Carbon negative furniture by Minus: greenwashing or a smart fix to one of the biggest loopholes in carbon accounting?

Sep 18, 2023

Adam Scheuring

If I told you that burning wood is considered zero emissions, would you believe me?

Since the Kyoto protocol in 1997, biogenic emissions from the burning of biomass (eg. wood) were a topic of debate. Countries are required to report the change in forest cover (deforestation/reforestation/afforestation), but to avoid double counting the IPCC's guideline prescribed that emissions from biomass combustion are not included in the energy sector's emissions. Simply put, if more trees were cut than what could be regrown in the reporting period, this would be visible on the LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry) section of a country's carbon account.

Being scientists with high-integrity, the IPCC explicitly said that the guidelines "do not automatically consider or assume biomass used for energy as "carbon neutral", even in cases where the biomass is thought to be produced sustainably."

What did countries like the EU and UK do?

Of course, they went ahead and started treating biomass used for energy as "carbon-neutral" anyways. In the EU, burning wood is considered renewable energy, even though burning biomass emits more CO2 per unit of energy than coal or gas, along with hazardous airborne particles like PM2.5 and even though this would only make sense in a perfectly closed system with zero deforestation, zero loss of diversity and full regeneration.

But deforestation in the EU can't be that bad, right?

Well, it is. Here's the top list of deforestation rates between 2001 and 2022:

Portugal: 51% decrease (1.17Mha)
Latvia: 24% decrease (857kha)
Estonia: 21% decrease (556kha)
Sweden: 20% decrease (5.50Mha)
Finland: 20% decrease (4.38Mha)
UK: 15% decrease (541kha)
Spain: 14% decrease (1.56Mha)
Denmark: 14% decrease (95.5kha)
Poland: 12% decrease (1.30Mha)
Germany: 9.8% decrease (1.23Mha)
Austria: 8.9% decrease (385kha)
France: 8.3% decrease (1.39Mha)
Norway: 7.7% decrease (905kha)
Romania: 5.1% decrease (407kha)
Italy: 4.8% decrease (444kha)

Half of Portugal's forests were lost while Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia lost 20-25%.

And beyond the EU's borders, this policy even created a demand for other countries to export biomass to the EU. In places like Maryland, US forests are being clear cut to be exported as woodchip biofuel to satisfy the EU's needs for its "renewable energy" targets while creating deforestation, biodiversity loss and health issues in the local communities due to dust pollution. This terrible policy is leaking across continents.

What does the furniture industry have to do with this?

Wood furniture naturally stores carbon in its material, which gets released at the end-of-life, meaning when the furniture piece is discarded. Due to the policy above, most wood waste gets burnt in power plants, since it's considered "zero emissions" energy. So what's captured in the product, goes back again once the furniture is not used anymore. On average, the lifetime of furniture is ~10 years, while the lifetime of a tree is 100 years.

But what if you could ensure that the carbon stored in the product never gets released back into the atmosphere?

What if all production waste avoids the fate of being burnt as "zero emissions" biomass? What if the product's lifetime was much longer than the industry average and what if one can make sure that at the very end of its life the wood doesn't get burnt?

This is what Minus does.

Here are the key components of their circular, carbon negative model:

  • Ensure zero deforestation and biodiversity conscious logging practices

  • Turn all production waste into biochar (carbon removal with min. 100, but most likely thousands of yes of permanence)

  • Prolong the product lifetime via refurbishments, fixes, upgrades and timeless design

  • Control the product lifecycle (and eventually the end-of-life) via a subscription model (producer ownership)

  • Turn the carbon in the material at the product's end-of-life into permanent carbon removal (biochar)

  • To ensure the positive resource balance, make sure that the product's lifetime is longer than the lifetime of the tree that produced the material

It's possible to disrupt the industry's status quo and fix the carbon cycle of furniture, the Minus way.


Creating the zero carbon future starts today.