In an age where environmental conservation became so important, the choice of restored products can play a critical role in reducing carbon footprint on Earth. Industrial production of new products is one the major contributor to carbon emissions. Restoration diverges from traditional industrial paths by prioritising the rejuvenation of existing items with heightened environmental awareness.
Such practice not only conserve resources but also promote sustainable and circular economy, underscoring the profound impact of restoration in reducing carbon emissions. This article explores the multifaceted benefits of restoration in the context of industrial production and its environmental footprint, highlighting how restored products offer a viable solution to the pressing challenge of carbon reduction. With one huge differential: each item carries its own unique history and style.
Let's see how this unfolds.
The impact of industrial production and distribution on carbon balance
Currently, even if the majority of the industries adopt environmentally friendly practices, producing new products inherently means some impact. That’s why it’s so important for consumers to be aware of that when choosing. Indeed, our daily choices influence the course of our planet.
Let’s have a look at some of the most salient elements in carbon footprint creation in industries.
Industrial production is one of the largest consumers of energy worldwide. In US it accounts for 76% of total energy consumption.
This energy is primarily sourced from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, which, when burned, release significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. This contributes directly to the carbon footprint of industrial processes.
Also, older plants and equipment generally consume more energy and produce more emissions than more energy-efficient technologies.
The extraction of raw materials, necessary for industrial production, often involves energy-intensive processes with a significant carbon footprint. Mining, deforestation, and other extraction activities can have even broader environmental impacts.
These processes often involve chemical reactions that produce CO2 as a byproduct. For instance, cement production, a key ingredient in concrete, involves calcining limestone (calcium carbonate), which releases CO2. Similarly, steel production, especially in blast furnaces, is another significant contributor to CO2 emissions.
The industrial sector encompasses not only about production processes themselves but also about the transportation of raw materials and finished products. This transportation, often reliant on fossil fuels, adds to the overall carbon footprint of industrial goods. The global nature of supply chains means that the carbon footprint of industrial production is a worldwide concern.
The production of goods in one country with lax environmental regulations can have global environmental impacts.
The carbon footprint of industrial products also includes emissions from their usage and disposal. For example, electronic goods consume energy during use, and their disposal can release harmful substances, contributing to raise its carbon footprint. The longer a product lasts, the less it leaves a footprint.
Industrial activities generate waste, including greenhouse gases, solid waste, and wastewater. Improper waste management can lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, for example, through methane release from decomposing waste in landfills.
Some examples of carbon footprint
Craftsmanship as a sustainable choice
Restoration of items follows a very different path. It starts with the concept itself: bringing back to life something that wasn’t quite used or was destined to end up in a landfill. Just the act of avoiding its disposal avoids new carbon footprint.
The activity of restoration focuses on quality and durability of the “new” products. By doing this, some additional positive effects are generally observed:
Energy: even though restoration uses machines to some extent, it relies essentially on craftmanship. No heavy machinery is used, this way a lower amount is necessary to repair and repurpose an item, compared to manufacturing it again.
Materials: quality materials are used in restoration, ensuring the product can last as long as possible. Also, sourcing raw materials locally is an important component. As an example, while repairing a lamp, restoration uses the best available electrical wires, avoiding the need for a new rewiring.
Traditional techniques: craftmanship means using the best human skills instead of serial production. This way, human work is the primary source, reducing carbon footprint and the use of machines.
Waste: since restoration works “make to order”, all its consumption is precisely customised and calculated, thereby eliminating unnecessary waste. Also, craftmanship is a manual process that produces less waste than industrial ones.
Environmental awareness: all choices made are made considering the long run and therefore the most efficient ones. This impacts dramatically in the production of new carbon footprint.
Above everything, the value created by craftmanship is local and shared with the community where it is located. This makes restoration a vibrant piece of circular economy, adding value to every step in the loop.
Case studies: how much carbon footprint restored items can save
Before we have seen the numbers of carbon footprint produced by the manufacturing of some products. Now, let’s see the opposite: how much carbon footprint can be avoided by choosing restored products.
Let’s use as example some items we restored.
Martela Kilta armchair
This armchair was originally made in Finland during the 1950s. Seat foam and fabrics were consumed, and the magnificent chair couldn’t be used anymore. The seat pad was replaced and recovered with yellow fabric hand stitched onto chair.
On average, just manufacturing a new armchair creates 43.000g CO2e of carbon footprint. Upholstery and foam have the lion’s share with 47% of it or 20.210g CO2e.
So, by restoring it fully like you can see in the picture, we are avoiding 22.790g CO2e plus the 43.000g of a new chair. Total 65.790g CO2e, which is the equivalent of 239 washes of an average washing machine.
These wee beauties were carefully removed from a traditional building in Edinburgh, intact to be reused after some cleaning.
If we calculate the carbon footprint impact, we have 25.000g CO2e for every square meter of new tiles. For example, using these colourful tiles in a room measuring 3x4m, we could save 300.000g CO2e, or the equivalent of 150 warm showers of 10 minutes.
Mid-century coffee table
This table was filled and repaired. Then it received some grey coating, and the base was stained to original colour.
Perfect for both traditional and contemporary interiors, this table is not just a piece of furniture, but a conversation starter, blending history with modern living.
With the coating little carbon was added to it, while keeping most of its old carbon footprint, around 15.000g CO2e, plus avoiding new carbon from a new item.
Are you intrigued by the environmental impact of your actions? You can delve deeper into this topic on the WMF website or utilise a carbon calculator to provide a more precise assessment of your carbon footprint.
Your choices as a consumer can reduce carbon footprint
As we have seen above, when you opt for restored products you are using a potent tool in the fight against climate change. Restoration, by its nature, significantly lessens the carbon footprint compared to new production. It embodies sustainable practices—energy efficiency, reduced waste, and local craftsmanship — while revitalising items with unique histories.
Your choice not only preserves resources but also bolsters a circular economy, underlining the profound impact individual consumer decisions have on our planet's carbon balance.