Worried about the carbon impact of sneakers? There is a website that can help


By AGENCY
  • Style
  • Saturday, 28 Aug 2021

By clicking on the name of a pair of sneakers that appears on the screen, you will find detailed information on the product, such as the weight, materials used (and their recyclability rate), the country of manufacture and the existence of a specific recycling programme. Photo: AFP

While it is now possible to find out the carbon impact of a car or a house (with relative ease), such measurement tools do not exist for everyday products, such as shoes.

Three 30-somethings set out to change that. They left their previous jobs to rectify the situation by creating a platform with international scope through which we can learn about the carbon footprint of our sneakers.

If you've ever wondered how much CO2 was involved in manufacturing the pair of sneakers you have on your feet, the Carbonfact platform launched in July by Martin Daniel, Marc Laurent and Romain Champourlier is the place to go to find out.

Several brands are present on the site, from giants like Nike and Adidas to "vegan-friendly" brands such as Saye and Minuit Sur Terre.

Read more: A leg up for sneakers, as people are willing to pay premium prices for them

By clicking on the name of a pair of sneakers that appears on the screen, you will find detailed information on the product, such as the weight, materials used (and their recyclability rate), the country of manufacture and the existence of a specific recycling programme.

This data is then analysed by the Carbonfact team, who then determine the carbon impact of each product.

Carbonfact collects the information from the data available on the sneaker brands' websites. However, some brands have already expressed their interest in participating and have contacted the platform to send them their data.

Parisian brand Caval, which has already worked on measuring its carbon impact by consulting specialists in product Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), is one such example.

A precise carbon score, guaranteed to be free of greenwashing

All three founders of Carbonfact, who were working in the field of technology, left "comfortable" jobs to embark on a project more in line with their values.

"Marc is the creator of the start-up fund Kerala Ventures, Romain was the technical director of Job Teaser," explains Daniel, who himself spent more than five years managing data teams at Airbnb.

"We wanted to focus on the issue of ecology, which is certainly the biggest challenge for our generation. Once you start learning about the climate crisis, there is no turning back. You realise, for example, that everything you do on a daily basis – eating, moving, dressing, etc. – has a carbon cost," he continues.

The starting point for the three 30-somethings was the observation that brands rarely, if ever, communicate the carbon footprint of their products, despite the existence of labels intended to guide consumers towards more eco-responsible choices.

"We are bombarded with fuzzy marketing terms such as 'sustainable', 'eco-friendly' or 'green'. Why isn't there already a carbon tag on each product so we can make an informed decision?" they point out in their manifesto.

Their objective was to create a platform based on the open source model, meaning accessible to all and open to contributions.

"We already have more than 500 members on our platform from all over the world. These people are specialists in the carbon measurement of products and provide us with constructive analysis," explains Daniel.

At Carbonfact, particular attention is paid to the concrete impact of the ecological measures put forward by the brands.

"It is very important for us to quantify the real impact of these products and not just rely on brand communication, a crucial issue given the omnipresence of greenwashing," emphasises Daniel.

Making carbon counting like calorie counting for foods

Another objective of the platform is to highlight brands that may not be as well known to the general public, but which are committed to the environmental cause and have values in line with the expectations of a growing number of consumers.

"Our goal is to support brands that are truly committed to sustainable development, but also to make consumers aware of this factor when they're making decisions about what to buy. A bit like counting the calories in a food, we want to give them the option to count the carbon," Daniel outlines as a comparison.

The platform is designed to have international reach.

Read more: How a Parisian T-shirt label is trying to foster social good

With support from the American incubator Y Combinator, Carbonfact is currently focusing solely on the carbon footprint of sneakers. But its founders are already planning to extend their carbon calculator tool to other everyday products.

"Why not clothes, household appliances or even electronic accessories? The objective is to focus on the sectors where we find the greatest carbon impact. Knowing that billions of shoes are manufactured in the world every year, we thought it would be interesting to start there," says Daniel. – AFP Relaxnews

This interview has been translated from French.

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