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Can You Make Radio Ads Carbon Negative?

Swedish power company says it has successfully captured voice talent’s carbon emissions

To keep the recording process carbon negative, the voice talent used a rebreathing unit to capture the carbon dioxide normally emitted as part of speaking. (Photo courtesy Jan Sjöberg and Staffan Kjellvestad, Volt)

Skellefteå Kraft, one of the largest power producers in Sweden, is working toward developing a 100% renewable energy solution for the Nordic nation. As part of this commitment, the company recently released what is being billed as the world’s first carbon-negative radio advertisement.

“Every Breath You Take” is more than just The Police’s 1983 radio chart topper; it’s also a small source of carbon emissions. For Skellefteå Kraft’s ad to be truly carbon-negative, it was necessary to make sure that none of the carbon dioxide produced by the talent’s lungs as a natural part of respiration was released back to the atmosphere.

“Skellefteå Kraft has an ambition to be 100% renewable in everything we do and to create innovative products and services. Therefore, it is also completely natural for us to continue exploring how the advertising we produce and broadcast can be as climate-smart as possible,” stated Anki Högdahl, marketing communications manager at Skellefteå Kraft.

Working with Stockholm-based advertising company Volt, the company found a solution that made use of the sort of rebreathing unit used by wreck divers or combat divers for extended duration dives.

During the 60-second spot, the voice actor spoke only while inhaling. He then exhaled into the rebreather, which processed the exhaled air through active lime (CaO), which chemically binds to the carbon in the exhaled carbon dioxide to produce limestone (CaCO3).

Listening to the advertisement, it’s clear that speaking only while inhaling is not a simple matter, and it does not produce the polished sound that most radio adverts strive for. However, according to Volt, the process successfully captured an estimated 470 mg of carbon.

The spot will air nationally in prime time on a number of commercial radio stations across Sweden.