People all over the place want to do what they can to reduce their carbon footprint, but it’s no effortless task. Companies are making an increased effort to label their wide variety of products with a number that would specify the amount of carbon that went into producing the product.
. . . For instance, a box of powdered laundry detergent could show a carbon footprint of 750 grams, whereas a bottle of concentrated liquid could display a footprint of 650 grams. This labeling technique is currently more common in the European Union. It’s significant to note that last year California Representative Ira Ruskin proposed a bill to the House that would have developed a labeling standard in the state. Regrettably, the bill did not make it out of committee.
A Dartmouth geography professor has been examining the issue of labeling the carbon number on products and presented some of her conclusions at the American Association of Geographers’ conference in the first part of this year. A British supermarket chain started labeling produce with food miles, which indicated to consumers what food was locally raised and which was imported and consequently worse for the environment. The info was misleading as it turned out to be superior for the environment to raise some of the vegetables in Africa than it was to grow them in a hothouse in Europe. The grocery store eventually expressed that the labeling had no environmental use.
The amount of data that could go into a carbon footprint label is extensive because of the wide variety of methods and instruments that go into food harvesting, production and delivery. Some of this data is straightforward enough to come by, like just how much energy is employed in a manufacturing plant that your company owns and runs.
However, other kinds can be tricky to obtain, like endeavoring to find out if a material used in your item, such as plastic packaging, is purchased overseas. There are very few studies obtainable on the topic of Life Cycle Assessments on food in peer-reviewed literature.
In 2007, a potato chip brand in the United Kingdom called Walkers, was one of the earliest to sign up to have its footprint measured. Walkers called upon The Carbon Trust, a United Kingdom nonprofit created by the government to reduce carbon emissions, to study the life of a Walkers potato chip from development to transport to manufacture.
The Carbon Trust found that Walkers’ suppliers were stowing the potatoes in humid rooms to keep their skins soft, and that an ample quantity of heat was necessary to dry them out before they could be fried. Walkers now pays farmers a bonus to keep the potatoes drier, which has helped cut down on a bag of chips’ carbon footprint by 7%. Though these finding are promising, more work is necessary to develop a standard for products at all levels and by all kinds of manufacturers.
In answer to the lack of carbon footprint labeling standards in the United States, the International Standards Organization (ISO) is developing a set of standards that’s currently going through committee and ought to be published by 2011.
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