The concept of a commercial product with a net environmental impact of zero, at least in terms of its carbon footprint, is an enticing possibility for eco-conscious businesses and consumers. Now, products can officially obtain this “carbon-free” status, and step out in style with a certification and seal program, courtesy of a collaboration between NSF International and the Foundation.

The CarbonFree Product Certification Program, owned by and introduced in 2007, will now be offered exclusively through NSF’s Sustainability Division. “The NSF and partnership leverages both organizations’ combined expertise in product sustainability and NSF’s global certification management resources to enable a rapid expansion of the service on a global scale, while maintaining the quality and integrity of the service,” says Tom Bruursema, general manager of NSF International’s Sustainability Division.

The program allows companies to offset the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the production and lifecycle of its products, a process which begins with a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to determine the levels of these emissions. Then, those emissions are translated into and expressed in the form of carbon dioxide equivalents. Those that can’t be eliminated from the product’s carbon footprint are offset. This ‘neutralizing’ of emissions occurs via third-party validated renewable energy, energy efficiency and forestry projects, adding up to the necessary amount of offset ‘credits’ for a given product. Through the installation of wind farms or solar arrays, or the planting of trees, the GHG emissions resulting from the creation and use of a product are effectively negated.

Bruursema says that clients will engage directly with NSF to achieve CarbonFree certification, while will head up the carbon offset projects and the licensing of the CarbonFree label for use on certified products. Products certified with CarbonFree are able to use the CarbonFree mark on their packaging, and are listed in the online database of certified products. The CarbonFree seal can already be found on food products, including those of industry companies like Florida Crystals, as well as beverages, electronics and apparel.

“More and more companies want to quantify, reduce and offset the GHG emissions associated with the products they manufacture and supply,” says Bruursema. He notes that there are no limitations on the type of product that can be certified CarbonFree, and the diversity of the products already signed up attests to the broad interest in going eco-friendly.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2012