Businesses of all sizes can make easy changes to reduce their carbon footprint and become more sustainable. If you are curious about how sustainable your business is you can complete our simple Fit for Future Sustainable Business Assessment here.
MEASURE YOUR BUSINESS CARBON FOOTPRINT
For most businesses the first step to reducing your climate impact is to measure and understand your carbon footprint. This is a relatively simple process for most businesses as it uses readily available information used to prepare your accounts. It is also a surprising low cost activity, which can help you reduce costs as well as lowering your carbon footprint. Most companies use an external consultant like Positive Planet to measure their carbon footprint and help them identify how they can reduce their emissions. Once you have measured your carbon footprint, you can identify your emission hotspots and work out how to reduce them. You can find out more about measuring your carbon footprint here.
MOVE TO GREEN ENERGY
Switching your energy provider to one who supplies green energy backed by REGOs – or Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin – assures that your business is powered by 100% renewably sourced electricity. A business using 30,000 KWh of non renewable energy per annum will have associated carbon emissions of over 8 tonnes of CO2. While switching to green gas is not as straightforward as changing to renewable electricity, there are some suppliers who offer carbon neutral business gas. This means that the gas supplier has offset the emissions associated with supplying your business gas, so you don’t have to.
SLASH YOUR AIR TRAVEL MILES
During the covid pandemic, most companies experienced a reduction in carbon emissions of over 30% resulting from reduced business travel. Video conferencing services such as Zoom, Skype and Google Meet are now a common part of our working day and one we need to continue using to keep our travel related emissions down.
If you do have to travel for work, try to minimise your air travel as this can reduce your travel related emission by up to 600% especially if you opt to travel by rail instead. If you do have to fly abroad even travelling by standard class rather than business class reduces your emissions significantly due to less space being taken up on the plane. Flying London to New York on first class leaves a carbon footprint of over 3.5 tonnes of CO2 whereas flying business class reduces this by a tonne of CO2 and flying standard class reduces it to less than a tonne.
REDUCE YOUR CAR TRAVEL
If you use a car frequently, the first step to cutting down your emissions may well be to simply fully consider the alternatives available to you. The average petrol car on the road in the UK produces the equivalent of 180g of CO2 every kilometre, while a diesel car produces 173g of CO2/km. Larger petrol powered cars can emit as much as 650g of CO2/km. Generally, the larger the car, the higher the emissions.
For those continuing to use a car, choosing the most fuel-efficient model available can make a big difference. Transport emissions are still growing globally because of the growing appetite for SUVs over smaller vehicles, a trend which risks cancelling out the benefits of switching to electric cars. A decade ago SUVs made up 17% of global yearly car sales, but now account for 39%. According to the International Energy Agency, this demand for larger cars was the second largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions between 2010 and 2018. Not only are people driving more, but also the vehicles, unfortunately, aren’t actually getting more carbon efficient, so that’s a big problem.
A large car emits on average 85% more greenhouse gases per km than a small vehicle, according to figures from the UK government. Electric cars are the lowest carbon – they emit around a third of the CO2 of a petrol car in the UK, although this figure will vary from country to country depending on how much fossil fuels are still used to produce electricity. Choosing more fuel efficient or alternatively fuelled vehicles such as alternative fuel or electric vehicles. Government grants may be available to subsidise the cost of new low-emissions vehicles.
It may be worthwhile engaging The Energy Saving Trust (EST) who can carry out several different reviews to help you make your fleet greener and more efficient. EST’s Green Fleet Reviews are usually available at no cost for most private and public sector organisations in England as they are paid for by the UK Government to promote energy efficiency goals. Green Fleet Reviews identify opportunities to reduce emissions, fuel costs and expenditure.
To apply for a Green Fleet Review email email@example.com
EST also offer a series of best practice guides and a ‘Fleet Healthcheck’ tool which uses the answers to a five minute questionnaire to give some indicative answers of the type that a full review would provide.
GET EFFICIENT LIGHTING
Changing lighting across a building to more energy efficient options such as LED can make a big difference and is a quick win with long lasting effects. Where possible ensure that natural light is used when adequate. Many offices are artificially lit unnecessarily. Natural light saves energy and has been found to improve sleep and avoid health risks associated with unnatural lighting, such as an elevated stress response.
Solar shading and transparent film can be used to help, by minimising glare and excessive heat. There is also an array of technology available, such as motion sensors which will automatically ensure lights are switched off if rooms are not in use. Dimmable lights are another method to ensure lights aren’t at their brightest maximum when not required. This should also help reduce electricity costs.
OPTIMISE YOUR TEMPERATURE SETTINGS
OK so how many times a day do people complain about the temperature in your premises? Buildings with effective energy management systems typically have 15% lower energy usage than those without. Not only that, they help to regulate the internal harmoniously with outside air temperatures. This can minimise over heating or cooling and hopefully stops all the complaints. Ensuring that temperature is minimal during the night is important. Lots of energy can be wasted if heating and cooling systems are competing, this can be avoided by installing a Building Management system.
Ensure staff are trained on local heating and cooling units to avoid dramatic swings in temperature or take away the ability to manually adjust the thermostat. Train or take away locally controlled thermostats and have them centrally controlled. Make sure your boiler is regularly serviced to ensure it is operating as efficiently as possible. In addition, regularly clean fins on heating and cooling appliances.
Consider installing window film that allows light in but reflects the heat back out during the summer. This gives you the benefit of natural light without causing increased need for air conditioning. Some window film can also work in reverse in winter so that heat is reflected back into the room.
TEMPERATURE CORRECT YOUR IT ROOM
If you have an onsite data centre or comms room, these can be large and unnecessary consumers of electricity. The optimum temperature for a data centre/comms room is similar to your office at 22 – 23 degrees. However, data centres are often set to a chilly 19°C resulting in excessive energy usage. Data centres can save 8% to 9% in energy costs for every 1°C increase in server inlet temperature. Typically, only 40% of the electricity consumed in a data centre is used by IT equipment. A staggering 60% is consumed by the server room infrastructure: air conditioning, lighting, UPS systems, etc. Reorganising your aisles into either hot or cold air containment systems could save you 20% to 40% in annual cooling system energy.
The most simple and cost-effective hot air containment system we found is that used by Google and involves placing metal-end caps on rows and vinyl plastic curtains, such as those used in meat lockers, which limit air of different temperatures from mixing, whilst maintaining ease of access and flexible rack layouts.
MAKE YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN SUSTAINABLE
Consumers, businesses and government departments increasingly want the goods and services they purchase to have sustainable credentials. Increasing awareness and new legislation is forcing businesses to demonstrate their environmental impact as part of the purchasing decision making process.
Stakeholder pressure from investors, shareholders, customers and nonprofits to push sustainability into the supply chain has significantly increased in recent years. By managing and improving environmental, social and economic performance throughout supply chains, companies can conserve resources, optimise processes, uncover product innovations, save costs, increase productivity and promote corporate values.
Focusing on sustainability within your supply chain is a great way to communicate corporate values and culture to your suppliers and customers. Establishing and communicating expectations through a supplier code of conduct is a critical step in involving suppliers in your sustainability efforts.
REDUCE, REUSE & RECYCLE
Engaging your workforce to be more sustainable can help to reduce your carbon footprint. Getting everyone to adopt the ‘every little helps’ mindset when it comes to reducing your consumption of energy, water and paper in the workplace all helps to lower your climate impact. Simple actions like avoiding buying food and drinks in single use plastics – even if they are recyclable reduces your office waste and lowers your climate impact.
If you’re not already buying recycled paper you need to start now! Another area where you can save money and reduce your impact is buying refurbished tech goods like phones and laptops. There is a growing market in this space with companies like Backmarket offering significant cost and environmental savings.
Segregating your waste is an easy way to ensure that more of your plastic, paper and metal goes to recycling. Just make sure that your waste collection company handles separated waste correctly.
MINIMISE FOOD WASTE
Food takes a significant amount of energy to produce and transport it. Therefore, food waste can be a source of carbon, particularly if your business has a canteen serving fresh food daily. Check with your waste contractor if food waste collection is possible or set up a composting programme in your local community.
Ensure that kitchen staff are all trained and aware of the issue, and provide proper facilities, in kitchens, dining rooms and canteens for employees to dispose of any food waste they may have. Additionally, it is worth looking into food waste apps like Olio, for example.
If your business has a canteen or café it is worth making sure you have vegan and vegetarian options available to encourage staff to choose to eat food with fewer associated carbon emissions. 18% of global emissions are associated with livestock agriculture. Providing employees with good vegan and vegetarian food can help to reduce your businesses carbon footprint.
REDUCE PLASTIC USE
By introducing sustainable procurement policies as suggested above, your plastic waste will be reduced. If you use plastic in your manufacturing process try to use recycled plastic as this has a lower footprint than virgin plastic and check out more environmentally friendly alternatives. Be cautious of biodegradable or compostable materials as many of them can’t be combined with food waste.
CUT DOWN PAPER USAGE
Many offices consume vast amounts of paper. Take action to cut down paper usage, especially by reducing printing, and digitising (e.g. online contract signings, avoiding printing emails, presentations and annotating on screen instead). If printing is required, ensure double sided printing is set as a default. Having ‘follow me’ printing services across office printers can also help cut down any accidental or unnecessary printing as options can be altered at the time of printing. And on the subject of paper, swapping traditional loo rolls for more sustainable alternatives from companies like Who Gives A Crap is a simple eco friendly switch.
OFFSET YOUR UNAVOIDABLE EMISSIONS
Whilst many companies will aspire to reduce their carbon emissions wherever possible, it’s inevitable that some form of emissions will need to be generated as part of the daily operations of running a business. In those situations, companies are now looking at carbon offsetting to provide a solution. This is a process in which businesses are given the chance to offset their emission through the purchasing of ‘carbon credits’. These ‘carbon credits’ are used to support environmental projects around the world that either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or absorb carbon dioxide. Whilst carbon offsetting isn’t the one-size fits all solution to reducing the impact of climate change, it does allow businesses to be proactive in their drive to reduce the amount of carbon they emit into the atmosphere, whilst offsetting the unavoidable emissions. Find out more here.
Want to hear more about how you can reduce your carbon footprint contact Positive Planet.