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Community and Q&A

Ecopact low carbon concrete?

NICK KEENAN | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

I keep getting ads for EcoPact low carbon concrete in my Google Ads feed (probably because of the time I spend here). It claims to have 30-50% less carbon than standard concrete. Which is great, because I’m about to do a project that will use a fair bit of concrete, I’d love to go low carbon. However, I can’t seem to find out much about it. Clicking on the ads just takes me to the Aggregate Industries website, which has a lot of fluff about how great it its but no info on how it’s done. 

Googling just seems to give page after page of press releases. 

Anyone know anything about it?

Thanks.

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Replies

  1. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #1

    You'll want to be careful with claims like this. The material itself is likely (and should be the same), so their claim would need to be based on the energy used to produce the material. They might be doing something simple, like making the material in the Pacific Northwest, where most of the electricity supply is sourced from hydroelectric generation.

    If your primary goal is a low embodied carbon concrete, BE SURE you have ACCURATE information from the manufacturer. There is a lot of misleading and outright falsehood out there with all things green, and it goes both ways so be careful.

    Bill

  2. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #2

    Thanks Bill, that's exactly what I'm worried about. For example, they also offer "EcoPact Zero," where they buy carbon offsets to offset the carbon produced in production. That's gimmicky as hell.

    I've also been unable to find anything anywhere about what it costs.

    1. Expert Member
      BILL WICHERS | | #3

      I've never liked the "we bought offsets" thing. That's cheating, and just drives up costs for no real gain. I'm not a big fan of the "embodied carbon" thing either, really, because it doesn't generally account for differences in generation mix around the country (or continenent, for that matter). You can't say "one kwh used x amount of carbon" with any accuracy.

      If someone decided to build a concrete plant with a solar concentrator or something really radical like that, that would be different, and they could market that. Buying offsets is like saying "we're a rich company with big margins, so we paid money to something that we think will make you buy our overpriced product without us really changing anything about our operation".

      I've always tried to stick with making things as efficiently as possible which is always a win-win, with no real downside and no room for goofiness.

      BTW, some ideas if you're trying to reduce your energy use with paving materials:
      You can get concrete in some areas that uses crushed concrete from old roads that have been redone. This is recyling of concrete, in a way. This might help you get towards your gaol. The same thing applies to asphalt by using "asphalt millings", which are bits of asphalt road that have been ground off the top by a machine I like to call a "chewer" as part of a road resurfacing process. You can bind these together to make a driveway, but it will have a rougher texture than virgin asphalt.

      Bill

      1. karlb_zone6a | | #6

        Keep in mind that on a per-unit* basis concrete (and really its cement component) isn't particularly carbon intensive. The real problem comes because we use SO MANY units of it, relative to other materials.

        You'd have to run the numbers**, but since concrete in useful quantities is heavy, I suspect the total carbon footprint will include a sizable contribution from materials transportation (cement and aggregate to the mixing point, and then to your site). From that perspective, the "best" concrete might simply be "reasonably local". Of course, it can't hurt to ask your local supplier about their blend, and push them to offer something better. They won't change until there's a demand for it.

        * choose your unit: kg, tons, (cubic) yards, etc, etc, etc
        ** see the ICE database for numbers: https://circularecology.com/embodied-carbon-footprint-database.html

  3. charlie_sullivan | | #4

    I would check out the websites, or call, the major concrete suppliers in your area and see if they have low carbon options, and focus on researching those, rather than trying to track down a supplier of this particular one.

  4. Jon_R | | #5

    > a fair bit of concrete, I’d love to go low carbon

    Even better is "I'd love to do what has the most environmental benefit for the dollars I have to spend". That might be using regular concrete and spending the savings elsewhere. Agreed, companies often lie and some things are difficult to account for. But calculating $/ton of carbon and applying the $ where is does the most good isn't cheating or gimmicky, it's the right thing to do.

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