What if we told you that the office you work in, the computer you use, the clothes you wear, even the beer and vodka you drink, could work towards saving the environment? It sounds like a pipe-dream, but in 2020, brands are going one step further than carbon neutral – they’re going carbon negative, by actually removing carbon dioxide from the air, rather than adding to it.
Take hip, Scottish beer company BrewDog: in total, it plans to invest a whopping £30 million in its green infrastructure plan, going carbon negative by switching to wind power for its breweries and bars. It’ll turn leftover grain from the brewing process into gas power, use electric cars for all its deliveries and plant a whole forest in its native Scotland to remove twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as it puts in.
If beer isn’t your bag, Brooklyn-based brand Air Co has come up with an ingenious way to convert carbon dioxide into alcohol, to create the world’s first carbon negative vodka. Even the carbon footprint of the ultra-chic bottle labels is calculated and offset by planting trees, so you needn’t feel in the least bit guilty about that Friday night drink.
Annually, the fashion industry is estimated to pump around a billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Step forward, Sheep Inc., paving the way in forward-thinking fashion with its transparent and planet-friendly approach and fully traceable, 100% biodegradable merino wool jumpers. These cosy, covetable, keep-forever sweaters remove 10 times more carbon from the atmosphere than the production process creates, through investment in biodiversity projects. What’s more, each one comes with a nifty NFC tag on the hem, which you can scan with your phone for full accounts of the supply chain, carbon footprint and offsetting programme.
Across the pond, New York designer Charlotte McCurdy has created a water-resistant mac from plastic made of algae, a plant which naturally captures existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Even the threads and fastenings on the coat are fossil-carbon-free, and McCurdy’s studio runs on electric energy. While just a prototype for now, McCurdy (who also works with the UN and the Slow Factory Foundation) aims to ‘counteract the narrative of climate change as a problem without a solution’.
And what about at work? UK architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios has designed a six-storey, cross-laminated timber office to be built on Old Paradise Street alongside a railway in Vauxhall, London. The company has calculated that the sequestered carbon contained in the building timber is sufficient to make up for all carbon emissions generated in construction, plus the first 60 years of the building’s use. Even when you’re at your desk, you can soon be confident you’re helping rather than hindering the planet: Microsoft is aiming to become a carbon-negative business by 2030, as is Apple.
With so many innovations making production greener and more transparent (without, crucially, compromising on quality or style) there are fewer and fewer excuses for companies not writing sustainability into their rule books. These brands, however, have taken it one step further, pushing the eco envelope on environmentally friendly design. Good for us, and good for the planet – what’s not to love?