Some time ago, we calculated the carbon footprint of four different Barons shirts. One of the...
Some time ago, we calculated the carbon footprint of four different Barons shirts. One of the key take-aways from the analysis was that cotton accounted for by far the largest item in the shirts' carbon footprint. Among other things, since organic cotton uses far fewer chemicals, its carbon footprint is significantly smaller than that of conventional cotton. That's why we also suggested to Barons that their focus for the next generation of their shirts should be to switch production from their current PIMA cotton from California to organic cotton - which they have done and moved to organic cotton from Egypt.
In addition to switching to organic cotton, Barons has worked intensively to make the entire value chain 100% transparent, so they can control all processes much more effectively. This is extremely important also in the context of a carbon footprint - because it means that some of the uncertainty associated with carbon calculations is eliminated.
Finally, the plastic in both buttons and mailing bags has switched to recycled plastic rather than virgin plastic as was the case before.
Based on the above changes, we revisited the old calculations with Barons and corrected them to track the changes in their carbon footprint.
Limits of the calculation & functional unit
We follow the same methodology as in the previous calculations. If you want to read about it you can follow the link here. The most important thing to note is that the result of the calculations here is the carbon footprint related to materials, production and transport.
Below are the results of the changes Barons has made from Generation 3 to 4. In particular, the switch to organic cotton has made a big difference to the carbon footprint.
With greater transparency in the value chain, the above does not add uncertainty to the CO2 emissions from Generation 4. However, the uncertainty may be equally present in the emission factors and any "unknown unknowns". Therefore, the comparison between the figures with the same uncertainty factor is also relevant to look at:
In conclusion, Barons has succeeded in reducing CO2 emissions from their products by 28-44% with a few, yet important initiatives.
With the shift in raw materials, it becomes clearer that processing also has a big role to play in the overall carbon footprint. Here, spinning and finishing are particularly energy-intensive. These are processes that cannot be avoided, but care can be taken to ensure that the CO2 intensity of the electricity used is as low as possible. Right now, the processes are mainly in countries with a high CO2 intensity in the energy grid. A recommendation for further CO2 reductions is therefore either to move production to countries with a lot of renewable energy in the electricity grid (which does not significantly lengthen transport) or to ensure that some of the energy is covered by renewable energy: this could be, for example, their own solar cells that cover part of the consumption.
You can read more about Baron's sustainability initiatives here.
As we have not been able to get first-hand data from all parts of the process, it has been necessary to make some assumptions. The main ones are here:
- Assuming that there is a textile loss of 13%, 3% and 10% in spinning, finishing and sewing respectively.
- Assuming that spinning and knitting take place in the same place.
- As the main CO2 emission from organic cotton comes from the energy used in harvesting etc., the emission is highly dependent on the CO2 intensity of the electricity grid. Therefore, the CO2 emissions from organic cotton are scaled up by the difference between the CO2 intensity in California and Egypt.
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2020
- California ISO
- Moro, A., Lonza, L. Electricity carbon intensity in European Member States: Impacts on GHG emissions of electric vehicles
- Baydara, G., Cilizab, N. & Mammadovab, A. Cotton Ginners Handbook
- Mayfield W., Anthony, W.S. Life cycle assessment of cotton textile products in Turkey