We have all heard of global warming. Some have tried to debunk the human factor as a cause of rising global temperatures, while governments around the globe have unified to set CO2 reduction targets and strategize for a greener future. Joining together to take a global approach to this issue should demonstrate to most of us that, what we do does matter as a collective whole.
Today, we are going to focus specifically on solar shading products, their emissions, and how they affect you and our environment, but first, there are some basics to understand.
What are product emissions and how do we calculate a product’s carbon footprint?
All products, and we mean ALL, release CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is what is known as a carbon footprint. Determining the carbon footprint of a product requires a great deal of research. This is called a lifecycle assessment. The calculation begins from the emissions created in the extraction of raw materials, the transportation of those materials from place to place, the electricity used during manufacturing of the product, emissions through the use of the product, and finally their disposal or recyclability. In fact, there are so many things to take into consideration, that this short list only scratches the surface.
Of course, these are not things we would ever consider when searching for a product that we need. Instead, we rely on manufacturers doing their part to produce products with the lowest environmental impact possible. Emissions from products into our atmosphere, however, are only part of the concern. What many consumers do not know is that many of the products we use daily also release harmful emissions into our immediate surroundings. These can present significant health risks to occupants and pets.
Studies have shown that particulates in the air can lead to a whole host of health issues, especially respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, or pneumonia.
There are 6 main categories of pollutants which include particle pollutants, carbon oxides, ground-level ozone, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead. These are classified into two groups. Primary pollutants which cause direct harm, and secondary pollutants which react with other environmental factors. For example, nitrogen oxides and other volatile organic compounds react with direct sunlight to form ground-level ozone which is especially harmful to our respiratory systems.
Energy Efficient Certifications
Fortunately, there are industrial certifications we can look for when shopping for products that inform us that the product meets safe health standards and has a minimal impact on the environment. The following are some certifications that you have most likely seen proudly displayed on product packaging.
Safer Choice is a certification spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency. This product certification labels products that perform well or are safer for human health and the environment.
Energy Star is probably the most recognizable of all product certifications with a focus on a huge array of energy-efficient products like appliances, electronics, and lightbulbs, to name a few. Energy Star certifications can be obtained for buildings and manufacturing plants as well.
Green Seal is a non-profit organization that promotes and certifies environmentally friendly products.
Product Emissions from Solar Shading Solutions
Now that we have discussed what emissions are, how they impact us, and what factors contribute to the carbon footprint of a product, let’s have a look at the carbon footprint of solar shading solutions.
Retractable screens, outdoor blinds, and privacy screens are cost-efficient with energy savings of up to 60 times their CO2 footprint during a 20-year lifespan. The majority of greenhouse gases produced by these shading products occur in the gathering of raw materials and the production of primary products used to create them. Manufacturing surprisingly accounts for only 0.5% of all product emissions.
Exterior mounted solutions perform the best because of the additional energy savings they provide compared to interior solutions. How it works is simple. Exterior-mounted shutters and screens block solar radiation before it can pass through windows and heat the interior of your building resulting in reduced energy demand for cooling. In fact, exterior-mounted solar products can reduce active cooling by as much as 54% vs 16% when interior mounted solutions are used.
One lifecycle assessment of an exterior-mounted Venetian blind showed that the blind will create approximately 150 Kg of carbon dioxide emissions in its lifetime. While this pales in comparison to the CO2 that it will save from solar protection of around 8,500 Kg over the assumed 20-year lifespan, other forms of sun protection solutions last longer and perform even better.
Solutions like Talius Habitat Screens and Rollshutters, offset their carbon footprint within about 6 months of use and outperforms other exterior solutions for a few reasons. Special fabrics designed for maximum UV protection and specifically designed for exterior applications provide longer life of the product and higher energy savings. Talius Rollshutters are an insulated solution, which makes them incredibly efficient at preventing heat loss which is an added benefit in colder climates. Since they greatly reduce heating energy demand, additional energy savings are gained leaving Rollshutters with the lowest carbon footprint of all the solutions we have mentioned in this article.
What Else Can We Do?
So, apart from being informed about how we contribute as consumers to the overall impact on our environment, what else can we do to protect ourselves and the environment?
Start with shopping for products that have been certified for a healthy environment and are manufactured using environmentally responsible methods. As consumers, we have the power to shape the way manufacturers produce the products that we use and consume. Shopping only for products that have a low or even negative carbon footprint will encourage more manufacturers to jump on board and seek more product certifications.
Reduce your carbon footprint by carpooling, handwashing dishes, eating less meat, and reducing food waste for example. Remembering that what we do does matter, even the smallest measure will make a cumulative difference.