Carbon labels on construction materials help fight climate change

by | Dec 13, 2021 | Blog, Construction, Green / Sustainability Ideas | 0 comments

Nutrition labels tell us how much fat, sugar and other ingredients went into the food product we’re consuming. Now a new label does the same for construction materials: telling buyers how much carbon dioxide contributed to the making of the items.

Call it the green label. Or, as a new Colorado law dubs it: “environmental product declarations.”

House Bill 1303, passed in 2021, “requires the building trades to slap labels on everything they produce, detailing how much carbon was ‘embodied’ in the making,” reports The Colorado Sun in a recent article.

“And in the future, major material buyers, including the Colorado Department of Transportation or the state architect, must start comparing those carbon nutrition labels when buying for road building and other projects.”

Proponents of the bill say more states are bound to follow with similar bills of their own.

The Sun reports that, according to the clean energy think tank RMI, at least 39% of the greenhouse gases worldwide are made up of building emissions. A quarter of that number can be attributed to the carbon created in making the materials for those buildings.

Happily, many manufacturers are already making great improvements to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Consider these examples:

Asphalt: Over the last 30 years, while production of asphalt has gone up 250%, carbon emissions have dropped 97% due to new manufacturing procedures, according to the Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association.

Steel: The Sun notes that the Evraz steel plant in Pueblo uses recycled steel “as its base production material.” The plant is increasingly using solar energy to meet its high energy needs.

Cement: A Florence cement-making plant uses carbon capture techniques to reduce emissions in making the binder for concrete. This carbon dioxide can then be sold to the oil and gas industry, “which injects it underground to boost field production, or  [it can be] sequestered underground to keep it from the atmosphere.”

While many questions remain – for example, does the carbon used to transport the goods to the construction site count in calculation? – many are optimistic about this new approach.

“We can make huge progress without any increase in cost to Colorado,” one of the sponsors of the bill told the Sun. “It’s just changing the way we’re thinking.”

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