it Cradle to Gate (with some added extras).
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the products you buy and their CO2e, and a lot out there that’s unknown, which is why we thought it useful to bring all that info onto pack and put our cards on the table. So, we began the journey of tracking one of our products, carbon monitor in hand.
How we actually did this was using the UK government’s conversion factors for reporting on greenhouse gas emissions. For any other brands reading this, it’s a great tool and one we’d happily chat about – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get a coffee. This gives you a lot of data on how much CO2e is emitted when lots of things are done (like driving a car, transporting goods in a ship, producing 1kg of plastic, recycling a tonne of cardboard…the list goes on). Using that tool, the info we have on what goes into our products and where those things come from, as well as a nifty spreadsheet, we were able to come up with the figures that you see on pack. And so our first carbon labelled product is born! We’re rolling this out over our packaging this year and you can check it out first on shelf in Waitrose – tag us when you see it in store.
We know carbon emissions are hard to put into context – what does a kilogram of CO2e actually equate too? So we've tried to give you an idea of something you'd be familiar with. Using this awesome calculator from the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency we can give you understandable equivalents for the CO2e produced from our products. 1kg of CO2e is the same as driving 2.5 miles in a car or charging a smartphone 122 times.
A quick note: it’s really hard to do this 100% accurately. There aren’t conversion factors for every material under the sun, so we’ve had to use the closest equivalents for certain things. Saying that, we knew this would be hard when we set out to do it but we also know that great things are rarely easy, especially when you’re breaking the mould. We agreed that we would only use carbon labelling if we were truly happy to chat through our process with anyone and everyone that asked. For now, we’ve achieved what we set out to do (hence why this blog post exists) but we’re committed to continue to review what we’ve done on a regular basis, and check-in to ensure we’re following best practice. We’re always open to feedback, so do let us know if you think there’s anything we’ve missed.
Homethings is the first cleaning brand to do carbon labelling. Well, we’re pretty sure we are anyway. But we hope lots more follow suit, as well as lots of other brand categories, companies and services. Our view is that it’s important to give everyone the information they deserve, so that we can all better understand CO2 emissions, better understand our impact on global warming, and therefore better tackle the climate crisis. This is the first step – let us know what you think.