Have you tried one of those online carbon footprint calculators yet? According to this one, my family of three is adding around 51 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. But another online tool gauges my annual household emissions at 36,411 pounds (about 18 tons). Clearly, calculating carbon footprints is not yet an exact science.
That doesn’t stop our Design for the Environment (DfE) group from trying, though. They’re working to gather the information required to determine the carbon footprints of Herman Miller’s products. No easy task, given that most are made of multiple parts–the Aeron chair, for example has around 200–and you have to know the composition and manufacturing process of each (and how it’s shipped and where from) before you can factor in the energy used to assemble the chair and translate the result into carbon emissions.
In a recent interview with Metropolis magazine, DfE manager Gabe Wing, explains that the challenge is “finding a standardized way to determine carbon footprints. Right now there is no single standard.” Still, if it isn’t yet possible to measure carbon emissions exactly, Wing says, it is feasible to lower them by setting benchmarks for new product designs, choosing materials that have inherently low carbon footprints, and encouraging suppliers to use renewables in their own manufacturing processes.