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Companies Measure the Carbon Footprint of Consumer Products

Consumer products are beginning to display details about their environmental impact, like the amount of greenhouse gases produced in making, transporting and selling them, The New York Times reports.

British supermarket chain Tesco has proposed labeling products to reflect their carbon footprint, starting with tens of thousands of Tesco-branded food and clothing products. The company plans to help create a Sustainable Consumption Institute, which will develop a universal carbon measure.

Timberland now includes a label with its footwear that details the energy used in making the shoes, the portion that is renewable, and the factory’s labor record.

As Timberland found out, such measurements are complicated. To measure the true environmental costs of Timberlands’s products, you have to go back to the cow that supplied the leather. In fact, the vast majority of Timberland’s carbon footprint comes before its shoes are produced.

This spring, Stonyfield Farm is expected to announce that Climate Counts, a nonprofit group it helped found, will independently evaluate leading consumer-products companies’ efforts to manage their climate effect. The idea is to create a metric that will allow consumers to compare, say, McDonald’s and Burger King.

Third-party environmental certifications – aimed at specific areas – already exist. The Marine Stewardship Council covers seafood; VeriFlora certifies flowers; and Green Seal puts its stamp on government and corporate buying.

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