I’ve never been a fan of companies who try to greenwash hawk their products with terms like Carbon Neutral for several reasons:
- There’s no meaningful way of verifying the claim.
- Lifecycle analyses are notoriously easy to fudge and/or omit key inputs.
- The “neutrality” is typically achieved with rip-offsets, which are, after all, rip-offsets (see “Question from WSJ blog: Are Bogus Carbon Offsets Really That Bad?“).
Probably the silliest and most unfortunate recent attempt to capitalize on the carbon neutrality craze is Domino’s with their “certified CarbonFree® sugar.”
Many commenters, such as our friends at Scholars and Rogues in “Chemistry: FAIL,” have mocked pointed out informatively that:
The chemical formula for sucrose, aka sugar, is C12H22O11:
Take the carbon out of sugar and you’re pretty much left with water. Methinks Someone failed their chemistry class. Or their marketing class. Or both.
What I think is particularly unfortunate about this is that Domino has a pretty good story to tell (at least for a sugar company):
Our certification is unique because our Florida farmed products’ carbon neutrality is the result of our own production and supply of clean, renewable energy, which replaces the use of fossil fuels. Our renewable energy facility generates eco-friendly power for our sugar milling and refining operations as well as tens of thousands of homes….
Our Florida facility converts sugar cane and recycled wood waste to electricity, reducing the need for 1 million barrels of oil annually….
Our Florida facility conserves about 3.5 million cubic yards of landfill space annually…..
Our Florida facility displaces hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 annually.
You can see their TV commercial here. I’ll leave it to others to comment on Domino’s
… earth friendly farming.
So It may be that they aren’t using rip-offsets to make this claim, but I can’t find that out on their website or that of the organization they used for certification, Carbonfund.org, whose motto, “reduce what you can, offset what you can’t,” isn’t bad as offset mottos go. But they appear to use renewable energy certificates, the overwhelming majority of which just aren’t good offsets (see “Schendler Part II: Good RECs vs. Bad RECs“). And they do reforestation, which is a great thing to do, but relatively dubious as an offset (see no trees for offsets and certainly not a Northern forest “” heck, even offset seller Terrapass disses trees).
The silliness of the label is evidenced by Domino’s need for this from their FAQ:
Does sugar have carbon in it?
The CarbonFree® certification refers to the product’s neutral carbon footprint, not to the sucrose molecule. Meaning it refers to the growth, production, packaging and shipping, not the physical properties of the sugar. Do all, or other sugar brands, have a CarbonFree® status? The only sugar brands in the country that have been certified CarbonFree® are Domino® Granulated Sugar in the specially marked GREEN packages and, our sister brands, Florida Crystals® Organic Sugar and Florida Crystals® Natural Cane Sugar.
If you are a sugar company that needs a FAQ to explain that your CarbonFree sugar has carbon in it, you probably need a new name for your product.