Every year, millions of Americans take steps to reduce their carbon emissions, to save money, tackle climate change, and protect the planet for the future. Businesses can cut costs, enhance their efficiency and reap reputational rewards by doing their part. However, for a variety of reasons, many companies are lagging far behind.
The options available to reduce your business carbon emissions depend, like so many things do, on the size, nature, and budget of your organization. Here are our top 5 recommendations.
#1 Measure your footprint
The smartest way to make any business decision is to take stock of your current position – reducing your climate impact is no different. Establishing the state of your current carbon footprint and beginning to monitor your ongoing emissions will flag up what you’re already doing right and where you need to improve.
You can hire green consultants to evaluate the carbon footprint of your business; if that’s not financially viable for you, calculators are available online. The most important thing is to avoid a one-off measure: assessing your carbon emissions should form the basis of your strategy to address them, and ongoing regular assessments should form part of that strategy. Assign one or two enthusiastic staff members to keep everyone on task.
#2 Cut your energy use
Energy use makes up at least half of the carbon footprint of most businesses. Make sure all computers are set to power-saving mode. Switch lights off when not in use and at the end of the day. In fact, make it an end-of-day routine to tour the office for a minute or so, switching stuff off. Lights, computers, power strips, microwaves…if it has a glowing light, you’re not using it and it isn’t a server or a fridge, you should probably shut it off.
Don’t forget about the energy used to heat or cool your office. There’s nothing more controversial than the office thermostat, but turning it down by even one degree in the winter and up just a little in the summer, can make an enormous difference to your energy bill. Seal windows, doors, and any drafty gaps to prevent heat escaping and if you have the budget consider investing in double-glazing: it will undoubtedly save you money in the long run. Buying better blinds could be a more affordable alternative.
Another way to reduce energy use and wastage is to upgrade to more efficient equipment. This could be a major investment, like computers, reprographics equipment, motion sensors for lights, or a new boiler; or it could be as simple as switching to energy-saving lightbulbs.
#3 Reduce, reuse, recycle
Probably the simplest way to reduce and reuse office waste is to reexamine your reliance on paper. How close are you to the dream of a paperless office? Have you moved to digital file storage as far as you can? Are you avoiding unnecessary printing and making sure to print on both sides, on recycled paper? Are you reusing one-sided printouts as scrap? Do you buy recycled toilet paper, too?
If you sell a physical product, avoid over-packaging and try to use reusable, recycled or at least recyclable containers where possible.
Make everyday recycling as easy as possible for your employees by having enough recycling bins that no-one has to walk too far to dispose responsibly of a soda can or scrap of paper. You could also consider getting rid of individual trash cans at staff desks. Maintain a workable recycling system, wherein you know who is emptying the recycling bins and where the waste is going.
Don’t forget you can recycle larger items too. Look online for charities, manufacturers or private companies to help you salvage old furniture and electronic devices (make sure you know how your data is going to be wiped before you hand over your old computers).
#4 Cut down on non-green transportation…
Map out – literally – the journeys to and from work made by your staff, and identify opportunities for greener commutes. Can you encourage employees to walk, run or cycle to work? (Do you have bike racks, lockers or showers?) Can you coordinate a carpooling scheme? Are you able to incentivise the use of public transit? Could some of your staff even work from home part of the week?
Get into the habit of rationalizing the journeys made by your staff and your stuff and begin to put a little effort into organizing your deliveries and errands to avoid unnecessary journeys.
If your company owns any vehicles, try to use the most energy-efficient and the least polluting models suitable for your needs and budget.
#5 …especially flights
A single long-haul flight by just one of your employees can negate a year’s worth of work to reduce the carbon emissions of your business. Multiply that by the thousands of guests at every conference you attend, not to mention meetings, fact-finding trips and so on and you can see how the climate impact of business flights adds up.
Begin to say ‘no’ to some journeys that involve a flight. The quality of video conferencing technology has made huge strides in the last five years. Make use of it, and tell your customers, suppliers, and partners why you’re doing it. Showing some leadership within your industry will win you some corporate responsibility kudos as well as doing your bit for the planet.
Every business could do a little more to reduce their carbon emissions and save themselves a lot of money at the same time. Measure your carbon footprint, identify some opportunities for change and keep going. Even the smallest steps in the right direction can have a big impact on your business – and our shared future.