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How to calculate and compare product environmental footprints with Mobius4 min read

Improving your ecological footprint is a step-by-step process. But how do you actually do it? In this overview, we will walk you through the process of measuring the footprint of a T-Shirt.

Toby Liebsch

Product Marketing at Ecochain.

What’s the environmental footprint of your product?

If you have ever asked yourself this question, you are not alone:

The demand for sustainable products is constantly rising.

European PEF regulation makes product footprints more important

The European Union is working on a standard for product environmental footprints.

As one European standard will likely lead to more regulations and changing standards in different sectors, now is a good time to get familiar with the environmental footprint of your products.

Note that the PEF guidelines are still in development. That said, we cannot say for certain what they will include.

Product footprints: Dynamic challenge

One of the biggest drawbacks of an LCA analysis is the fact that it is rather static:

Once you have calculated the impact of a complex product, it is hard to make changes and iterations on it.

This is where Mobius comes into play – Mobius allows you to calculate the environmental footprint of your products, and to compare it to alternatives.

In this article, we will walk through the process of modeling the environmental impact of a T-Shirt in Mobius. We will also compare it to different alternatives.

Black Cotton T-Shirt: The structure

A T-Shirt is a relatively simple product.

Yet, there are a number of processes involved in manufacturing it.

We will ignore the packaging of the T-Shirt in this article. But even then, the processes behind the manufacturing of the T-Shirt are:

  1. Spinning the yarn
  2. Turning the yarn into fabric
  3. Coloring the fabric
  4. Sewing the fabric into a T-Shirt
  5. Discarding the waste

In Mobius, this process would structurally look like this.

Environmental Footprint with Mobius - Structure
Environmental Footprint with Mobius – Structure

In our example, we have already added the amount of materials needed for the production. This is of course different in every company.

Assigning database values to the products

Now, what impact do “0,24 kg of Cotton Fibres” actually have?

To answer this question, we connected the cotton fibres to a reference in our LCI database, ecoinvent. Through ecoinvent, we can rely on the latest footprint data for any given material.

After connecting this data, here is the footprint of our T-Shirt.

Environmental Footprint with Mobius - Footprints
Environmental Footprint with Mobius – Footprints

Connecting the dots: Unify different values

Electricity and water are being used in many different steps along our manufacturing process.

But we can only get a real insight into our footprint once we’ve combined the different impacts into useful numbers.

In Mobius, the Flat View does exactly that.

It provides you with an overview of where your product’s impact really comes from.

In our T-Shirt example, the winner is clear – electricity accounts for almost 50% of the carbon footprint of the T-Shirt. The cotton fibres, however, only account for about 18%. This means that optimizing the use of electricity and changing the source of electricity has the biggest potential impact on reducing the Co2-footprint of our T-Shirt.

Environmental Footprint with Mobius - Overview
Environmental Footprint with Mobius – Overview

What if I changed the product’s material?

Different materials have different impacts.

One specifically nice feature in Mobius is the comparison mode:

Through comparisons, you can compare the impact of different product’s side by side.

Exchanging the cotton with Polyamide fibres has a huge impact on our product’s footprint – in fact, the footprint of a polyamide T-Shirt is more than 1 kg Co2-eq higher than the footprint of our cotton T-Shirt!

Environmental Footprint with Mobius - Comparison
Environmental Footprint with Mobius – Comparison

Which products have you modeled with Mobius? Get in touch!

More way to make your business more sustainable